Altitude Sickness

On a Sunday in January it is 50 degrees and I hike up a mountain called Lookout (because of it's function in the Civil War) to a bluff called Sunset Rock (because it faces northwest). I am assured that my boots-that-look-functional-but-are-actually-more-for-aesthetics will be fine. I won't need more than a sweatshirt. We hike so high that the leaves curl around patches of snow.

The pebbles poke my heels through thin pre-worn soles.

The medium rocks are slippery under no tread.

The large rocks are what David calls 'light climbing'.

And then the light climbing becomes an ice staircase with falling water frozen mid-spill.

I give in to the shiver migrating up my spine and wrap my hood around my head and pull the strings tight. Which really does Nothing, but it feels like Something.

I emerge on all fours and breathless to a sunbathed plateau with no shadows because we have arrived at the highest point.

There is a woman hanging from ropes attached to a singular hook which is attached to a metal eye drilled directly into the bluff. She is wearing Chaco sandals and pants that you can zip apart to make shorts and she doesn't need a helmet because there is no point. Her hair is long and tied away from her face. There is no terror in her throat as she takes one hand off of the rope to wave and say hello.

I start to sweat and I remember the hood tied so tightly my chin is tucked inside.

I was not prepared for this.

I don't sit on the edge of Sunset Rock with my friends. All I can think about was what the wind in my ears would feel like when I fall and if I would feel the air pressure change before my skull shatters into a thousand shards.

Would my ears pop?

Visualizing this gruesome death spirals into a list of the things I haven't done but mean to.

And the hiking boots in the back of my closet that have been used 5 times in 10 years and have yet to be unpacked.

Because nowhere has felt like Home.

Then Laurel asks a stranger to take a photo. He tells me to smile.

Sometimes when you fake something, it becomes a real something.

And the air is crisp;

The sun is warm;

The view is clear;

And I am dissolved.