Father told my sister and me to pray to the volcano: Please allow our visit and let us enjoy the day in the paramo. But I knew my cousins in the car in front weren’t doing it, so I closed my eyes and just pretended.
We never made it to the snow. We couldn’t find the way to the refuge, so we settled for a picnic on the slopes of Cayambe.
On the way down, Father allowed me to lead the way on my BMX. Mother told me to wear a helmet. “I’m ten,” I told her. I hopped on my bike and was soon bouncing down the cobblestones like a jackhammer.
I wanted to put a thousand miles between myself and the cars. I stopped to check on them. The curvy road allowed me to see them up there, through the clouds, now at distance. I reckoned I had at least five minutes on them. I restarted my descent and pedaled, real hard. My heart kept up with my speed and I was a hummingbird flying down that forgotten road. Steep.
Through the roaring wind I heard a loud buzz from behind. My uncle Macartur, on my father’s purple mountain bike, zoomed past me like he would a telephone pole. They must have sent him out to check on me, but he never stopped.
Alright, it’s on! I hit those pedals again until my thighs burned but he kept fading away at every turn.
The wind pierced my face like needles and my hair whipped my eyes. I dodged gaping craters on the road, grasped the handlebars and stayed on the pedals, somehow. The cold air cut into my fingers. Focus on the brakes, focus on the brakes. I pressed them tight.
I cleared a monstrous hole only to find a bigger one ahead. I slammed into its missing rock with my front tire with such force that I flew. My god, I flew.
I met the volcano’s hardness as I bashed against the stones.
I crawled to the grass on the side of the road. It was green and soft and smelled of moist and I rubbed my cheeks against it. But the pain blurred my vision and gradually, everything got darker. I closed my eyes and approached the light.
I woke up in the arms of my Father, ready to perform CPR on me. His knees pressed against the grass as he held my head with care. I saw his face ready, concentrated on the task ahead. He took some air in, closed his eyes and leaned forward toward my mouth.
“UGH,” I screamed and pushed him away. “Get off of me!”
I saw Mother, pale, hugging my aunt. My cousins and my sister looked at me like I was some kind of monster. No sign of Macartur.
In unison, my pesky younger cousin and my annoying-by-default little sister said, “No tienes dientes!”
My mouth throbbed. I reached for my teeth with my tongue but my swollen lips didn’t allow.
“You’re okay, you’re okay,” Father said, but I screamed as I shook my head in disbelief.
Tears washed my face as I ran to the car. I leaned against the door to look at my face in the side mirror. All it revealed was a black and bloody mouth.
My heart bonged in my chest and palpitated in my neck. I dug into my mouth and soon discovered that glory is white like milk.