all those summers

We were under a quarried gritstone wall. We were under the big arc-lamp of limestone at Stennis. We weren’t anything special but we were out from nine in the morning until last light at ten. In cut-offs. They were torn off awkwardly and not cool. We wrapped t shirts round our heads against the light. We hobbled about with our first-generation sticky rubber hung round our necks by the laces, wincing barefoot at the heat. We were so full of vitamin D we didn’t need to eat. You can see our smiles, stupid with vitamin D, in the polaroid; our stupid, sun-bleached heavy metal hair. We watched the sea-spray explode up with a grunt you couldn’t imitate but could feel in your knees, your hips, up your spine and deep into the reptile brain. We were up for it, even if it was the 6b pitch off some fucking loose MOAC “belay” or the ab from the unbacked number 5 wire. We were exhausted. Our hands gave us away. A scabbed knuckle, a scabbed elbow. Abraded finger pad. We were “as brown as berries” all those summers. We found a pair of trousers discarded at the top of a route. We laughed until we were incapable and two serious people told us off for putting in a forty foot traverse, thirty feet up, with no pro for the second and the rope in a perfect curve. Every day we were too tired to drive home but every one of us could finish two deep-dish pizzas. It was a roped solo, that’s all, but we took our telling-off. It was a life in the amygdala and none of us is ever going to forget it.