I wrote this in late 1988, reflecting upon the women I’d met while at Sierra Community College:
“Here you must choose,” said the guide. The boy and girl nodded and looked ahead. Their comfortable trail had fragmented into hundreds of different paths. Some turned to the right of the mountain and others to the left. One went straight up the mountain and others seemed to go nowhere at all. She liked one of those ones. In particular a gentle path that meandered through the chlorophyll, keeping far away from the mountain. The trail was well-worn and easy to the tread, going in no direction, dissolving in flowers.
He fastened on the trail up the mountain which disappeared into the clouds. That’s if you could call it a trail, for in many places it vanished and each traveler had to blaze his own way. The climb was steep and over jagged rocks covered with moss. Reliable holds were few for most gave way under pressure. Many travelers had fallen. Some got up and tried again. Others got up and took a different trail. Most never got up at all.
The climbers stood out as they clambered upward, and he liked that and the challenge the mountain presented. Few climbers made it as high as the clouds and none had emerged out of them into the sun again. Therefore the actual height of the summit was unknown because no one had ever made it to the peak. Some who had climbed very high and voluntarily come back down again, reported that the summit seemed to get higher the farther one climbed. The climbers usually worked alone, as opposed to the other travelers who strolled along side trails hand-in-hand. But he wasn’t worried and impatiently flexed his muscles for the struggle ahead. He had made his decision. The guide nodded and looked up with him at the mountain.
“The standing is slippery,” warned the guide, “and the regress is either a downfall or at least an eclipse.”
The boy nodded and pretended to understand. Shivering in the wind, he waited for her to make a decision. It seemed that she wasn’t coming along, or was he going away? It didn’t matter. There was no more time for thinking. He stepped out.
“Aren’t you afraid,” she called out to him as he moved away towards the mountain, “that there may be no one to catch you if you fall.”
He paused and looked back into blue eyes. Her gaze locked on to his and froze him. Neither moved. He dug his heels in as he felt her pulling him across time and space, the vision of the mountain disappearing into crystal-blue waters. But her eyes couldn’t hold him as they once did. He blinked and moved away.
She watched him go. Surveying the landscape, she didn’t like any of her options. But the wind pushed hard behind her, forcing a decision. Buffeted forward, she slipped onto a well-worn path and disappeared. The way was easy over leaves trodden black. As the trail wove back and forth, going nowhere, she hoped she’d emerge again at the beginning. Maybe she could choose again. The day was still young.