The Distant Mountains: A Journey of Friendship, Self-Discovery, and the Unanswered Questions of Life

“  1
  An almost forgotten antiquated telephone was placed in the corner of the glass table in the living room. When the bell chimed, I was mildly surprised, yet paid scant attention.
  I traversed the cramped space cluttered with objects and settled down cross-legged in front of the off-white draperies. Upon answering the phone, I discerned it to be a former acquaintance seeking to reconnect. Grasping the receiver, I idly coiled the phone cord around my finger, gazing vacantly at the indigo lines on the device. He failed to seize the essence and rambled about unrelated matters. I attentively listened as he spoke of the wind, the rain, and his bygone self.
  I encountered him in an era devoid of mobile phones, and I know not when I misplaced my contact information, much like the enigma of our union and separation. Time truly resembles an impassive web, gradually sifting away myriad things that fade from our lives, while silently preserving those memories we deemed forgotten.
  I effortlessly retrieved the photo album concealed beneath the glass table. Its cover was blanketed with a thick layer of dust, and as I lifted it, fine particles dispersed into the air. A ray of light filtered through the twilight, illuminating the visible dust particles suspended in the atmosphere. Light and shadow intertwined, capturing the corner of the ceramic tile whereupon I sat, immortalized in an aged, yellowed, and faded photograph.
  We inquired about each other’s present lives, yet deliberately avoided discussing the trivial hardships and vexations, leaving only a solitary phrase: “It’s tolerable.”
  Following a brief silence, he abruptly announced his intention to embark on a lengthy journey, urging me to meet him in the alley where he frolicked as a child, thereafter boarding the tram at the intersection to seek the elusive mountains he had long yearned for.
  Distant mountains—I swiftly searched my memory for recollections of this phrase, and a faint remnant, suppressed and concealed, broke free, surfacing in my mind.
  In our youth, imbued with recklessness, we yearned to behold distant mountains. He spoke of taking the final tram when solitude reigned, departing from the city’s concrete walls to traverse the white birch forests of the northwest and the snow-capped mountains of Sichuan and Tibet. The roar of the surging river faded from my ears, yet the voice from deep within my heart resonated. Wildflowers and gentle breezes were the melodies that accompanied his journey. You observe them without intent, yet they come and go with a whisper.
  Distant mountains lack a definitive, crystalline definition. They may be a remote, desolate mountain pass, akin to a celestial realm concealed behind mist and ethereal clouds. Alternatively, they might represent a void yearning to be filled within every soul. We seek a tranquil abode, a place to anchor our homeless spirits, in proximity to life and nature.
  If you encounter distant mountains, bellow with resounding fervor. Worry not the content of your exclamation; I simply yearn to ascertain if the distant mountains can provide me with an answer. The voice echoes forth from a vast expanse, as if responding from untrodden realms, a long-sought resolution grasped through the haze.
  I sought solace in Yuanshan’s answer, to assuage the turmoil and restlessness within the heart of a young man. It resembled a grand reverie; upon awakening, one’s garments cling damp with perspiration, yet enlightenment dawns abruptly and brilliantly.
  ”Will you come?” Three simple words rekindled the flickering flame within my heart.
  Initially, I desired to respond, but after much contemplation, words failed me.
  The aged telephone emitted a crackling sound, obscuring the subsequent words. I responded perfunctorily, stating that I would contact him again.
  ”I await your response,” he sighed, as if yearning to convey more, yet remained silent.
  After a prolonged silence following the call’s conclusion, I remained seated, cross-legged, feeling adrift. Compression left my calves numb, and upon shifting position, a phantom pain unfurled, coursing through my thigh.
  The darkness of night completely enveloped the lingering glow, extinguishing the remnants of twilight’s warmth. The silver moon hung solitary on the far horizon, projecting an air of desolation.
  All things in this world resemble a song; upon its conclusion, people disperse. How can you provide me with an answer? Conversely, how should I respond…
  I found no resolution. Sleep eluded me late into the night, as I tossed and turned. My doubts remained unassuaged, while the river of memory carried me back to an autumn spent with friends on the dormitory steps.
In the third part of the passage, the narrator delves into their memories of an autumn spent with friends on the dormitory steps. The passage continues as follows:

  The leaves fluttered gently in the cool breeze, painting the surroundings in hues of red and gold. Laughter filled the air as we sat together, sharing stories and dreams. We were young and full of aspirations, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead. It was a moment frozen in time, etched in our hearts.

  I remember his words vividly, spoken with a sense of longing and adventure. He spoke of distant lands and faraway places, urging us to explore the world beyond our small college town. His tales transported us to exotic locales, stirring our imaginations and igniting a fire within us.

  As the days grew shorter and winter approached, we made a pact to embark on our own journeys. Each of us had our own destination in mind, our own distant mountains to conquer. We vowed to reunite one day, sharing our experiences and discoveries.

  But life has a way of leading us down unexpected paths. Time passed, and the bonds that held us together began to fade. Responsibilities and obligations took precedence over dreams and adventures. The once vibrant group of friends scattered across the world, pursuing their own paths.

  And now, years later, the nostalgic phone call brought back memories that had long been buried. It reignited the flame of our youthful aspirations, reminding us of the dreams we once shared. The distant mountains that beckoned us seemed within reach once again.

  But as I sat there, contemplating his invitation, doubts crept into my mind. Had I become too entangled in the complexities of life to embark on such a journey? Could I leave behind the comfort and familiarity of my current existence for the unknown?

  The weight of responsibility and the fear of the unfamiliar held me back. I yearned for the answers, for a sign that would guide me in making this decision. But the answers remained elusive, hidden within the depths of my soul.

  As the hours ticked by, I realized that this decision was not one to be made lightly. It required a deep introspection and an understanding of my true desires. The distant mountains symbolized more than just a physical journey; they represented the pursuit of one’s passions and the search for fulfillment.

  And so, I resolved to take the time to explore my own distant mountains, to delve into the recesses of my heart and unearth the dreams that had been buried for too long. Whether I would join him on his journey or embark on my own, I did not yet know. But I knew that I had to confront the questions within me and find my own answers.

  The phone remained silent, its presence a constant reminder of the choice that lay before me. In the stillness of the night, I closed my eyes and let the memories of that autumn on the dormitory steps wash over me. And as I listened to the echoes of laughter and dreams, I knew that the journey had already begun.

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