The Stud Farm by Hannah Mann

It’s early in the morning. I enter the kitchen in sweatpants and a hoodie. When it’s chilly at night, this is how I sleep. I look out the window, but I can’t get more than a blurry view of a cloudy sky. Its grey gleam is just enough so that I don’t have to turn on the light. I reach for a mug in the drying rack above the sink, take out a spoon from the cutlery stand and insert some coffee powder. There are signs of people rushing down the stairwells on their way to work. I hear cars driving down the busy streets, a bus every now and then. I’m not there yet. I’m still here, boiling water, rubbing my eyes. I let my brain browse through the pages of memory, but it’s just a formality because I already know where to pause.

With the mug of hot coffee warming my hands, I listen to horses whinnying in the distance. I see colts and their mothers canter down the field, a fence protecting them from the unknown. A white stable is set against the background of a thick blue sky and flowers unfold their paint onto the property. The long arm of the afternoon sun follows me as I step into the stable, golden grains of dust are glittering in its palm and it feels like I’m trespassing to a place guarded by magic powder. Inside, my eyes are blinded by the absence of daylight. I hear hooves scratching the floor. It smells of hay and sand. Soon, I see riders tacking up their horses, wrapping bridals around their heads and protectors around their legs. I see saddles being raised and girths tightened, brushes being exchanged and sponges wrung out. There are no pictures on the walls, no dwelling in the past; there are no medals on display even though Shachar has won many.

Not much has changed since I first came here and neither has he. It’s as if the magic powder had preserved him, protected him from the effects of time. His hair is still short, like that of a soldier, but I know for a fact he is no warrior. His eyes are speckled with green and brown, as if the colors of nature had exploded right there in his pupils 13 billion years ago, forming spots on his iris that look like planets orbiting the sun. Together we walk across the field, climb up the fence and let the hours pass. Though our skins never touch I feel our souls holding hands, while we listen to the colts and their mothers breath, blowing hot air from their lungs as they move in a three beat rhythm. One-two-blow, one-two-blow, one-two-blow. We watch them accelerate, their iron legs pushing the ground, their backs kicking the air, and their shoulders rearing up against gravity. 

“The predator never leaves their heads” Shachar says. His watchful words suffuse from my ears to my brain where they transform into sentiment. I know my heart will never be strong as theirs and my senses never as clear. But for a moment my neurons get to mirror them, and for a moment I get to be much more than I actually am. I raise the mug to take a sip. It’s when I burn my tongue that I realize: I’m just sitting on a chair.

I stopped visiting Shachar eleven years ago. First, my car broke down. Then my career started picking up until it became too demanding. There are things I need to take care of and I just don’t get out of the city as much. But, when I’m in-between places the stud farm is where I go.