“So, we need like fifteen-thousand calories a day.”
“Four people, medium load, winter. Maybe more like eighteen because it’s winter?”
“Eighteen thousand calories? How do you even consume that many?
“What? Three to five thousand?”
A pause. “Butter.”
I watched you walk across the water. It was a creek. I would have called it a creek under almost any other circumstances, but at that moment it was a river. You carried the pack, moving from stone to stone, feet never trying to occupy the same space. You went with your elegance and grace and confidence. Those things I admired and loved and envied in you. With hesitation, I followed. Two rocks quickly. The third slower. I stopped and stared at the next one. It was more triangular than flat, and the water rushed over it.
You came back across, took my pack, and deposited it on the other side. You stood several paces in front of me and waited. I picked up my right foot several times, feeling the weight on my left. I knew–I knew!–that the point was not to move on my left foot, to shift my balance there, but rather to use it as a point to steady myself. I’d done it before but the water and the cold and the snow ate at such fear in my head. I imagined falling in and being swept all the way back to where we started. From here to there, the water picked up silt and runoff and turned from clear to the brown and red of milky tea. I could see myself floating in it.
I closed my eyes and then opened them and picked up my right foot, moving quickly forward several more steps. You reached out your hand and took mine. The final balance point.