Even before we are all the way back to camp, my latent trauma about the timeline of debris was met with relief — that the tree fell just when it did, that we couldn’t split up, that we turned around before the falls — because my stomach ache had really become a whole stomach situation by the time we’d made it back to the bridge.
The next morning I stay behind at camp and lay in the shade between two trees. The rest of the group heads back up for another few hours near the river. It’s hot and slow, and everything is packed up except for my cot and water. The shadows of the trees and the light of the sun are like a reverse shoreline, and I walk across the campground in the contiguous parts of shade back and forth to the bathroom many times. Stomach still upset, tired from two days of unaided apnea and ground-padded sleep, there’s a calm, quiet heat about the camp as the ground squirrels chirp and chase and black birds with red heads play across the limbs of oak trees still firmly rooted in the ground. I read a book. I nap. I adjust my cot placement with the arc path of the sun as efficiently as I can, trying for only one shift per hour.
I imagine – off-screen, off-stage — all of their actions on the other side of the mountain; one scenario real, the other a haunting ghost still deciding on the when of its plummet. There was something addictive, thinking about all these ways in which we didn’t die.