Sunday, June 22, 2008

The 100 Carry Project: 12

Published on The 100 Carry Project website

Let's start with the numbers. Armen's five years younger than me (which is maybe five years crazier) and a good 40 pounds lighter than me. Look, I'm just 185, but it's really something to think about a guy smaller than me schlepping me around like that.

Other things: When I'm done with exercise or a bike ride or mowing the lawn or something, I'm usually bathed in sweat, which I am now, too. It's not all mine, though, and there's something about that - not anything gross, because we came by it honestly - but in terms of comingling of selves.

I had thought, when I first heard of this project, that being carried might be a sort of passive thing - that I might be as a sack of rice or a barrel of flour or an animal carcass being carried home from a market somewhere. But it's not - which I cottoned on to after reading a few of the earlier posts here. So I knew it would be an active endeavor, but even so I didn't know how active it would be for me.

I'm pretty exhausted, and still breathing hard now 30 minutes after the carry ended. The discomfort and exertion never really went away in the 80 or so minutes I clung to Armen as we labored up the hill, down the hill, through the flat, back up the hill, and back down it.

Then there were the other options, always just beside us.

As the carry started, a bus pulled up to a bus stop as we were walking by. Even then my body was tempted - my mind said I should give this effort a real try, though, so I did. Next we passed a U-Haul van being loaded up, and I realized there was space in there for us, too. I think another bus went by before we got to city hall, and then when we were in Monument Square there were two huge stretch limos in the middle of the square. One drove out past us as we began the return leg. Coming back past city hall again, a bus stopped to let some people off, and the driver waited for us to walk up even with the entrance door - maybe she thought we'd climb aboard. She called out to us something about getting a back injury, but we kept going.

By then - actually rather well before then - the world had shrunk down to my body, Armen's body, and the 10 or so feet immediately in front of us.

My job was really just to hang on as tightly as I could - basically keeping the connection between us, so Armen could put his energy into moving us forward.

A few people commented as we went past, looking upon our effort as amusement or fun or exercise - and yet we were struggling, working, in pain. I'm mostly still not sure how Armen did it - I am not sure I could carry him that distance. On the other hand, that's some of what this project is about - to suggest to me that indeed I could, if I put my mind to it, even though good sense, logic, even sanity might suggest otherwise.

One thing that helped me - and Armen said it helped him too - was that early on in the carry, I'm not really sure where exactly, I remembered a strategy I had used to keep myself moving on a high-altitude trek in Nepal several years back. With every step, no matter how small a step nor how long after the next, I would recite another syllable of the Buddhist chant carved into rocks all along the trail: Om Mani Padme Hum. I told Armen about it, and when things got really rough on the way back, I chanted aloud to him - and with him, sometimes, when he wasn't needing every ounce of oxygen for his back and legs - and that did help us keep moving, and it helped me find a rhythm to hanging onto him.

We were able to do it - we set out to do it, and we did it. Now we will see what we learned. I wonder, you 11 others who have been carried before, what do you think about the carry now - days, weeks, maybe months from when it happened? I guess I'll see in a while. For now, I'm tired, sore, and curious.