we ascend into the cloud forest, cheeks stretched over wide smiles, rain in our eyelashes. we suck cocoa tea and thin mountain air through our teeth. we are caffeinated, and optimistic.
our boots, covered in other peoples shit and sacred mud, find tentative footholds between the ancient rocks. but our cockiness and confidence fades with the light. we stand on a boulder watching clouds stumble like drunken spirits into the blue-black valley. the altitude sends non-existent fireflies shooting, suicidal stars, over blue-black pupils.
you are brought to your knees, vomit splashing off inkan stone, hiking poles turned into crutches. tears and thunder threaten. i see how you will be when you are an old man, and my stomach rolls, fast and dark. a fierce cumulonimbus churning inside us both.
and then we descend. brows pulled tight into themselves, rain, again, in our eyelashes. we walk silently in the darkness. the light from your head torch and the rustle of my waterproof against my ears; reminders that there are at least two humans in this blackened jungle. we arrive at our destination flushed and jellied with exhaustion, and stretch ourselves out, sacrificial offerings, on giant slabs of quartz.
our fingers and our feet tingle. a complex combination of energy and exhaustion, or else the side effects of the altitude sickness meds. we have trodden an ancient and impossible path, one that, once upon a time, was scratched out in an ancient and impossible atlas.
our fingers and our feet tingle.