Sunday, November 6, 2011

Make It Hurt So Good

Since I'm headed down to Indian Creek for a few weeks I thought I'd post the following little piece that I wrote in March after returning from my first trip to the Creek:

I blink against the sharp glare of Jeff’s headlamp as he squeezes into our small tent. His movement kicks up the thick layer of red dust that covers everything inside our meager abode and permeates life here in the desert. A cloud the color of dull copper obscures the air and I hold my breath for a second to ward off the fine powder before quickly realizing the futility and letting it settle dryly into my throat and lungs.

Crawling into his sleeping bag, Jeff sits up to stare wearily at his hands. Countless handjams in the splitter sandstone of Indian Creek have left the backs of his palms spotted with large scrapes and gouges - “gobies” as they are endearingly called by climbers. While most Creek veterans might sport a small scrape here or a layer of skin gone there, Jeff’s hands feature wounds the size of small countries. His wrist looks like its been gnawed at by one of the dogs that roam the campground around us, the torn pink flesh and dark red blood gleaming in the beam of my own headlamp. He grimaces silently, slowly curling his fingers into a fist.

My gaze shifts down to my own hands and all I can do is laugh. I wish they were only as bad as his. A long red wound runs along the back of my right thumb, oozing a thick, clear liquid I’ve never seen before. Two similar gashes mark the back of my left palm, their pus more yellow in color, a sure sign of infection. The front and back of each wrist tell the same story. Adjusting my sleeve for a closer look, a sharp pain in my forearm alerts me to the presence of a large scrape that I haven’t even seen yet. I don’t even attempt to count the numerous smaller cuts and gouges that pepper all ten of my swollen fingers.

Peering down, what used to be my ankles might now pass for ground beef. The tendons and ligaments in my legs feel like they’re twisted in some sort of cruel torture position. I’m pretty sure the knots in my back would be visible from space if only I weren’t too sore to lift my shirt above my head.

I cast a furtive glance around the tent for the crowbar that Jeff must be beating me with as I sleep. I can’t be this sore from the climbing alone. I see nothing, but as I peer through the dusty light I also catch Jeff’s gaze. We stare at each other for a long moment, our eyes conveying the mutual exhaustion we both feel. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, our dry and cracked lips break into small grins.

“Dude, I’m completely wrecked,” he lets out with a small groan.

“Yeah,” I reply, my grin growing into a wide smile. “This is awesome.”

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