Thursday, June 18, 2009
Except, I Don't Like Racquetball
Only six days left till I attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Dave Eggers wrote a short story called "Up the Mountain, Coming Down Slowly" about a woman who climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was a fictionalization of his own experience scaling the mountain a few years ago. This passage perfectly encapsulates where my head is at right now:
She cannot recall the source of her motivation to spend four days hiking up this mountain, so blindingly white at the top -- a hike some had told her was brutalizing and often fatal and others had claimed was actually just a walk in the park. She was not sure she was fit enough, and was not sure she would not be bored to insanity. She was most concerned about the altitude sickness. The young were more susceptible, she’d heard, and at thirty-eight she was not sure she was that anymore -- young -- but she felt that for some reason she in particular was always susceptible and she would have to know when to turn back. If the pressure in her head became too great, she would have to turn back. The mountain was almost twenty thousand feet high and every month someone died of a cerebral edema and there were ways to prevent this. Breathing deeply would bring more oxygen into the blood, into the brain, and if that didn’t work and the pain persisted, there was Diamox, which thinned the blood and accomplished the same objective but more quickly. But she hated to take pills and had vowed not to use them, to simply go down in the pain grew intolerable -- but how would she know when to go down? What were the phases before death? She might at some point realize that it was time to turn and walk down the mountain, but what if it was already too late? It was possible that she would decide to leave, be ready to live at a lower level again, but by then the mountain would have had its way and there, on a path or in a tent, she would die. [...]
She has bought new boots, expensive, and has borrowed a backpack, huge, and a Therm-a-rest, and sleeping bag, and cup, and a dozen other things. Everything made of plastic and Gore-Tex. The items were light individually but together were heavy and all of it is packed in a large tall purple pack in the corner of the round hut and she doesn’t want to carry the pack and wonders why she’s come. She is not a mountain climber, and not an avid hiker, and not someone who needs to prove her fitness by hiking mountains and afterward casually mentioning it to friends and colleagues. She likes racquetball.