How a Six-Hour Hike Helped Me Confront My Control Issues
While the throngs pose for selfies next to fallen Joshua trees and rock formulations, sporting their aviators and hot pants, I grip a rock 50 feet off the ground. Body covered in bruises and cactus spines when I thought I was supposed to go on a leisurely five-mile stroll through the Park. Angry that just when I’ve gotten my life together, I would probably lose it in Joshua Tree National Park.
There goes the girl in hiking boots and soft pants falling, falling spectacularly to pieces. Head cracked in two. Limbs akimbo. She makes for a terrific piece of art in the sand. A Pollock with Rothko blood.
Our guide, Elizabeth, calls what we’re doing “scrambling” while I’m screaming for a fucking helmet. We’re in hour five of our alleged hike, lost in the backwoods of Joshua Tree. The girl panting next to me offers up half her blueberry buckle because I’m talking about cannibalism.
The Donner party was real, people, I shout as I shimmy my body between two rocks. I’m chanting to myself that the only way out is through, and you’d be surprised what your body can do when you’re desperate to get home. The rocks you’ll climb, the trees and branches and spines you’ll elbow your way through when the sky burns orange, pink, blue, and charcoal. When your desire for control feels like fire ants crawling, poking, and prodding beneath your skin. Reminding you that you have no clue when you’ll make it out of this Park, that this Sunday hike has devolved into a nightmare on the level of The Shining.
Fuck my life.
I am small, cold, a breath of milk and eyes of sleep. Outside, it’s the kind of dark you have to feel your way through. And I remember waking to it, padding my feet through a four-room apartment with the windows open and the door wide open. I fell asleep to my mother smoking a cigarette, then lighting another. I woke to a house cold and empty.
A note on the kitchen table reads: “We liked watching your daughter sleep.” Because it doesn’t matter that you’re Italian, a woman, a pretty woman at that — if you owe the men money, they will come for you in your sleep.