Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 @ 11:25 am
Two days of climbing in the cold, brisk sunshine. I work on my Trad leading, and I do each route before Russell, testing my ability to read the route, to determine where to place gear, and to make decisions for myself without seeing how someone else manages the situation.
My hands become numb as they cling to the frozen rock; this is shoulder season, and I am wearing two layers of jackets on top of wooly base layers. I place gear and layback up a crack, my legs shaking, my heart racing. I reach a ledge to rest. I lean against the rock and breathe. Look down at Russell and shake my head with my eyes wide and my face flat. This is a fucking hard lead climb. I reach the top and build an anchor, and he lowers me to the forest floor. We swap over, and I watch him climb the route, studying how he solves each problem. He reaches the crack. He climbs part-way, clips into the two cams that I placed side-by-side for redundancy. He moves up one move, then slips. Falls. Scrapes his hand against the rock. He finishes the climb, and I lower him to the ground. I hug him and pull out my first aid kit to tend to his hand.
He sits on a rock taping up his fingers. “That was a spicy lead. I’m impressed. And your gear placements were solid. Nice work.” His encouragement causes my cheeks to flush and my insides to swell. It’s the sweetest thing, to hear his admiration and approval. And my gear was solid - it caught his fall.
Mid-way through the day, I bushwhack deep into a stand of firs and salal. I crouch down and deal with my period, pouring the rich and dark contents of my menstrual cup onto the humus, covering it all with handfuls of dry alder leaves. My blood on the rock, my body in the soil. I rinse my hands and return to the crag.
We end the weekend with friends in the pub. I grip a pint of chestnut ale with my grimy hands, blackened with rock dust from the rope. I eat a pile of food, and it barely fills a corner of my stomach. We drive the winding highway home in the dark, Russell and I in the back seat of the car holding hands. I want to lay my head on his shoulder, to sag into sleep, against his warmth.
I have so much gratitude for life, for love, for everything. I know my needs now, and I’m learning how to have them met.
When I reach over and place my hand on Russell’s leg, he puts his warm hand over mine. When I lean towards him with the desire to kiss, he meets me in the middle and kisses me first. He listens to me. He packages me up a lunch. He rubs my feet. He invites me out with his friends.
He dances with me.