Ever since I slipped and fell down the escalator that slushy February day at the Ballston metro stop years ago, I've been a mess going down hills. Physically, downhill hikes have always been traumatic - I remember how much my knees killed me coming down from the lemon and olive groves of Cinque Terre years ago. Climbing Old Rag in VA - the downhill fire road made me crazy. The Ballston incident made it mental - in my mind I'm always slipping, falling and dying. Coming off Kili was infinitely harder than going up it - for one big stupid reason - I stubbed my toe over and over again and couldn't stop beating myself up for it.
Each time I could hear my mom "rub it rub it rub it" in my ear - like back when it was the coffee table or the sofa. This time I kicked a huge rock somewhere below Horombo in the moorland. I must have been looking at the clouds. I knew immediately that my left big toe nail was done for. And then I proceeded to do it 4 more times. Poor Dan tried to console me; I was inconsolable. It was more anger than pain by the time we made it back.
We finally crossed through the triangular gate back into reality, and rode back to Moshi to our hotel. I tried to walk up the stairs. I've never been so immobile in my life. I could barely lift my feet. The way up the mountain I felt [mostly] like an athlete. The way down I felt like an 85 year old woman. The receptionist at the hotel laughed at me. A lot.
Even as I write, I'm still suffering - now it's my vanity, as I look down at 9 perfectly pedicured purplish-magenta toes and one giant glaring absent toe nail on my left big toe "so gross!" But really I would trade that toe nail over and over again for the feeling of standing on Kilimanjaro - anywhere on Kilimanjaro, breathing oh-so-little oxygen and feeling oh-so-very alive.