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  • So much warmer here, I cast off the blanket late in the night, early in the morning, sometime between now and then. I am still not sleeping well but I haven't slept well since some time in the 80s. I'm not walking well, either, but what does it matter? It's the last night, the last day, we are almost done. Down. Back where we started.

    The boys in the room next door might be heading out and I fear they may take my towel.

    "This one's not mine... Not mine... Not mine..."

    "Fair enough," I think. "Just leave it."

    "Not mine."

    Last night, late, which wasn't really late at all but for the early rising, Shree joined us at a rooftop table and talked of his life, his wife and foreign women picking up Nepali men. He had an arranged marriage (with a Nepali girl) after years in a relationship with a girl of another caste, a higher caste, a Brahmin. It couldn't work. At home, in Kathmandu, there's a baby he's barely seen. 42 days old. No name. The families still trying to figure that out. (The Olders think her name is Rebecca; I have no idea why.)

    Tomorrow, Shree heads to Everest Base Camp and after that, Tibet. It'll be a couple more months before he really sees his wife and baby.

    "Do you miss home when you're here?" someone asked.

    He replied that he missed the mountains when he was home.

    I left the table to his talk of a drunk uncle who wasn't really an uncle at all but a family friend who fleeced trekking companies, married an American girl (born in Korea and adopted by Minnesotans) and moved to the US. They have three kids now, live in Minneapolis and still drunk, the former guide works at Walgreens.

    He might have called him, but the talk was as far as I got before leaving. I didn't quite care and sleep proved an elusive mistress even on the best of nights

    In this teahouse, our last teahouse, the Ever Green, our room has three beds and a rooftop terrace. Showers are combined in small concrete rooms with the toilets, hover not squat, in a strangely bad idea. Showers smelled. Toilets were hard to reach for a couple of hours. Everything got wet.

    Burgers prove a bad idea as well.

    "Gerry, how's your tuna burger?" his sister asks.

    Gerry says not a word but stabs at the crisp patty with his fork. The table bursts into laughter. I empathize; my veggie burger appeals nearly as much. The pizza looks good, though, traditional Nepali pizza. With French fries. Brendan doesn't like the spice on the momos with cheese (I think it's just yak cheese) and Kate the momo connoisseur likes her veggie ones well enough. I snag a couple of each.

    Across the night, across the valley, from the rooftop, we hear the "dance parties" of groups B, C and D. We leave the night after cake from Chomrong and Shree; half comes to us and the rest to the porters who devour every slice. Cake and conversation.

    The Olders clock in with an average age of 68. They go to bed while we talk and I worry how our voices carry, the conversation, our laughter. Megan wants to dance. I offer to go down and check out the scene with Groups C and D but everyone knows it would take hours for me to make it there and back again. I can barely walk.

    I berate myself for suffering so much, for my lack of lung and knee power, for not keeping up, for the berating itself, worry, anxiety. I feel bad for hurting, for crying, for having bad joints and asthma, for not being able to take painkillers, for not being better, doing better. I feel like an unwanted interloper on my own trip. What was I thinking?

    I really am doing just fine but in the predawn hours, aching, exhausted, doubt creeps into the bed even as I cast off the blanket.

    "So take it," comes a voice from the other side of the thin, plywood wall. "Don't take it… So take it… Don't take it…"

    Something large and upset buzzes and thunks into the window. I open the pane; it doesn't go. I shake a curtain. Nothing. I shake another and settle back down onto my bed. Eventually, it either calms down or leaves.

    One more day.
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