Surviving Summer

One of the women at the wine tasting is wearing blue eyeliner and I know I worked with her but I can’t remember her name. She is talking about her apartment and the trails she likes to take her mountain bike to on the weekends.

I don’t bike for enjoyment. I do it to survive summer.

I think back to glacading for the first time and the stark fear of death that settled on the bottom shelf of my innards as I rattled down Spoon couloir on my ass. I understand what she is talking about.

It is a perpetual writhing underneath the skin of the fingernails. I feel constantly wound up and on days when work stretches like the idleness of the mind, I can feel my cells tilting forward. I need to wake up at four in the morning with my bag already packed the night before. I need to curse the approaching thunderstorm at noon and watch my partner’s eyes change when lightning strikes the rocks behind me. I need to curse my partner for thinking I could handle this fucking climb as blood trickles down the neck of my ice axe.

The Tetons gathers these sort of people, with an itch underneath their kneecaps. Only a week after summiting Disappointment Peak I read about a girl getting heli-rescued on the same route I took, a route once thought to lead to the Grand Teton. A more experienced snow climber than I, with worse luck. I set the paper back down on the credenza and fix the corners of my mouth into a smile as another hungry tourist barges through the hotel doors.

That night I close my eyes and think about the woman with the blue eyeliner. I picture her careening down a single track in the shadow of scrubby smaller cousins of the Tetons, face twisted like a jack o lantern, wishing she was picking out tomatoes at the farmers market and fingering the starched cotton of her boyfriend’s collar.

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