SWORDFERN
Rooted, I used to think.

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Happy Birthday - Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019
The Cabin - Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019
Radiance - Thursday, Nov. 07, 2019
Next Summer - Monday, Nov. 04, 2019
The Best Thing - Friday, Nov. 01, 2019


Monday, Nov. 04, 2019 @ 1:56 pm
Next Summer



Friday night. We meet for happy hour date at a fancy waterfront restaurant and sit at the bar. The sun sets, sending magenta and orange streaks onto the undersides of the scattered clouds. I look out to a party that is happening on a nearby yacht. Suits and starched collars and martini glasses and canapes. I lean over and kiss his neck. I don’t care that we don’t belong here.

We take a taxi over to meet others at a different bar. I order something with whiskey and cedar smoke. There are six of us around a tall table, and the night is lively and loud. I’m laughing and happy, and there is always a part of me touching him, of him touching me. I breathe in the smoke and cedar, and my heart is full. This is all I need: friends. And a best friend.

We run across the street to the theatre and find our seats way up at the top in the back. The yearning sound of violins warming up, and then it’s silent. The oboe alone. Then the rest, in sequence, tuning into perfection. Why have I never been to the symphony orchestra before tonight?

Saturday morning. We drink coffee at his table, and I leave soon after to go to the science centre to volunteer. I run into people that I know, and the place is rampant with children. I take my name badge and go up into the gallery to find my table. Groups of girls come to meet me, and I talk with them about my job and engineering. I leave at noon and cycle home, rush to pack my climbing gear, then walk out to the curb to wait for Russell to pick me up.

We drive up alongside the ocean to the bluffs and park in front of the apron of the Chief. Assess the seepage and determine that the route we wish to attempt is mostly dry. Haul our gear to the base.

“I want to lead this,” I tell him. He nods in agreement and begins clipping cams to my harness.

I lead the route, placing gear, edging up across the slab. A portion of the second pitch is bolted, and I clip my sport draws into the hangers and finish at the anchor. Russell climbs up behind me, removing the gear, and joins me at the anchor in the granite scoop. He secures himself to the anchor, and at that moment the sun peeks around the side of the mountain. We are part-way up the apron, a vast expanse of granite slab. A wind catches from the south. It’s airy up here, away from the built environment. I am happy. Everything feels right.

He leads the last two pitches, and after I join him we sit together in a stand of shallow-rooted trees drinking water and eating snacks. It’s wild up here, on the face of the mountain. You can’t get here without ropes, without strong hands, without a brave heart.

We eventually rappel to the ground, which takes longer than expected. Messing around with the rope and calculating distances and tying prusiks. The sun is setting, and it’s a beautiful moment. Him and me and the ropes and the gear and the slab of granite beneath us.

We finish the day with a couple of quick single pitches on a bluff near the parking lot. The sun sets, and I glance back at the pink sky while belaying Russell up the wall. The granite glows pink when he reaches the top. The moon appears from behind the Chief, and the night sky is now navy and a mist rises from the river. Headlamped climbers dot the bluff beyond, finishing their routes on this short autumn day.

I drive us home, and he orders food to arrive at his apartment shortly after we do. Our hands still grimey with rock dust, we inhale bowls of steaming noodles and broth, the November chill set deep into our bodies from hours on the bluffs.

After eating, we are curled up on the couch leaning against each other, my hand tracing lazy patterns across his forearm. I will never tire of his skin, the texture, the sheen. He shifts around uncomfortably.

“Ugh, there’s something poking me in the back,” he complains. He puts his hand behind him and pulls out something wrapped in a pillowcase and hands it to me. He smiles shyly, then resumes watching the movie. I hold the package and turn it over in my hands, feeling the shape and weight of it, and studying the profile of his face for a hint of emotion.

I reach inside and pull out an expensive-feeling box. I see the logo and know that it’s from the fancy chocolatier that’s located in the industrial area near the climbing gym.

In the morning, I make a hash of potatoes and bacon and peppers in his kitchen. He piles it into a container and wraps it carefully into his backpack. We cycle five miles across the city to his friends’ apartment. A cold, sunny morning, and we cycle quickly, side-by-side, through the swirling leaves.

We enter the warm, sunny apartment, already busy with friends. The table spread with eggs and bacon and pastries and fruit. I add our dish to the table and am handed a mimosa. Three hours of talking and laughing and eating. I am complimented on the potatoes, and I’m grateful for being welcomed so cheerfully into this group.

After, we go to the climbing gym, which is on the way home. I lead three difficult routes, one clean. The other two become projects.

“Next summer,” he says, as I reach behind my back to chalk my hands, “we should go to Europe.”


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