Angle to Key West: Shiver (10/18)

North of Muscatine, Iowa – October 18, 2012

The rain soaked my tent as soon as I pulled it out of the hatch. I set it up with fingers too numb to feel anything, then dove inside, pulling out my sleeping bag and curling into a ball underneath it. In a moment, the bag felt wet too, the down damp and heavy, the air humid and full of water.

I couldn’t stop shivering underneath it. I shoved anything I had into my mouth. I broke open every nice package of food that Suzie and Harlan had made for me–banana bread, cookies, a cheese bake–and swallowed them as quickly as I could, barely tasting anything, just trying to throw fuel into my stomach, something to burn, something to generate heat.

Then I lay there, curled in a wet bag, shivering, barely able to think, waiting for the warmth to come, waiting for my body heat to dry away a bit of loft in the down, waiting to feel my hands and feet again.

I drifted in and out of sleep. After an hour, maybe two, I stopped shivering. Sometime in the night, my hands felt warm after hours spent shoved into my armpits, the numbness gone except for a sliver on the tip of each finger. Then my feet came back around midnight and I felt whole again. Wet, cold, but whole.

I didn’t move from underneath my bag for sixteen hours. I couldn’t will it, couldn’t force myself up and back into the cold until the sun rose high, until I could feel the heat on my skin.

But that sliver of numbness on my fingers, it never went away.

3 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Shiver (10/18)

  1. The numbing on the finger tips, back in my day we called it “Frost Nip”. Trust me, been there, suffered that. If the stove works, heat up some water, fill a Nalgene bottle full and sleep with it (in a sock if it’s too hot). Just a thought…

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