We climbed up onto the rock, the bolder overlooking the canyon. He tripped. And then slipped. It was an accident. He fell deep in King’s Canyon, bouncing off the sharp rocks on his way down, his red backpack catching and tearing, his screams echoing as I watched paralyzed. There was nothing I could do but get back to the car, drive to where there was a signal, to call for help, trying not to imagine a life without him.
Earlier in the morning, we woke up at our campsite deep in the Sierra Nevadas and decided which trail to take, to gaze at the deepest canyons in North America. We saw signs warning about bears, but we were practiced hikers. We really were far from everything. I tried to call to check on Dad, but our phones still had no service. I made our favourite camping breakfast, from before, my famous oatmeal with brown sugar and berries brought from home, for what would turn out to be an important meal.
Earlier, yesterday, we cuddled by the fire on the suddenly crisp night. It was early spring, too early to be here, and we hadn’t seen another hiker since 3PM. We turned in early. We were getting along better, maybe it was that it was just the two of us and no distractions, or else maybe I wasn’t acting so scatter-brained and goddamn clueless.
Earlier last week, we had decided spur-of-the-moment to go on a romantic trip since he had use-it-or-lose-it vacation time, to rekindle the spark. We talked about the national park options and settled on Sequoia/King’s Canyon. A two-for-one. From a long ago Girl Scout trip, I remembered feeling part of nature, at one with the majestic sequoias, a polar opposite to the current me.
Earlier last month, I had researched in ‘incognito mode’ that King’s Canyon would be the perfect place for our romantic second-honeymoon trip that I would convince him to take me on. I couldn’t live like this anymore.
Earlier, two months ago, at a work party, I had seemed to him to be treating my boss at the firm with more familiarity than I should be. Once we got home, lamps and vases were smashed. I bought makeup which he helped me apply over the bruises that were only because I got in the way of the breaking.
Earlier, two months before, he told me to cancel my plans with my mom and dad. He had a surprise for me. The surprise was that he felt like hanging out with me alone. Seriously, that was it. What was wrong with me that I didn’t think it was romantic?
Earlier, three months before that, I got a raise. I brought home champagne. But instead of celebrating, he smashed the bottle against the wall. Ripped up the papers I had brought home to work on that night.
Earlier, a month after our wedding, we went on our honeymoon to Cabo. He ended up in a fistfight with an inebriated creep who tried to dance with me. I told him to let it go, forget about it, and he blew up at me, saying I must’ve liked the attention.
Earlier, the week after our wedding, I had neglected to mail a parcel that he asked me to. I was supposed to mail it on the way to my fancy job. I didn’t think it was a big deal, I’d take it in the next day. But he saw it on the passenger seat of my Toyota Corolla when he pulled into the garage. He made me repeat that I ‘will not overlook’ what he asks me to do in the future. I explained it was only an oversight, not on purpose. The change was so sudden that I thought he was joking, playing on having been my manager when we first met. It turned out he was not. And he did not like me laughing at him, even when I thought I was laughing with him.
Earlier, two and three summers before, he was my manager, at my job at the plant, during college. I was working the summers to help pay for school, so I wouldn’t need to take out as much in student loans. He was older, in charge. All buff and strong, sexy in a hardhat too. I imagined having a life with him.
Susan Hatters Friedman is a psychiatrist specializing in maternal mental health and forensic psychiatry. She is pursuing a Master’s in Crime Fiction at the University of Cambridge, and has studied satire writing with The Second City. Her recent creative writing can be read in The Dillydoun Review,The Centifictionist, and the Love in the Time of Covid Chronicle.
© 2021, Susan Hatters Friedman