I sat on a cushionless bench picking the dirt from underneath my fingernails with the corner edge of a sunscreen bottle while the teahouse matron carved out the eyes of a potato next to me. As a war waged between my brush and the knots in my hair, I couldn't help but think: never has a battle been so happily lost.
How did 312 hours of being shower-less, laughing in negative 40 degrees, and mule-ing up steep passes become life's work for this city girl? I don't know. There's no rhyme to why I crave a dirt tan or reason to the company of strangers I keep. How did I end up here?
I woke up that morning, legs sore from the previous day's trek through the Khumbu. The promise of a kind Everest soaked in sunshine was still wrapped tightly around my pinky finger.
"You promise, if I wake up that early, it will be worth it?"
"Yes," my guide, Ashok, had said. "Very beautiful sunrise."
As per usual, his face was serious as he spoke.
And as per usual, when silence gapped the conversation, an ear-width grin graced his face and a bout of hyperventilated laughter sweetened him into something kinder than a cartoon honey bear. Kindness, I'm certain, was born in Nepal.
The fog that day made a smoke screen of my very feet and the cold bit harder than teeth on yak cheese -- don't even try it. Still, I believed the fog would recede.
Like trying to swallow the moon at 2p.m. in the afternoon, I waited against the odds. I burrowed into my post outside the teahouse and watched a grey duvet tuck in the landscape, Everest's head far under her covers.
It was like watching paint dry inside a freezer in a bikini.
As I sat there on the stoop, I remembered my mother saying, "A watched pot never boils."
I remembered my father quoting, "Everybody's waiting for cooler weather and I'm just waiting for you."
I thought about Ashok warm in his sleeping bag and I scoffed at his faith in taming things untameable, like the Himalayan fog.
Eventually I let the clouds take me, a piece of low hanging fruit in the land of fried potatoes. As I gave up the promise, the fog began lifting like a theatre curtain and my cheeks flushed from the blush of an opening night I'd only dreamed of. And then Everest to the world -- or Sagarmatha to Nepal, or Chomolungma to Tibet, or beauty to me -- sat waiting on her throne. And the sunrise on her Southern face was magnificent.
So how did I end up here? I still don't really know, but there's one thing I do: showers are overrated.
I'll end up where I end up. I'm just so glad I've been here.