After our Mount Whitney Climb, Mums and Dad threw a lovely party for me, Kat and Strand. My dear friend from growing up, of course, came and I had a lovely time introducing her to my friends.
As the party went on, she looked at Strand and Kat and inquired:
So how did she con you into climbing this mountain?
She asked this with her blue eyes wide open; with that innocent look on her face. Strand and Kat answered the question earnestly — with the stories of how and why they were motivated to climb.
Oh, she said, did she tell you about the time she made me climb Half Dome? She, of course, being Me.
Well, I didn’t exactly force you to climb Half Dome.
Yes, you did. You told me to rent a car; you gave me a list of supplies, and you told me to meet you at a hotel in Carmel. That we were “going on an adventure.”
That doesn’t mean I FORCED YOU.
You’re very convincing. Also, once we left Carmel, you insisted upon driving.
In fairness to me, I did tell her that we were going to climb Half Dome — she just didn’t know what that meant.
It was ten days after I’d filed my separation papers, and climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park was one of the things I’d wanted to check off my ten-year bucket list. I happened to be in California for work and decided to do it then. As the partner and his wife headed off for a weekend in Big Sur, I met my friend out on the deck of the hotel for our trek to Yosemite.
This place is great and the weather is beyond gorgeous. Why don’t we just spend the weekend here?
Long story. Get in the car.
We drove to Yosemite. Yosemite was on fire, and the canyons glowed red with embers. I started speeding as we entered the park; I didn’t want her to lose her nerve. As would become a recurrent theme that fall, I was promptly smacked with a speeding ticket. The Park Police Officer wanted my social security number. I refused to give it. She tried to argue federal preemption with me; I argued back.
My companion slunk down in her seat. I was assessed an extra fine for sassing the officer.
We drove through the worst of the fire; made it to the Valley, and began our climb at 5 o’clock the next morning. My climbing buddy quickly realized what she’d gotten herself into, and I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.
A beat. My New York friends stared at me blankly.
Oh, said my friend, has she ever told you about the time she made me go to Vegas…with Dileep?
I didn’t MAKE you go to Vegas with Dileep. I just…invited you.
Yes, you did. You made me. I expected a weekend with you, and instead I got a weekend with the Cornell University Glee Club.
I was in from law school, and I decided that I wanted to go to Vegas. My friend Dileep had decided to come in from DC as well. I convinced my friend that she should come to Vegas with “me”…and never bothered to tell her about the whole Dileep thing.
I came to pick her up, and Dileep stepped out of the car to help her with her bags. My old friend was certainly not expecting Dileep. Dileep, a former choir boy, bragged frequently about his singing prowess. So she spent the entire trip forcing Dileep to sing “The Pina Colada Song” every time we tried to order drinks.
To this day, she has not forgiven me. She has also known Dileep for about 10 years now, and I don’t think she’s forgiven him, either.
What you will find about Mere, my old friend said to those gathered around the table at my parents’ house, with a wicked little half smile on her face, is that she is really good at making people do things that Meredith wants to do, with little regard for what anyone else wants to do. She…takes hostages.
I do no such thing! I mock protested.
Yes, yes you do. You kidnapped me once.
I pondered this for a moment, drawing a blank on any time I’d actually kidnapped her.
You were in college. I told you that I was tired, and that I was absolutely not going to go to a party in Orange County with you. So you drove me around for a while, pretending we were going to go to dinner in West Hollywood. Then you put the seat heater on till I fell asleep, and when I woke up, we were in Irvine.
Yes. I did do that, didn’t I?
I looked at her, and she looked at me. We’d always looked for the absurd in things, had always had kind of a quirky, cynical but loving view of the ordinary; had almost always found the joyfully strange in the mundane.
In that moment, as I remembered some of my stunts, I didn’t think it was possible for me to love her more.