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Written by Aleksei Marchyn
Cheryl’s mother has a serious illness; she is very thin and pale. One day, they are led into an examining room, where a nurse instructs Cheryl’s mother to remove her shirt and put on a cotton smock with strings that dangle at her sides. Cheryl can see “her naked back, the small curve of fresh beneath her waist.” She is not going to die. “Her naked back seems proof of that.” The imagery of Barbara’s back gives an impression of hope that she is healthy and this disease is just a nightmare.
When Cheryl lifts the lid, she sees “a notebook and pen inside.” It is a trail register, which she reads about in her guidebook. Cheryl writes her name and the date and reads “the names and notes from the hikers,” who can pass through in the weeks ahead of her, most of them “men traveling in pairs, not one of them a woman alone.” Cheryl lingers a bit longer, feeling a swell of emotion over the occasion, and then she realizes there is nothing to do but go, so she does. The imagery of the trail register gives an impression that Cheryl can be the first female tourist on this route.
Cheryl’s food is not so delicious during her hike. She forces herself to eat breakfast, scooping two spoonfuls of “a powdered soy substance called Better Than Milk” into one of her pots and stirring water into it before adding granola. “It does not taste better than milk to her. Or worse. It does not taste like anything.” She may as well have been “eating grass.” The imagery of disgusting food gives impression that Cheryl forces herself to eat everything in order to gain power and move on.
It is raining when Cheryl wakes, as the light seeps into the sky the next morning. “Water falls from the sky and drips from the branches, streaming down the gully of the trail.” Cheryl walks beneath the enormous trees. “Wet and miserable as it is, the forest is magical—Gothic in its green grandiosity, both luminous and dark, so lavish in its fecundity” that it looks surreal, as if she is walking through a fairy tale rather than the actual world. The imagery of the rainy weather gives an impression of loneliness, when Cheryl can enjoy this silence.
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