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The Last Few Rays


by Unknown

July 03, 2002

Strange things these mountain games are. A few days ago, I was sitting on the summit of a tall Southwestern mountain. It seems like a few weeks before that, I was on the top of another high mountain after having scaled the cliff below. My last girlfriend and I got into many disagreements about matters such as these. In a fit of desperate rationalization, I told her, "if you ever want to find the Real me, he's halfway up that mountain." This place happens to be right next to a talus field, and a crystal clear snowmelt lake. That same place, it snows in June and you share a bottle of wine on the top. "He's there waiting for you," I told her. That was about two years ago.

Unfortunately, those were some of the last words I spoke to her. I doubt she ever went looking for the Real me, she probably wouldn't have found him anyway. It seems like a long time ago - he's not there anymore - today, he's sitting on a bed, next to a close friend who is dying.

His friend's name is Bartley, but to anyone who had known him, he's just plain Bart. Bart has lymphosarcoma, a cancer that (from my understanding) begins in the lymph system, but spreads to the organs and brain if left untreated. The final phase of his treatment involves steroids to at least make him feel like he's not too sick. His family opted against any radical treatment. He had been feeling well until the last few days. Earlier today, I took the chance to go out to Hueco Tanks. Despite the excellent bouldering, it is no substitute for a lost friend. But for the few minutes in the evening, when the temperature cooled down and I worked out the moves of some hardman-hopeful on top of North Mountain - when the last rays of the sun hit him as he reached the top of some unknown problem, that was the Real me. He sat down and stared at the sun. With a chalky hand he wiped the sweat off his brow. Afterwards, he told me that he wished so hard that sunset would last forever. I never told him that sunsets don't last forever. I would never tell anyone that. I know it though. Sunsets don't last forever, neither do mornings, cups of coffee, or parties. Shit, all the wishings of all the lost boys in never-never land can't stop a sunset. But I wasn't going to tell him that.

After a few minutes, when the rays flew overhead but stopped touching us, I knew my time in the sun was up. It was a long ride home. You never realize how the miles can draw out until you take a ride with the real you.

He arrives home, and a few people are in the house. Without much notice, everyone seems to go. Now alone, he sets Bart on his lap and the two of them sit together. A few hours later, only one of them is left, and he too drifts off to sleep.

I few days from now, I'm sure I'll be back on some mountain, although I'm not sure which. I'll be back to singing my song and wishing for that days not to fade, but maybe he will be there too. It's things like friends dying for why I climb. However hard it is, somehow it's always easier than other things.

The next morning, my nephew asks me what happened to Bart. "He died," I said. "No more?" he asked. "No more."

To Bartley: who lived a grand life biting cats and hiding from the vacuum cleaner. I'm sure he lived many days in the sun, and I'm glad to have been struck by a few reflected rays.

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