I say, breathe in, breathe deeply, let it go.
I felt it pool around me. It was in my eyes. I could taste it. My chest was covered in it. I tried to breathe, but nothing happened. When breath finally moved, it moved in fits and starts - the rapid, staccato breath of adrenaline and fear. Sand and rock stained brilliant red in a growing circle.
I'm not sure of all details. Some of it has returned over time, but the actual moment I knew I was falling has never fully come back.
I remember my underhand grip on a flake of rock the size of a car tire. I remember matching feet to hands. I remember the tire-sized rock shifting, slipping out and back, into my lap. I remember a rush and a back-flip and ... I remember coming to in Dave's lap. I remember the look on his face. I remember the free flowing blood, so much blood.
I remember the crash of breath that filled my lungs. The gasping. The gasping. The involuntary tears. The smell of sweat. I remember Dave screaming, like a child, "Rocks to cabin! Rocks to cabin! Rocks to cabin!"
The cabin lay about a half mile down a steep slope. By trail, 10 minutes. By direct line, 7 minutes. It took the guys 5 to reach us.
Mike saw it. Sort of. Saw me up there. - High on the face of Steamboat. Sharp end of the rope. - Took a bite of sandwich. Looked back and I was gone.
When he heard Dave's scream across the meadow, everything went hyper. Stokes litter. First aid kit. Radio. Run.
I remember Seth holding my hand. I remember Yvon and Tim staving the flow of blood with compression. Then bandages. I remember the green wool army blanket. I remember the onset of pain and the taste of copper pennies. I remember more tears. I remember being afraid.
There was a neurosurgeon in camp. He flashed a pen light in my eyes. There was a suburban ambulance and there were two medics waiting. They bolted the litter to the floor. There were a million ruts in the track, to the gravel, to the pavement, to the hospital.
I remember the breath becoming easier. I remember breathing again. I remember the pain and the absolute - unadulterated - joy of the taste of oxygen.
I remember breathing.
I remember breathing.