The thing most people don’t know about the Great Wall of China, is that it runs over top of mountains. Up and down. Sharp and jagged like the teeth of a saw.
There is a wall in front of Abbey Road recording studio. A cement wall parallel to the street where the Beatles walk across the cover of Abbey Road.
I wrote my father’s name on this wall in London.
‘Your dad,’ my brother says. ‘He’d get a real kick out of that.’
I don’t know if he can see it, but you can find him there. On the wall. John Isaacs 3 Abbey Rd, London, United Kingdom. I remember those Sunday mornings when we would come to spend the weekends, Breakfast with the Beatles.
I am the first person in my family to leave the country. I am the first person in my family to get a bachelor’s degree. I am the youngest of four and the second to graduate high school. He’d get a real kick out of that.
My apartment doesn’t have electricity. We have a power cord from the upstairs neighbor. We have a view of Chipotle through the back window. He’d get a real kick out of that.
I got a public intoxication. I blacked out. Apparently I sat on the corner of the street screaming screaming screaming. He’d get a real kick out of that.
I once had to drive across the Brooklyn Bridge all by myself. I drove all the way from Ohio, up and down, over mountains in Virginia, around curves and dips past semi-trucks. All fifteen hours alone. And I only stopped to pee twice. He’d get a real kick out of that.
I worked third shift, full time, in a factory. Instead of eating during my lunch break I smoked pot with Trish under the stars. I got fired for calling off work too many times. He’d get a real kick out of that.
And because they say I look like my mother, because I have my father’s sense of humor, I’m thinking that nothing is truly yours until you’re dead. But I don’t want to be my mother nor my father. I want to make my own mistakes and walk my own path, no matter how ragged that may be. I want neither the triumphs nor the defeats, keep them to yourself, I want to form something of my own.
Many people have given me many things, but I think true learning comes from the self. Interpretation. It’s not what you see it’s what you feel. He’d get a real kick out of that.
A year ago from today I stood upon the Great Wall of China. A divider between two places, a bridge that keeps going going going. I stand there alone. It’s crowded. I’m lost within a sea of faces and flashes and frustration.
But I keep moving forward. I climb and climb. Up and down. The steep here is dangerous. I cling to the railing for support and I keep going. I am climbing until my knees burn and my legs cramp and my whole body is shaking, I climb until my feet blister then pop, I climb until I am out of breath and have to stop for a few minutes, I climb until I am light headed, dizzy.
And suddenly I realize the crowd is gone. I am alone in the chill open air, no tourists in sight. They had all given up somewhere along the way, I know this, I remember seeing people and exits.
I stand there alone, just me, at a high point of an ancient stone wall on top of a mountain, touching the sky alongside other peaks. I look out at the expanse before me. I close my eyes and I feel the cool breeze. He’d get a real kick out of that.
Ahead of me the wall continues. The sharp incline looms before me. And I am alone. But this is not enough to stop me. I will keep climbing.
Kate E Lore is a jack-of-all-trades who splits her time up between fiction and nonfiction, a graphic memoir and a written one, screen plays, flash prose, full length novels, painting and comics (not to mention her dating blog.) Climb was written after a trip to China while she was in college getting her bachelor’s degree. It was a time of struggle and growth for her. A time of coming to terms, mourning, and finding new strength she didn’t know she was capable of.