“If you’re looking for an example of anti-green architecture, this building could be your poster child. Yup, used for the warehousing of millions of dead bodies during the rapacious campaign to exterminate our forests.”
“You’re very onionated aren’t you?”
“Actually, I avoid onions like the plague. Women, you know, do not appreciate bad breath.”
I was stupefied by my stupidity and turned away intending escape, for if I turned my back on this proposed expansion of my narrow universe, all embarrassment would simply disappear into the void of nonexistence.
“Whoa, hold on there just a second.”
I didn’t, couldn’t, look at him: “I have to go,” I replied.
“Hear me out, then you can leave.” I assented by facing him again.
“I had a dream this morning, last one before I got up. It went like this: There was a beautiful, enchanting woman . . . hmm strange, she looked a lot like you; well, anyhow she had a lot of trouble with her words wanting to come out all screwed up. But, after a little while, she got used to me, and we went climbing together and other X rated adventures which I will fail to mention at this juncture.” He had an undeniable twinkle in his eye. “Won’t you give the Rock Gym a second chance?”
“Could this be it, the ladder of escape,” I asked myself. “Is it possible that there really is a universe out there beyond the perfect yet deadly symmetry of my inner existence. Was this a jailbreak he proposed?” I was terrified of further gaffs which caused me to prolong the time before responding. Finally after staring at one another for moments, seconds, minutes, I corralled my words and replied: “I will, but please forgive me in advance for my dysfunctional tongue. There’s no accounting for it.”
“Sure, I’ll give you the group deal on apologies.”
“Also, you don’t smell the least bit like onions; opinionated was the intended word.”
“Yes ma’am, in Oregon we’re all extra opinion oriented when it comes to the color green.”
“You must be a native,” I replied.
“From beginning to end, not that I was born here, but anyone who falls in love with the awesome forests, the mountains, the desert, the shore; that’s what I call a native. How about you? Where do your opinions call home?”
For some reason, the question petrified me; maybe because I had no opinions: “I was born and raised in Hong Kong. It’s an impressive jungle of steel and cement, but it can’t really compare with Oregon,” My voice sounded so apologetic that I might as well have started the sentence with sorry.
“So you’ll be heading back with green degree in hand?”
“Hopefully not. I’ve come to realize that I have no love for Hong Kong, but I do have a deep craving for heights and vistas and swimming 64 stories above the crowds.”
“I bet, but if you’re interested in places high enough to make Hong Kong skyscrapers seem short, you are in the right spot. Humans are pretty decent architects,” he mentioned in an offhand manner which later turned out to be the way he mentioned everything; “but Nature is far more accomplished.”
“I guess you spend a lot of time climbing mountains?”
“Every chance and practically every ducat I get my hands on. This state doesn’t have a mountain I haven’t climbed.”
It was intoxicating being around someone with such enthusiasm. I was in danger of being drawn in.
“Btw, I’m Tom. Do you have a name? I’m betting it has something to do with red.”
“You and my father are apparently of the same opinion,” I replied; “China Red it is, but if that’s too many words, Red will suffice.”
“Nah, Red doesn’t really do it; three little letters aren’t enough to describe the color of your hair. If I were your dad, I would have called you Vermillion. It’s the color of life and eternity, you know.”
“I’m exceedingly glad you aren’t my father,” I was thinking.
“Are you poisonous, Miss China Red, like mercury or smelly like sulfur?”
“Not that kind of sulfur.”
“Is there more than one kind?”
“The rotten egg smell is from hydrogen sulfide. My sulfur is used in gunpowder. Did you know that the original formula for gunpowder was sulfur, potassium nitrate and birthwort?”
“News to me. Did you know the Chinese discovered gunpowder while looking for a cure for mortality?”
“Yes.” I paused to smile. It felt real and true and wonderful like it came from deep within, like it was the first smile of the rest of my life. “No one ever connects my name up with its elemental components. Is there something you aren’t telling me, Tom the Mountain Climber?”
“I guess I’m just special that way . . . or maybe it’s because I’m a geologist, a volcanologist to be exact.”
“So you really can combine business with pleasure.”
“Yup, that’s my motto.”
“I know nothing about climbing, but I suppose the vistas are quite spectacular?”
“A space in my schedule for a new student just opened up. Before you know it skyscrapers will belong to the past . . . unless you morph into a BASE jumper. I could see that happening,” he smiled most charmingly; “Well, are you up for it?”
“That would be a yes.”
“But I don’t have . . . Uh, I guess I don’t even know what I don’t have.”
“No worries, we have everything: 10000 square feet of climbing walls for starters.”
“Sounds like a lot.”
“Not too shabby for this neck of the woods, plus aretes, bouldering caves, low angles, leadable routes, rope stations and harnesses, even shoes.” he added looking down at my boots.
This was a whole new exciting basket of words to absorb.
“Come on, take a chance.”
Three little letters are all it takes to form a word that can change your life forever. I said: “Yes.”