By Elizabeth Speth
Me: (Pant! Pant! Puff! Puff!) What would you say the grade of this hill is, averaging it over the mile of climbing?
Neil (my husband): I’d say it’s about a forty percent grade, give or take.
Me: And we are climbing it today for the second time why?
Neil: You need the exercise. I’m kidding! But you do.
Me: Ok. Fine. Let’s do it. The rain’s picking up, and now that we’re wet we won’t get warm again. So let’s just get it over with.
Neil: We’ll go slow and steady. No rush at all. You set the pace.
Me: (Pant! Pant!) Neil, walk in front of me. You’re faster uphill.
Neil: I’m walking in your footsteps, so I’m taking it super easy.
Me: What the hell is that supposed to mean?
Neil: Look! We’ve already been walking for two minutes. We’ve probably only got another 28 minutes to the top.
Me: (Gasp! Pant!)
Neil: We are easily an eighth of the way up now.
Me: Listen, you can’t talk about distance or time until you’ve passed the halfway point. That’s, like, Sports Psychology 101. Reminding someone they have most of the way still to go is not uplifting.
Neil: I’m not trying to lift you up, Elizabeth. I’m trying to break you down. So you can come back stronger.
Me: (Gasp! Pant!)
Neil: This is the steepest part. It’s a breeze after this.
Me: No it’s not.
(More panting for a few minutes.)
Neil: Maybe this is the steepest part. Then it’s all easy after this.
(A few minutes of panting.)
Neil: Ok. I think this is the steepest part after all. Then comes the easy part.
Me: Neil, this is not the easiest part. There is a lot of steep stuff yet. And you are not allowed to talk about distance or time or terrain. It’s not helping. Every time you open your mouth I’m a little more dismayed.
Neil: That’s not a nice way to talk to someone who is being so supportive. See how I’m staying with you? If I were alone, I would be running up there now. But I’m here. Right behind you. Supporting you.
Me: (Stony silence, punctuated by panting.)
Neil: Why do women who are self-conscious about their weight tie jackets around their waists? It only makes them look bigger. Er, not you, of course. You always look very nice.
Me: (Tightening the jacket knotted around my waist.) Neil, I want you to go ahead of me now. Run.
Neil: Are you sure?
Me: Yes. Go. Run.
Neil: Ok, but don’t laugh when I flap my arms. I always flap my arms running uphill.
Neil: Yay! You made it! Hey, let’s take a picture of me collapsed here at the top! How fun would that be?
Neil: I figure it’s going to take about thirty minutes to get back down.
Me: The rain is really coming down. There’s no trail left. It’s all running water.
Neil: Just one step at a time. We’ve already gone one min–
Me: Shut up. Hey, look at that beautiful mist coming up out of the canyon. I’m going to get a picture of that.
Neil: Move out of the way. I’m going to get a better picture. Let me show you how to do it.
(About twenty minutes of silent panting, me carefully placing my hiking poles on slick, shiny rocks.)
Neil: Be careful. You usually fall going down.
Me: Have I told you lately how much you don’t need to try to inspire me while hiking?
Neil: Have I told you lately how grumpy you always are when we hike?
Me: Have I told you lately that you can go straight to h–
Neil: How about I buy you a beer afterward? We’ll go to the Auburn Alehouse. Get a sampler.
Me: Really? Ok.
Neil: Great hike today.
Me: Yep. Super fun.