Nostalgia!!8 mins 309 8 mins 309
A brisk wind sent shivers down her spine as Sophie searched for the next handhold on the sheer-drop slab of rock she was hanging off. She reminded herself not to look down; still not quite used to the spiraling abyss stretching below her, instead she looked up. She made sure her hand was firmly clasped on the sheet of mountain above her. Her partner, Joey, was faster than she was, scaling the mountain with a cat-like grace. As she looked up, almost in slow-motion, she saw Joe falling, his frayed rope hissing through the air like a snake. Her eyes open wide, she watched in silent horror as the man who had become the closest thing she had to family fell to his death on the rocks below. She reached out her arm in one last valiant attempt to save him, and miraculously, he caught it. “Joey! Hold on!” she said, trying to keep the thoughts whirring around in her mind silent.
“Sophie, just let me go,” he said, his voice eerily calm.
“No! If I can just reach my radio I can call the base, get a helicopter in here.” She said, trying to reach the radio strapped on the other side of her bag.
Joey squeezed her hand, “Sophie, it’s no use. Your rope can’t hold us both. We both know that.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out his words, but knowing deep inside that they were true. “I can’t. I can’t let you drop. If one of us falls, so does the other.” She said, trying to choke back the tears that sprang up unbidden to her eyes.
“Sophie, please. This is the last thing I will ever ask of you, please just listen. I want you to survive.”
She shook her head.
“Sophie,” the strength in his voice surprised her, “let me go. Please, Sophie.”
She shut her eyes, wanting to remember him as she had known him, not as a face shrinking in the distance as he fell away from her. She slowly released her grip on his hand, letting him fall, so far, so fast. She swung up on the rock, letting herself hang there, tears falling hot and fast from her eyes. After composing herself, she was finally able to reach her radio.
“Base, this is Sophie. Joey is gone.”
Sophie looked up from the broken rope in her hands when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes came level with a steaming cup of hot chocolate held in the hands of Peter, one of her base coordinators. She gratefully accepted the cup as Peter sat down next to her. She silently thanked him for not saying anything, all she needed was quiet.
After a few long moments, he finally spoke, “Can I get you anything else?”
Sophie shook her head slowly, not trusting herself to speak without crying. He started rubbing her back, a steady up and down motion.
“Sophie, I’m so sorr-,” he started, stopping when she held her hand up.
“Peter,” she said, her voice making a noise like a sick bird, “ I don’t need your sympathy right now.” She paused, taking a deep breath, “I just need some quiet.”
He nodded, resuming the up and down motion across her back as Sophie thought about everything that had happened since the morning. The day had started like any other with a promising sunrise over the top of the mountain. When Sophie pulled up in her truck, she knew Joey was already there testing ropes and opening carabiners, checking their strength. That was one of the things she loved about him, he was always worried about safety, especially hers.
She walked around to the back of their car, excitedly thinking about the new peak they were going to climb. Joey looked up as she approached the Jeep Joey had gifted her for their expeditions. “Hey, Soph,” he said, pulling her into a hug. “How are you?”
She grinned at her nickname, “I can’t wait to start climbing. It feels like it’s going to be a great day.”
He squeezed her one last time before letting her go, “Let’s finish getting everything ready before we leave.”
As she watched him coil the ropes around and around like snakes, she couldn’t imagine life without this man, but now, it had become her reality.
Sophie was dragged from her memories by a sound like nails across a chalkboard as Peter slid his chair back.
“If you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask.” he said, leaving her alone in the depths of her memories.
She went back to the second he fell, replaying the moment in her head over and over like a stuck record. Every time she thought about it, she shut her eyes before he fell, never wanting to see his face falling down. Always so far down.
Ever since her parent's accident when she was 14, she had always been searching for a new family, one to call her own. Then her friend, Marcie, introduced her to Joe, sparking the beginning of a relationship that Sophie had dreamt of for years. It had been Joey who had invited her to come along with him and his friends as they climbed together. She watched them scale cliffs with coordination that Sophie passionately envied. At the end of the day, Joey invited her to try her hand at climbing and, not wanting to seem like a wuss, she went for it.
Climbing the mountain for the first time, with Joe as a guide climbing next to her, was an experience Sophie was sure would never escape her memories. When she reached the top and stood there, looking out at the green expanse reaching below her, she knew she had found something she loved.
“How was it?” Joey asked when they reached the bottom of the rock.
“Indescribable.” she enthused, grinning from ear to ear.
“Want to do it again?”
From then on, Sophie joined the climbing group as often as she was able. Soon it was just her and Joey scaling the rocks almost every week. They climbed for 3 months together before deciding become climbing partners, promising to never leave the other behind. Through their climbing and other excursions together, their relationship had grown into something Sophie had wanted since childhood.
The tears falling down Sophie’s cheeks surprised her and, leaving the memory behind, she scrubbed them off her face. To take her mind off her past she got up and paced the small building that was base command. She still held the rope in her hands, her nimble fingers slowly taking it apart.
Her thoughts brought her to one of the best weeks of her life. It was a warm summer day last year, the kind when all you want to do is sit outside with a good book and maybe a popsicle. Sophie was at home that day doing exactly that when Joey pulled up in a Jeep she had never seen. She put down her book and met him as he was climbing out, “What is this?”
“Our Jeep,” he said, patting the hood, “I decided since we were going to be climbing a lot more together that we should have a car that will be able to take us wherever we want to go.”
As she climbed into the driver’s seat, he explained his idea for something to do that week. “I thought it might be fun to drive to Colorado and go climbing. Just some quality time together since we’ve both been so busy.”
She heartily agreed and after packing a few bags they were on their way. Joey had made mix CDs of all their favorite music, mostly country, that they sang along to as they drove, the miles flying under their tires. They didn’t care how fast or slow they got there, they took their time, enjoying each other’s company. Every time they passed a tourist attraction, like Mount Rushmore, or a farm’s roadside market, they stopped, spending some time at each.
They finally reached their destination; the mountain before them reaching past the low hanging clouds to the sun far above. They started the climb, putting one hand above the other, gradually making their way to the tip suspended above the clouds. They finally reached the flat ground at the top and Joey pulled Sophie into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his waist as she stared out at the expanse of land laid out before her. “Thank you,” she said, “for everything.”
She didn’t have to see his face to tell he was smiling. “You’re welcome, Soph, “ he said, holding her away from him. “But this isn’t the only surprise I have for you.”
She looked at him quizzically as he pulled two sleeping bags from his bag. “We’re going to sleep up here?” she asked.
He nodded, laying the bags down. He pulled out other camping supplies from his backpack and she realized that he had carried all of this up the mountain just for her.
She almost dropped her coffee mug as she felt the heavy hand on her shoulder again, pulling her from the memory. “Sophie?” Peter said, standing next to her, “It’s time to leave. I have to close down the base.”
“Okay.” she said quietly as she handed him the coffee mug. “Thank you for letting me stay here.”
He nodded and held the door open for her as she walked to her Jeep.