A Trick of the Light

Kathmandu, Nepal, 2001

In the Hotel Vajra in Kathmandu, our backpacks lay wide-open on the bed. I selected the things I would need for the trek—an insulated vest, a quilted coat, a long-sleeved thermal shirt, a pullover, and a zippered fleece jacket. I could wear the same jeans every day. A warm shirt to sleep in. Four pairs of socks.

“You won’t be needing that.” Tom had spotted my diaphragm, perched on a tiny stack of underwear. I was too stunned to make a sound, just gave him a startled look. Was he saying we wouldn’t have sex on the trek? Since we’d started seeing each other, about eight months ago now, we’d been living on different continents and getting together only intermittently. We communicated mainly by email. Because of the twelve-hour time difference, our timing was always off. His nights were my days; my days his nights. Now that we were together again, I didn’t want to waste a minute. “You won’t need that either,” he said, perhaps trying to deflect my shock by pointing out the Nepal guidebook I had brought from New York. “Every ounce counts,” he added, stuffing a sweater into his backpack. He had already packed a trowel, sunglasses, two T-shirts, thermal underwear, and a single pair of socks. He turned, searching for the nuts, cookies, chocolate, and water we purchased that afternoon, paused, then tossed one bottle of water onto my side of the bed and crammed the other three into his own pack. “The mountain gods are jealous.”

People on couch
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