"Isn't it interesting? Isn't it beautiful?" he says. His questions do not expect answers, and do not wait for them. His hands quest deeper into the mulch, old dead needles of pine and camphor mixed with rainwet and early morning dew.
"And these?" He motions to a family of small, spindly mushrooms reaching up from the base of the tree under which the two cousins rest. He turns solemnly to his companion, the creases of his eyes laced with old disappointment.
"You don't see."
He sighs, extracting himself from the nest of tree roots. "It's in your nature not to see."
Light cracks through the forest canopy, at once turning twilight into full-fledged morning and back again, as the sun slips back behind clouds. "Still, this is perhaps something you can appreciate." He puts his hands to the tree trunk, curls finger after long finger to the deep contours of the wood. Small Cousin's eyes slide sideways, not (never again) out of simple curiosity, but because Big Cousin is doing something with his hands, and he cannot (can never again be) trusted.
Big Cousin feels a tug of thwarted sadness--more things he could have had and now cannot. People trust Small Cousin--they trust him to trust no one.
"Tell me what you see." His commands expect to go unheeded, and do not wait for the ugly silence with which they have oft been greeted in the past. "So many ants."
They skate across his knuckles in frenetic, undefined patterns. Small cousin watches.
Big Cousin acts. He brings Small Cousin's hand to the bark, in a motion slow and smooth like the arc of a pendulum. "You see them now. But you don't feel them.
You don't feel them, do you?"
Dark eyes stare back at him, with an odd intensity that does not seem to match the situation. He does not ask the questions, as they will incite no (have no) answers.
Instead he makes assumptions. "This is how the world is to you. Like--"
"So many ants," is the reply he is not supposed to receive.
Big Cousin's lips press tight. That is not what I meant, he means to say. That is nothing of what I meant. Instead he says, "We'll go to Nakano River sometime. I have more to show you."
You don't, really, says Small Cousin's silence.
He blows softly each of the ants from his fingertips.
Isn't it interesting?
Isn't it beautiful?