Barbara McVeigh


I remember you dancing at the wedding: your neat feet and fancy heels twisting over the geometric patterns on the parquet. As nimble as a goat. You asked me: “How do they measure the height of a mountain?”

“Using triangles,” I replied. “You measure the angles between the top of the mountain and two points on the ground. If you know the two angles, you can figure out the height using algebraic calculations.”

“I failed that subject,” she whispered into my ear, and I held her tight in my arms.

During the ceremony, she had read St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “I may be able to speak the languages of men and even the angels...” I teased her as we danced: “The language of angles is trigonometry.” She had misread the last line: “But of the three gifts of the spirit: faith, hope, charity, the greatest of these is hope.”

I imagine her with me now, her body providing heat. I take in her perfume. They don't tell you that climbing Everest means stepping over the bodies of those who failed before you.

I can almost taste the summit. Blood on my tongue.

I’ve been in the dark for nearly eight hours with my climbing partner, in a crevasse where we had fallen. If I had a theodolite, I could measure two angles and calculate the length of rope the Sherpas would need to save me.

My partner floats, his fingers almost touching the ground, his boot caught in a trick of the ice. Facing the wrong way to heaven, his lips are beginning to pull back in a grimace. I should get out my knife and cut him down.

She asked me to say those three little words before I left.

I had replied smugly, “Because it's there.”

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FlashJeremy Bibaud