by Fitz Cahall
Late Fall 2005
The can. The john. The crapper. These days it’s the closest thing I’ve got to warm, sun-soaked granite. After all, it’s November in Seattle.
We watch the rain bead on windowpanes and try to warm damp feet next to electric baseboard heaters. Already the sun has become a distant memory. We lament the loss over countless cups of coffee. Describing summer is like trying to voice the previous night’s dream. The words are vague and out of focus.
I spend most of the time in the dimly lit bathroom reading the classics. Rock Climbing Joshua Tree, Classic Climbs of the Cascades. I dream of sunnier days and conjure up goals. I trace topo lines in my head until I can see each individual move. Until I find the hidden foothold and master movement. Fingerlocks bite hard. My shoulders tighten after the offwidth pitch. Exposure no longer makes my stomach turn.
For a moment it’s not winter. It’s not raining. I’m not sitting on the can with my pants wrapped around my ankles.
My roommates are beginning to think I’ve got problems. In the morning, I inhale eggs, bacon and two cups of coffee before disappearing into the bathroom with my well-loved collection. Page 267 of the Red Rocks guide is pocked with dried blood from a long-healed wound. When I open Rock Climbing Joshua Tree, flecks of granite spill out from the pages. I sort through the stack of guides, magazines and catalogs and find my dog-eared favorite – Yosemite Select. I open to my favorite page.
Twenty minutes later my roommates are knocking on the door.
“Fitz, is everything okay in there?”
There’s been desperate grunting, and they’re concerned that I’ve been wrestling with the sink. I’m in the thick of things, battling my way up the Harding Slot. I’m out of breath and gasping from the exertion. I snap out of it.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m cool.”
I put down Yosemite Select and flip through the High Sierra guide. My palms clam up. I grab toilet paper to wipe the sweat collecting on my forehead. The ground falls away. Mount Darwin’s flanks disappear beneath me. The exposure is exhilarating. Twenty minutes and one guidebook later, I’m working out the Mandala’s tenuous sequence. The sunlight is perfect in the Buttermilks. Tiny crimps dig into my skin. The next hold is distant, but I toss for it. Feet skate from footholds, and stomach muscles tense. Lost in the moment, I grunt with exertion.
When I come to, I realize that I’m crimping the doorjamb and clawing at the windowsill. Rain beads down the glass. The sun is nowhere to be found, and I’m 20 minutes late for work.