Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 11

body. When to resist her, let her rebel against me, when to refill and comfort her. I protect her without coddling, carefully guarding our pace.

She wanted to hike to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highpoint of Texas at almost 8800 feet. When I asked her why, skeptical, she said she wanted to know thin air, what it felt like for other people to be on the edge of the world, a different view of terrifying, imminent death that could occur from a slipped step or lack of common sense. What it was that scares other people.

We drove to the trailhead before sunrise, an hour in the car spent licking cinnamon roll icing on our fingers and sipping coffee out of thermoses. Our feet crunched onto the gravel just as the sky cracked open, a deep blue punctured by stars. Mac led the way, stopping only for sips of water from her canteen and to let a rattlesnake cross the path. We were passed by more athletic and ambitious hikers out to prove something. Most would give a “how you doin’” as they puffed past us, all of them glancing at the shiny cup on Mac’s arm reflecting the sun, her ripped-out sleeves. I swear I could hear her heart thumping against the metal.

The trail became steep, and instead of scrambling with two hands to the ground for balance, Mac’s calves flexed, pointing into the top of her hiking boots while she vaulted herself in spurts with her right arm. An action carefully calculated, aiming each burst at a certain landing spot before her. Her right foot lost traction against the graveled grade, and she fell just short of the place she looked to grab. I put my arms up instinctively, whether to catch her or protect myself, or both, I’m not sure. Mac pedaled her feet in panic, clawing at the limestone rocks, spraying my eyes with dirt and pebbles, so I too lost my grip and began to fall. But her left arm remained locked to her torso, and using it like a fulcrum, she restored her balance to a tiptoe, and slapped her right hand with determination to a stone that could hold her. She hollered down to check if I was okay, and waited for me to blink my eyes clear of debris. We caught our breath. The ease with which I supported myself on all fours felt like cheating. With her in front, she had nothing to live up to, which she preferred.

As the trail evened out, she squatted without warning and yanked me down with her, pointing to a family of deer to our right. The buck stared at us with one eye, the eight points of its rack sharp with warning. The doe and her fawns, small with youth but no longer babies, trotted away behind him. With only a slight rustle, he turned and ran, showing us a horrendous scar across his hindquarters. Mac stood and watched after them until they were

Julia Carey | 11