We’re hiking a burnished sandstone channel along the ridge, when Mark lifts the kids over a puddle too deep for sneakers and winces when his elbow pops.
“I thought of a term for one of your science poems,” he tells me without turning around. “Laminar flow. L-A-M-I-N-A-R.”
“Like laminate,” I say, yearning to return to the smooth countertops of the coffee shop where we grabbed breakfast.
“Water running smooth, like this stream,” he says. “Water flows either laminar or turbulent and you have to calculate it differently.”
“Like the transition of friends to lovers,” I say. It’s all I have, meet-cute friction. He glances backward, blushing confusion or embarrassment at my romantic preoccupations, then squints miles deep through dwindling pine tops. He can see his work out there, work done by men like him, the construction of pipes, the flow of water, turbulent or laminar, through iron and PVC—the solace of math. I nearly point out that Mark’s never read my science poems, but wonder if he’d be disappointed in a poem that exploits fluid dynamics as a metaphor for love.
We help the kids over an outcropping, then settle back into the trail with more heft in our chests. He waits for me to ask a physics question, the buoyancy and density of leaves carried along in the stream, the accumulation of silt and where it settles, but I’m thinking of life before children and how we used to walk for hours along the Erie Canal. In those days we would bound down paths holding hands until our elbows were sore. Get coffee or beer someplace and head right back out for another walk. Now we hoist kids over puddles, making jet sounds and pulling our elbows to help them imagine the weightlessness of high flight. We crest the ridge and stand on the bare rock of a bluff. In the gap below, the broadleaf crowns of oaks and sycamores sway. Bluing in distance is a pine-fringed cliff-face. I hold onto the kids to take it all in, but Mark is still observing the trickle of water between our shoes.
“See how complex the transition is where it falls from laminar to turbulent?” he asks. He toes a silt-sparkled eddy.
“Like falling in love,” I say, trying again. But he doesn’t read my poems. He thinks about poetry when he thinks of drainage pipes, and isn’t that romantic enough? The wind bellows atmospheric up here, just the roar of the planet blasting sandstone to glass.
“Don’t you think that would make a good poem? It’s incredible how it can flow almost uphill, right over the top of the mountain in this wind,” Mark says. He blushes again. “Water I mean.”
Edie Meade is a writer, artist, and mother of four in Huntington, West Virginia. Say hi on Twitter @ediemeade.
© Variant Literature Inc 2021