I awake quietly, peaceful even, and the cloud-like pillow in the bed and breakfast gives way to my cheek as I turn my head to check the time – the first movement I seem to have made since drifting from consciousness the night before. Eight-thirty. Wow. A whole two hours later than usual.
Breathing deeply, I take in my surroundings, illuminated by the cracks of new morning light that peek in from under the curtains.
It’s a homely, plain and spacious double room, and my small pile of colourful and patterned belongings look sheepishly out of place as they sit patiently upon the corner of the cream-coloured dresser. I sit up also, and peer at myself in the mirror adjacent to the bed.
The mountain of mealtime looms great and threatening in front of me, and not just this once, I know, but only for the first of three promised and fixed encounters in the day that lies ahead.
I dress swiftly for work as my mind flits at speed over possible comebacks and reactions.
“I ate earlier’, I tell my colleagues, as the mountain grows ever more silent, and casts it’s shadows under my eyes.
“I’m not feeling great”, I find myself lying, as the extensive climbing and exertion required by the prospect of yet another trek up the mountain proves itself too difficult once again, and I collapse pathetically in it’s path, a weakling child on the steps of the parlour after being sent to bed with no dinner.
“I’ll have something later”, I half-lie – because I know I’ll have to face the danger sooner or later, even if it’s just a little bit.
Because it’s not as if I’ve never succeeded in surpassing this mountain.
It’s not like I’ve never made it home safely over it, to a nice warm bed, peace of mind, and eight hours sleep on a stomach that doesn’t ache. It’s just that the connotations and the memories of the turmoil I’ve caused when I used to push myself terrify me.
I’d run, and chase other people to beat them home; beat them to the other side of Mealtime, and sometimes run back over it again as if to taunt them as I took a second go back over streams and inlets, over-exerting my limited abilities, and often collapsing then too out of pure shame and embarassment as my thoughts finally caught up to my stomach, and attempted to rationalise the loss of control the mountain had just caused me.
The loss of control I had allowed myself in the prescence of the mountain.
I began to wonder how anyone ever could do this for fun. Some people strap on their walking boots, new gear all shiny and napkin-white, and embark on these huge journeys three times a day. In fact, most people do. It’s considered normal.
They don’t even think, don’t even consider that some particular mountains may have a mind of their own, and that they may someday possess the power to take over that of any impressionable climbing connoisseur.
Right now as it stands I’m too weak mentally and physically to take but a few steps in the direction of the mountain, even though my body has begun to complain of it’s need for the summit. It looms, ever-present in the corner of my eye, as I ready myself to go about my day and try to fulfill as many tasks as I can before I’m forced to turn and face it full on again. But the shadow is always there – and the shadow terrifies me.
I’m constantly wondering whether it’ll be ok to go all the way over this time; what kind of steps will I have to overcome now, and will their intensity burn off and render irrelevant any trips or slip-ups I may have had on the way.
My stomach is yearning – a dull, resigned, exhausted and ever-present pang of lust that has been stifled one too many times by rejection. It’s still there; forever will it love and long for that which it cannot have.
I find my mental state in a similar situation, as I mull over lost lovers and the fading aroma of young love.
But none of them ever knew about the mountain. For me, the mountain was a way to escape the emotional pain and confusion – it inflicted suffering upon my organs, distracting my heart from the internal pain of heartbreak and lack of fulfillment, instead forcing it to focus on physically keeping me alive.
As these spiralling and dizzying thoughts once again sync into their daily rotation in the space between my ears, I can’t help but wonder aloud as I stare at my creased and prematurely-lined forehead in the mirror;
“Must I suffer this?? Is it really a weakness?”
With a sigh, I pack my bag once again, thank the mothering, kindly old landlady for her hospitality, calmly reassuring her I will get something in the shop on my way to work. Meanwhile in the distance, silent and unforgiving as ever, the next mountain rumbles it’s way into view.