Cold tears running down her cheeks, she turned to her dad, walking beside her.
“How much longer until we get to the top?” she asked, pleadingly, trying to take longer strides to catch up with him.
“At least an hour,” he responds, waiting for her to catch up. She groans internally, and lets more tears fall. They are her way of not collapsing from every next step she took. He notices her struggling, silent tears slipping down her eyes.
“Do you want to go back down?” he asks.
Silently, she nods, shoving her hands in her pockets. They feel like ice cubes, and she can hardly move her fingers. She is dressed in 3 pants, 1 shirt, 2 sweaters, and a coat, yet she is still freezing.
“Okay, we can go down,” he says, his eyes going to the little village below, sounding a bit disappointed. But she doesn’t want to take this hike from him, not when he will never ever have the chance to do it again, and the same goes for her.
“No, I... Let’s just keep going,” she says, deciding on the spot. She can see the sky beginning to go from black, to dark blue, to light blue. She hiccups a couple of times, and knows that even if she wants to go down, she can’t. She has to keep going, for herself.
After another hour of dragging herself through the snow, which was slowly melting and turning into slush, she spotts a rock that was pretty flat, and not piled with snow. Stumbles toward it, dropping onto it and curling herself into a ball, as small as she can, and burying her her head in her arms, almost falling asleep.
“Hey, Shanee,” she feels a hand on her shoulder, and looks up through half closed eyes.
“Hmmm?” she mumbles.
“We need to get going,” he whispers, tugging at her arm.
With a groan, she rises to her feet, trying to cover her hands with as much of her coat as possible. Putting one foot slowly in front of the other, she looks up at the peak of the mountain, 5100 meters above sea level, and thinks about the 10 days of hard work it has taken hiking through Nepal to get here. Her breath still shaking, tears were still running down her cheeks, and she was shivering so violently that she had to make sure she was walking in a straight line. The metal hiking rods she had taken to help her through harder parts of the hike were hanging limply at her two sides, as her fingers were too stiff to close around them.
Then, without caring who heard her, she started talking to herself, saying, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it!” Sometimes loudly, sometimes quieter, and sometimes in her head. Ironically, this motivated her to keep going, although it should have been saying the opposite. It was as though she was challenging herself. The sentence was like her fuel, every time she said ‘I can’t do it’ she became more determined that she could.
After another hour, she looked up and suddenly she could see her destination, waiting for her, yet it seemed miles away. Every step seemed to take hours, and she kept on saying that she could not do it, could not, could not... Every step was an excruciating effort, and she seemed no closer to the end than she was before, and she really wanted the pain to stop, but she kept going.
Finally, she was at the top, and what she saw took her breath away, almost choking her as she was out of breath already. She sat down on the snow covered floor, her coat protecting her from getting wet.
Then she simply looked in every direction she could, at the colors slashed across the sky, at the lake, half covered in ice, sparkling and glittering, at the mountains and hills growing smaller the farther away they were, at the little village at the foot of the lake, at the flags on top of the mountain, and at the visible breath blowing from her mouth. Then she looked down at where she had just been, and at where she was now, and smiled. She had done it.
Her dad came up behind her and looked out at the view, then at her.
“You did it,” he said, giving her a squeeze on the shoulder, voicing her thoughts.
“Uh Huh,” she whispered, looking over miles and miles of view. She was dumbstruck, amazed, and her nose was stuffed after 2 hours of tears pouring down her cheeks in an effort to keep going.
“This is what courage is,” he says. “It was hard, you did it anyways, and you got to the top.” His head swivels around, staring at the miles and miles of mountains, hills, and trees in wonder, this view that they were not likely to forget. “Nothing good ever comes easy,” he whispers.
A bird flies past them, cawing and flapping its wings. She lifts her head to look at it. It probably sees this view every day, so maybe it isn’t as special for it. Getting up there is so easy for it, nothing like it was for her. And for her this is one of the most amazing things she’s ever seen.
She shakes her head, and repeats what he said. “No, nothing good ever comes easy.”