Rock Climbing (Spring 2014)

You’ve struggled through the steep climb
forcing one foot in front of the other
up and up and up
harder and harder to lift that foot
with every inch you advanced up the
mountain.

Dimly aware of the others
climbing beside you
all on the same mountain
heading towards the same place
but they stood upright as you were
straining forward
body bent almost level to the ground
wracked with pain
but you kept on.
The thought flitted through your mind
questioning whether the others
were even there
on the mountain
although you could see them
climbing beside you
the motion of bodies suggested
traversal of a terrain decidedly
different
from the one you were on.
But the thought hardly passed through
before it was pushed out
concentrating on
one foot in front of the other
lift and push forward and set down
lather rinse repeat.

You kept going
hardly seeing farther than five feet ahead
eyes on your feet
eyes on the ground
stay upright, keep moving,
that’s all you can do anyway –
the peak of the mountain
took you by surprise
crept up on you
when you lifted your foot
suddenly there was nowhere to put it,
you felt as if you were flying –
you’d risen far higher
than you’d ever thought would be possible
and you’d done it.
You’d done it
and you’d made it.

You stood at the top a moment
breath stolen
you would have stayed there if you could.
Because after that climb
the view from the top looked
pretty great.
You didn’t dare turn around to look down
at the steep climb
you’d come from
instead
you turned your head
side to side, taking in
the wide expanse
extending in all directions
as far as you could see.

You would have stayed there if you could.

But it wasn’t very long
a few moments really
before you lost your footing and slid
down down down.

That slide was terrifying
tumbling tumbling
flashes of green and brown and blue
swirling
as you tried desperately to find
something
something fixed
anything fixed
to latch onto.

By the time you reached
the bottom of the mountain
you were so dazed
so discombobulated
that it took you a moment to realize
you’d even come to a stop.
Cautiously
you sat up
looked around.

Suddenly
the landscape looked different.
You slowly got to your feet
turned in a circle
taking in the mountain now behind you
that soaring height you could barely believe
you’d scaled and overcome.
And ahead, stretching ahead as far
as you could see
flat flat flat
land dotted with blooms of bright color
gentle rises of grassy knolls
that looked almost completely
flat
compared to the heights you’d just come from.
You drew in a breath
let it out
in a sigh expressing all your
relief.
Those people still on the mountain,
still walking to and fro
as if they didn’t even notice
as though there were no
huge edifice rearing up
out of the ground
underneath them.
But ahead of you, past the mountain
you could see others
walking exactly the same way
but you could see
you could see they
actually were on flat land
you yearned to join them
find out what if felt like
to walk on flat land that
looked flat
felt flat
so you set out, legs moving
as if of their own accord
lift and forward and set down
lather rinse repeat
no effort
you thought
I could get used to this.

But just as you think you’re used to it
just as you settle into that
pattern
of movement
so easy so pleasant
so near the others
suddenly
it all tilts
and your hands shoot out
scrabbling for purchase
on what has become
a sheer cliff face
those subtle bumps
in the pleasant flat field
now huge rocks jutting straight out
and you’re sliding
and reaching reaching reaching
but those rocks are too big
to grab hold of
and you’re sliding
and your foot catches
and you stand for a second
and you barely dare to move
but that’s over in a flash
because you start overbalancing
and your hand shoots out
and manages to slide into a groove
but then your foot slips
and you’re dangling by your fingers
and you’re sliding
and you feel
that total lack of control
lack of vision
that was supposed to be gone
that was supposed to have disappeared
with the disappearance of the mountain
that was never supposed to take your breath away
ever again.

And as you focus all your attention
on where to grab the rocks
how to regain your balance
as you slip and slide
your peripheral vision sees
them
ringing the area
that once was flat
and now is terror
you dimly register
they’re the ones who
flipped the rock face
their faces show only condemnation
as they’re dismayed at your failure,
your failure
to adjust
to the fliptilthurdle
they’ve created

out of the flat plains.

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