The pain in Ethan’s side was almost unbearable. He looked up at the canyon walls. It was too tough to climb back out. His pack sat there, daring him to retrieve it. It was 40 feet up the cliff. He thought, had his ribs not been injured, he’d be able to climb to retrieve it. As it stood, he was battered and bruised and miles from civilization. He fished around into his pocket. To retrieve his cellphone. He normally had reception on the trails. The trail was along the ridge of the canyon. He was on it before he got spooked by the rattlesnakes and lost his footing. He powered on his phone. It did not respond. In disbelief, he depressed the power button again. There was not response. The panic began to set in. Feeling this he knew he might be going into shock. Internal injuries? He looked up at the canyon walls where his fall started. He was lucky to be alive. He knew he couldn’t follow the canyon to civilization. Neither direction led him any closer to aid. He couldn’t climb back out either. His only option was to stay put.
He began to inventory what he had. His canteen survived the fall and was the first thing he looked for after his tumble. His first aid kit was in his pack, but since there were only bruises, there wasn’t much for him to treat with the kit. His cellphone was non-responsive. There was no electronic way he could summon help. His only hope was that his car was still at the trailhead. His road map highlighted which trail he would take. Someone would find him. He reached into his pocket for his flint, which was nowhere to be found. He knew he was in trouble. Starting a fire without a flint was tough under the most ideal conditions. He was hurt, in a canyon and the sun had already crept past the canyon walls.
The canyon floor was a dried riverbed. Ethan gathered some medium sized river stones and began to make an impromptu fire pit. He had some time before the sunset, but building a fire in the dark and in his condition was going to be a challenge. Gathering kindling and some wood to burn he tried his best to stockpile enough for the night.
Without a tent or sleeping bag, he would spend the evening under the elements. It was summer, which guaranteed that he wouldn’t freeze, but the temperatures did drop considerably in the canyon. He put his mind to how he could start a fire. His only choice was a fire plow. He assembled what he needed to get a fire going in the fire pit. Breeze through the canyon began to pick up. With each stroke, his muscles burn and his side twinged with pain. He was able to lite the fire as the sun began to set. The fire burned into the night as he watched. Someone would come for him.
He made a bed of branches to keep his body off the ground. He lay atop it staring at the fire. He was exhausted he knew the water in his canteen could only last him so long. He drank from it sparingly. Staring into the fire, his mind began to drift. He saw his life as if it were a movie dancing in the firelight. His folks would have never agreed for his to spend a night out in the woods when he was younger. It was too dangerous. Seeing his situation he almost dared to think they were right. They thought it proper for a girl to be prim and proper. He wanted none of it.
The agreement was for him to attend dance during the year them he would be able to go to camp during the summer. Camp for girls was disappointing. It was nothing like what the boys had. Arts and crafts were useless in the situation he found himself in now. Macrame and singalong wouldn’t get a fire started or build a shelter. Beaded jewelry meant very little in learning survival. Joey and Randy help him learn all that was keeping him alive. They never thought of him as a girl. He was their friend. He’d sneak out to meet them on the other side of the camp. What they learned was fun and challenging. They learned to fish, build a camp, build tools. He was taught at the girls camp to make macaroni necklaces.
He poked at the fire and added another log. His transition had been difficult. Binding his breasts, and still doing what he could to build muscles that the other guys easily managed with much less effort. He hated what his body did to him. His mind and his body raged against each other. His mother looked at his rejection of the feminine as a betrayal. He scoffed at her pronouncements that women were equal while painting her face and strapping on heels. Women weren’t equal he thought. Nothing in the way he was treated growing up and nothing in the way he felt made him think that there was an ‘equity’ between men and women. No. He was born to be a man. His body said otherwise.
He began to feel the chill. It hurt less, but he moved less. He felt himself grow tired, weaker. He stares at the outline of his pack. There was food in there. Just out of reach. Someone will come for him he knew it. There would be people searching. He turned his head back to the fire. The evening he told his folks who he really was and that he wanted to pursue surgery, hormones and clear the legal hurdles that were the divide between his mind and his body. They looked at him with derision.
“You never gave being a woman a chance.” His mother chided him. “You just kept insisting you’re something that your not!”
“What I am not, Mom.” His voice growled with anger, “is a girl, I never was. I hated all of what it was to be a woman. Everything screams to me that this is wrong.”
“How do you know it’s wrong. It’s what you are, and you never accepted it!” She screamed back at him. “You just did everything you could to deny what you really are and now you want our help to go further?” Her tone is now dismissive. “You need some help alright. You need to see the young woman you are. You need to grow up and know that what I gave birth to was a girl.” She took a breath. “I hope many years after you’ve given birth to a daughter of your own, you’d see my perspective.”
“I’m not a woman!” He shouted shaking with anger.
“Darling you are. You can’t change biology, though you’ve tried your best to deny it.”
Ethan blinks back to the firelight his was in shock he knew it. His injuries must have been much worse than he thought. He was pulled into the images in the firelight once more.
“You sure you want to do this?” Joey looked at him, handing him back his court papers.
“Yeah I’ve been waiting my whole life for this… I’ll file the papers early next week.”
“Well, we should celebrate I guess… How about we get some beers at the bar… I can give Randy a call, I think he’s in town. Waddayasay?”
“Sorry Joey, I’ve got a hike in the morning. I don’t want to be hungover when I go out.”
“You love hiking don’t you?”
“Yeah can’t get enough of it. I start out at first light tomorrow morning.”
“Maybe next time?” Joey offers
“Maybe next time,” Ethan says grinning back
“Hey, it would be our first official Guy’s night out by then right?”
“Guys night out… I like that.”
In other news today, a tragic story this evening. Early morning hikers discovered a young woman who had apparently fallen off the canyon ridge the day before. Rescue crews worked this morning to retrieve the body which was identified as Edith Baker, a young 26-year-old woman from Los Angeles. She was out hiking alone when apparently she had fallen off the cliff to the canyon floor below. An autopsy is expected later this week though foul play is not suspected.
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