More panic was building in my chest. My stomach was churning. I took some deep breaths. I wanted to do something, but was helpless. It was up to her. Dammit, Billie set some dammed anchors. I was wishing her to do something. Anything.
Two more of the climbers had gathered around me, watching, not saying anything. Just when it looked like she had it made, she reached her right hand up with those long arms, feeling around for a handhold, finding it . . . I could almost see her staring in disbelief as I watched her fall, like in slow motion, useless rope coiling in the air above her. She didn’t scream but I saw the look of terror in face, even from so far away, as she clawed to find purchase, but found only air.
Billie and I were lovers, mostly on her terms. I was enamored with her. I really didn’t know about love or what it was, I only knew I wanted to be with her. I enjoyed her energy, her enthusiasm for life, and the great wild abandoned sex.
I wanted to move in together, but she said she needed her space. I made the point that she was either at my place or I was at hers every night. Her answer was she didn’t want to commit to anything, she didn’t know much longer she was going to be in Salt Lake, she didn’t want to be tied down, she wanted her freedom; NOLS was asking her to come back; she was considering maybe applying for a position at Outward Bound and several other outdoor schools. All she talked about were all the opportunities she could have here or there or somewhere else.
All our conversations were either in undertones or overtones, neither of us ever getting said what needed to be said. She would ignore my gestures of love. She was a free spirit. It was becoming clear that I was but a momentary blip on her radar. It hurt, but maybe that was my attraction to her, her remoteness to love and commitment, her focused drive to achieve her goals. Maybe I wanted to be like her and hoped what she had in her singularity and focus would rub off on me. In many ways I was jealous of her.
The climb was getting more difficult now as the wall was beginning to slope outwards. We watched as she reached up again for a handhold. The group around me gave an auditory gasp as they saw her pause for an instant, reach for something, then began to plunge to the rocks below, her arms flailing trying to grab the rock but finding only air.
To be continued . . .