(A little teaser for my regulars. Thank you all for being patient while I work on my book. Regular blog posts will resume.... eventually.)
Still in my shin-height nightgown and before drinking black coffee, I pulled the drawstring cord to open the horizontal oak blinds. Light beamed into my eggplant purple bedroom, illuminating dust balls. We painted this room seven years ago, together. I look down to the dirty hamper directly beneath the window and focus on the backpack that has been sitting there for three weeks. The time feels right. This is one of the baby steps I have to take. I take a big breath of air, mustering up the courage to open the grey Deuter pack and go through the contents inside.
The pack smells of dirt, metal and sweat, Ryan’s sweat. I sit down cross-legged on the floor, take another deep breath and make sure I want to do this now. It’s only been three weeks and yet it’s already been three weeks. I’m thankful someone hasn’t written a manual on the proper timing for going through someone’s belongings after they die. I am ready now but that could change in a heartbeat. I sit up tall and start carefully at the top of the pack, locking each moment of discovery deep in my memory banks. In order for this to feel right I want to remember everything, down to the finest detail. I am looking for clues, anything that would tell me why Ryan died. I wanted an explanation or a reason. Something that would make me feel better.
In the top lid of the pack are tools of the trade: two drill bits, a wrench on a piece of bright orange cordlet and a sandwich bag full of gymnastic block chalk. No obvious clues there. Each item is a sign of his commitment to the sport. They are just objects with no attached meaning. They do nothing to soothe my sadness and broken heart.
I sit up tall again, folding down the lid and opening the drawstring for the main compartment. I catch a whiff of something rotten. Something smells like it’s been left in a hot car too long. Tears stream down my face, dripping onto my nightgown.
Inside of a lunch size brown paper bag is a soggy peanut butter and honey sandwich and red apple. The apple is soft to the touch and needs to be thrown out. Taking this step and acknowledging the passage of time that all organic matter decomposes, I close my eyes. I long for what might have been. Seeing his lunch confirms what I knew all along: this was an accident. Ryan had full intention of coming home after his climb.
Underneath the brown bag was a blue PowerAid and reused Gatorade bottle nearly full of water. Both were missing small sips. His last sips. I opened the lid and went to put my lips where his had been and couldn’t sit up any longer. My body started shaking as it built up deep sobs. Why? Why Ryan?
Several minutes pass. I try breathing through my stuffy nose, congested with snot. I rub my temples, trying to relieve sinus pressure. If I finish going through the pack now, I will be done. One more step, complete. I glance again at the brown bag, ready to move on.
In the bottom of the bag are his hiking shoes with the laces removed. When Ryan’s body had been discovered, Kevin had used the laces as a leash for Makiah. Tucked into his shoes were balled up black Cane Creek cycling socks with a faint sour foot smell.
Sad yet thankful I finished the job, I sigh. I didn’t find the clues I was looking for.