At Turtle Rock, in the Terelj, I lay upright breathing between fissures. My tutor, Toya, had brought me and W there with her friend and her little brother, Nemo (pronounced Neh-mo). Nemo is your basic teenage dude, and dresses very cool, and drives the car. W and Nemo were trying for the top. I tilted my head and it met with the cool wall of stone. Only days in Mongolia and surprised, in general, at the mellowness of the transition I once again said hello to myself. My physical awkwardness and inhibition had followed me, as is their wont. I heard dimly the throat-sounds of the boys somewhere above and behind, mottled by boulders, and rested in the crack. Today was not the day I would climbTurtle Rock, despite the fact that when no one is watching rock climbing is one of my favorite outdoor activities. I love rock for its traction. Wonder at the possible metaphors for life here, since I am stuck inside myself on one of those dreadful Adjustment Days and am looking in every fracture for comfort. That texture—the ups and downs—must occur for me to climb. Or something.
“In Asia, you will always be on, ay moment you leave the house,” they warned us at orientation. If no one was around I might conquer the rock. I might.
On the way home the next morning Nemo stops the car and is the only one to get out at the altar, picking up the requisite three rocks, circling the pile of rocks and candy and blue cloth coming apart in the wind, sometime festooning smooth sharp branches of a tree skeleton. He saunters around it, saying his hopes under his breath, then gets back in the jeep and tears off, leaving a rising geometric shape of Mongolia’s infamous white silt in his wake.