I was told this isn’t a hike, but rather a “brisk walk.” Feet sinking. Ankles wobbly. The sandy volcano rises on my left, and on my right, a flimsy rope fence separates me from sky. I try not to think about the seafood lunch swimming in my stomach—buttery mussels, fried squid, and crusty bread dragged through olive oil. My stomach still hasn’t settled from the bus ride. At the top, steam rises from the volcano’s crater. “There is always a risk,” I overhear a park official telling a group of hikers. A tremor occurred just last week, loud and booming. I picture lava washing over me like bathwater ladled over a child. I imagine my body engulfed in lava and slowly deteriorating in nutrient-rich volcanic soil. I do not think about crying in bathroom stalls or wandering lost for hours or the man begging by the coliseum, the one who doesn’t have hands. I crouch with my hands on my knees, facing the mountains, breathing, and when I finally stand upright, I think instead of the old Irish priest who insists that God is a poet.
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