Passages - Chapter 6 | Interlude: Clients

All Passages

We whiled away the afternoon panning for gold flakes, until Richard stopped abruptly and stared towards Laguna Santa Rosa in the distance. I caught his movements out of the corner of my eye.
"No one knows where we are."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"No one knows where we are."
"Patricio knows."
"What if something happens to him?" His raised voice alerted me to the tension he felt.
"Don't worry. He'll come back."
"What if he doesn't?"
"He has never failed me."
"This may be the first time."
"See the road over there? It's less than four miles away. We walk to it, wait for a vehicle, hitch a ride to the Customs Station, call him from there. Remember? We talked about escape."
He neither moved nor spoke for long moments and remained motionless the entire time. I watched him closely.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know. I just don't feel safe out here."
"Why don't you feel safe?"
"There's no one within forty miles."
"I made it clear all along we would be alone."
"I guess I didn't understand what it meant."
"And now you understand?"
"I want to leave. I don't want to stay here."
I moved over to where he sat and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Let's see what you feel in the morning."
"I know what I'll feel."
"What will you feel?"
"I won't want to stay here."
He raised his pan lid and flipped it the way one flips a Frisbee. The climb was over.

Today I believe he was the luckiest of men that day. This incident closed out my guiding career.
I found leading others on a big mountain too stressful. And who needs that kind of tension at 57 years of age?