I feel cold before I notice I am alone.
Hours before we were together, laughing and smiling, the sun hitting our Vitamin D deprived skin. We climbed as fields of cacti gave way to barren desert and we sucked air that inexplicably tasted like sand. But that was all hours and many thousands of feet ago, and now I am cold and miss my brother.
I like to think of pain as a beam of light: focused, intense and beatable. I like to imagine myself in a room alone with it, letting the beam pass through me then laughing mirthlessly and asking more. It’s beatable because it’s defined and predictable.
I wish I could say I let cold sweat run down my legs and slipped my hands into the drops, climbing beautifully, respecting the mountain with my best effort. I wish I could tell you that I stared at the beam of light and was warmed by it, but this was different. The light had hit a prism, reflecting and refracting pain in every direction. So many things were hurting, so many things were wrong that I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to quit.
I start thinking about how nobody ever tells you how appealing quitting can become when you are on the limit; reminded of when I used to be a wrestler and sometimes in the middle of a hard match, I would fantasize about quitting. It’s easy to think that all I had to do was relax the shoulders and count 1, 2, 3 and it would all be over. It is the warm comfort of quitting that makes resisting it so important.
I feel a hand on my lower back and am snapped back to reality. I’m freezing, 27 miles and 7,000 feet into the accent up Mt. Lemmon and that prism-like, unfocused but ubiquitous pain is racking me. Dylan rides next to me and I can’t tell if he is grimacing or smiling. We ride on in silence and while we aren’t exactly winning the fight against the mountain, we aren’t losing it either, and sometimes that’s enough, that’s enough.