Last night down at the climbing wall

Climbing wall.jpg

No reply.

Don't you just hate that?

The blizzard of txts has all but fizzled out. Too expensive, burning through the pre-paid account. It's tricky, being a student.

No calls, no voicemails. No emails.

No reply.

Something shifted in the balance of our orbit. But what? Don't know. Thrown into doubt, confusion, depression, despair. A morass of selfish pity; "I want…." what? What does she want? Don't know. But she might be down the wall this evening; so there's hope accompanied by anticipation, worry. 

Teenage first-date nerves at 41, can't eat. Get there early. Warm up, feeling good, grooving, flowing over the holds, but the feeling of emptiness can't be left at the bottom of the routes, it climbs with me, and starts to take over. 

I send a single character txt "?", superfluously as she's suddenly there, a burst of sunlight through the Autumn gloom, looking so utterly, utterly desirable yet unattainable, unreachable; a jewel, an oasis of fresh-faced femininity in the strange world of the indoor climbing wall; a microcosm of stale rubber, chalk dust, sweaty feet: and blokes. Delicate movements from a bone china body belie an increasing hidden strength; my eyes are fooled and are startled to see a gravity-defying sequence of moves at full stretch, hanging from the ceiling, toes searching for the smallest of holds, stomach flat and that gorgeous navel poking cheekily out from under the pastel pink T-shirt. 

Every young blood, and not so young blood for that matter, is distracted and weakened, strength sapped from awkward limbs; how can she have such an effect? A desire to protect, be near, to influence and to be acknowledged; the vertical ballerina holding court with unconscious grace. Push a harder route; a surreptitious glance to see if you've been seen; hope what muscles and talent you've got have impressed, or at least that the effort put in has registered. 

Tongue-tied in her company yet fluid on the wall. It's taken years for me to suss this out. It's not just about making the move, it's about finding the sweet spot that sets you up not just for the next move but the one after that too. The sweet spot is where a number of factors converge; balance, centre of gravity, poise, strength, attitude, friction all need to be in harmony; hang off that 3mm thin edge, sink down, down, shift balance just so, lock off on right arm, delicately reach out to the next disk with left, latch on and move. Match feet, fingers squeeze onto a tiny crimp, swap feet and I'm off the crux; complete the route, solve the problem, feel good. Sweep the room, to see if she's seen, seeking approval. 

A pang of ridiculous regretful jealousy as I see she's mixing it with some other younger guy. Later I show her a way to complete a move she's been struggling on; but my way is too powerful. I watch her again, this time her left hand doesn't slip off the slopey green hold; she completes the first half of the sequence and I see how she can do the next half. Lead up with your left, that'll position you for the next green hold with your right, just so - a warm glow of satisfaction soars through my stomach as she does this and it works.

The evening finished and as before we leave together, but the sense of potential intimacy seems gone. Has the spark of mutual attraction faded, dare I hope that it's not extinguished? The uncertainty is driving me up a different kind of wall, a feeling I've been free from for a long time. Not sure I welcome its presence; it feels like an intrusion; a distraction. All those defences effortlessly penetrated leaving me exposed, raw, a mess.

The incoming message alert on my cell phone has just startled me out of this slough of despondency; fingers tremble as I open the message: it's her! My heart leaps, she finished college early; she wants to meet, to come round, go for a walk, who cares? She wants to spend time with me. With me? With me! An hour and a half. 90 minutes. 5400 seconds, oozing past, digital numbers take an age to change, the hands on the clock are in slo-mo.

A reply at last.

The best reply. A nerve jangling, butterfly-inducing reply.

Life is good.