"Oh wow, you're right," I said. "I totally forgot. It's Thursday. It's Thanksgiving."
"I brought a package of mashed potatoes," he said. "I'm going to eat them at the overnight checkpoint, the one with the hot water."
"That was a great idea," I said. "I didn't bring ... anything."
Matt grinned and turned to spread his holiday greetings to other Americans in the crowd. I sighed heavily as nostalgia pangs churned in my empty stomach. Warm images replaced the ashen faces of the crowd. My aunt shouting at the Dallas Cowboys above the chatter of my cousins. My now-deceased grandfather cracking corny jokes. My grandmother admonishing everyone to rattle off a long list of thanks as the turkey gets cold. My sisters and I sneaking Peanut M&Ms from the candy dish before dinner. My mother's pies. Oh, my mother's pies. Coconut cream. Heaven.
I felt nauseated from the morning's granola bar, or maybe it was nervousness. Honestly, I don't know how much of my inability to eat was remnant symptoms of the bug and how much of it was psychological. My body was exhausted and so tired of feeling sick, and my mind both blamed food and obsessed about it. I just wasn't sure how much farther I could go, and yet I had come so far. Of course The Long March was worth a shot.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ("The Power of Myth")
We pulled two stools to the edge of the ridge, and for the first time I saw the city lights of Pokhara spread out before us. Beat dropped his pack and fished out two packages of ramen noodles that he had purchased that morning in Birenthanti for 40 rupees (about 50 cents.) We cut empty water bottles in half, crushed the noodles into one cup, dropped packets of powdered cappuccino into the other, and then filled them with hot water. As I sipped the foamy beverage and devoured the still-crunchy soup, I felt a rush of well-being and warmth every bit as satisfying as a full turkey dinner served by loved ones. It was, for those fleeting minutes at least, the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.
But most of all, I was grateful to be done. We finished at 11:47 p.m. for a finishing time of 16 hours and 32 minutes (the race started at 7:15.) It was good enough to come in about 95th or so, which out of 170 who started the stage wasn't an awful position (at least not as awful as tenth from last.) Despite all, we really were improving, and all of the hard parts of the race were over with. Or so I thought.