I have a can of ashes. It is all that is left of my parents.

They want taken to some faraway place, some hippy-dippy part of the world, some beach in Fiji. Some hidden shrine in Budapest or Cameroon, somewhere close to their favorite spa. They’ve written this down. I have promised.

They’d been to silent retreats and rubbed shoulders with the holy. They’d taken ayahuasca with shamans and kissed the feet of prophets. They were so enlightened. 

They saw me, however, as something else. They saw me as what you might think of as the opposite of enlightened. I was corrupted. Young and foolish. Generational.

Still, I have been tasked with dumping them off in some spiritual place. Some Tibetan monastery, some riverbed in Katmandu. I can’t remember, but like I said, they’ve written it down.

It’s not a total waste, though. As we speak, I’m breaching a million followers. My likes are through the roof. My subscribe button has been smashed into oblivion. I’m sure you’ve heard of me. And now, I have a destination for the best viral snapshot. The ideal social media story. The perfect selfie.

So here I am paying for a plane ticket with the money my parents left me. It’s a modest inheritance. Most of their savings has already been handed over to Greenpeace and other non-profit organizations. They’d insisted on being virtuous, even from the grave.

They’d considered themselves to be exceptionally eco-friendly, but here they are burning jet fuel and wasting my time. They’d fancied themselves humble, but here they are making a total spectacle of themselves in some grotesque display of vanity. They’d even gone so far as to purchase matching urns years ago; two modest, taupe vessels that presented as down to Earth, but stank of Tiffany and Co.

I relax into my first-class seat and check my ticket to refresh my memory. Xi’an Xianyang International Airport. Shaanxi Province, China. They’ve chosen some mountaintop to be set free. Some place they’d spoken of in their faux reverence, their constant questing for completeness. I roll my eyes and pull down my jade eye mask. Only, like, a whole day before we land. 

I wake up just in time to catch the sun setting over the North Pacific. I take a quick snap of it through my window and start captioning. Hashtag adventurer. Hashtag world traveler. Hashtag living my best life.

We finally land and I’m shuffling through the crowd, waiting to claim my hard-sided Louis Vuitton rolling suitcase. After a quick stop in the airport restroom to fix my lipliner, I scan for my driver. He’s holding up a handwritten sign that reads Lauren. I tell him that my name is spelled L-a-u-r-e-n-e, and gently remind him that my parents were more forgiving about this sort of thing. That I could hire any driver at a moment’s notice, and he’d be going back to picking up pop stars and actors. I reduce my tip accordingly and watch as he loads my suitcase into the trunk. It is insanely hard to find good help anymore. 

My room is underwhelming, but the hotel has a spa, yoga studio, and gym, so I suppose it will do. This isn’t a place I would book for myself, but I guess this trip isn’t about me. I have to keep reminding myself that. I am here to do something important. I am here to fulfill a duty, and when I finally upload that perfect photo, my duty will be done. My outreach will be divine. My karma will overflow. My profile will reflect pure nirvana, and I will finally say goodbye to the people who have held me back the most.

The hotel sits at the bottom of the mountain that my parents just had to visit one more time. I’m willing to bet they’d only ever admired it from below, in between shopping trips and dinners at restaurants they’d certainly made fools of themselves at. Since I’d used the flight for sleep, I’m opting to hike to the top overnight. I will not squander that sunrise and have my big moment ruined by midday sun and swarms of tourists.

I’ve come prepared with hundreds of dollars in the finest gear; headlamp in rose gold from Black Diamond Company, canteen in Tuscan sun yellow from Yeti, and most importantly, my two-in-one selfie stick and tripod, complete with remote control and halo lighting from Influencex.

Some local flails his arms at me as I start up the path, but I wave him off. He’s pointing up and shouting something over and over.

“Dung die,” I hear. “Lucy way, see ya.”

Or something like that. I don’t know Chinese.

I smile and say back, “See ya!”

Then armed officers are ushering me back towards the hotel. They take me inside and sit me down. I am nearing a total meltdown, and it will not be pretty.

A cute, twenty-something translator with a coif of blonde hair explains to me that hiking at night is forbidden, and that a lift will be happy to take me to the top in the morning.

“You mean I don’t have to walk up this thing at all?” I ask.

He nods his head and blushes slightly. He must be nervous. I am sort of a big deal.

“Perfect,” I say. “I love that for me!”

I toss my gear in the nearest trashcan and head for my room to catch up on Real Housewives of Hong Kong, or whatever trashy reality TV show people watch here.




The next morning, as I rise from downward dog, I breathe deep and say goodbye before ending the call. No matter how busy I am, I never cancel a Facetime yoga session. Cheryl and Susan and Theresa need me, and showing them beginner poses to fail miserably at is a never-ending source of entertainment for me.

I shower and dress, ride the elevator down to the lobby, and I’m out the doors. With my remaining gear secured to my back, I get in line for the cable car and wait as patiently as a person like me can. The air is still cool, and the sun on my shoulders feels amazing. I am obsessed.

The ride to the top is, like, so unbearable. I try my best to find a spot near other tourists, but I’m crammed in with locals like a sardine. It is hot, and I just know my IT mascara is running. I’m positive that my Clive Christian’s No. 1 is fading, because all I can smell is sickly sweat. My messy bun is more mess than bun.

I’m practically gagging when the car slows to a stop and passengers start to exit. I push myself to the front of the line and gasp as I step out into fresh air. I am never-riding-public-transit-AGAIN.

I climb a set of annoying stone stairs and find myself under a modest pavilion that overlooks the range. Fog swirls below and wraps itself around the mountain like a snake. The sun peeks over the horizon and shines in brilliant orange and yellow and red. I take out the Ziploc baggies that hold my respective mother and father and step forward. Did you really think I would lug two urns halfway across the world and up this awful hill? Especially considering how well they match my Boho styled loft apartment back in Tribeca?

The gentle breeze carries them away like a fart in the wind. 

“Bye, Felicia!” I shout.

They do not clap back. They high key do not say something salty in return. Their lack of response, for once, is not ‘sus’. They are just gone.

I watch a family walk away from the fence and back to the cable car, and I just know it’s the spot I’ve been looking for. I sprint over and start setting up my tripod. People stare and point. Everyone just wants to be near greatness. It’s understandable.

Leaning back on the fence, I run my hands through my hair and finger for extra volume. I purse my lips and run through poses. I arch my back. I lift one leg. I laugh as if someone has said something hilarious.

Still, something is not right. This angle is not everything. This lighting is not on point. From this perspective, I am not snatched. The practice shots I’ve taken are not Gucci. Trust me, I am without a doubt, I assure you, keeping it one hundred.

I decide to ditch the tripod and do this the old-fashioned way. The way they did in, like, 2017. Just me, my brilliant smile of professionally whitened teeth, and a selfie stick.

I hop up onto the post and throw my head back, extending my arm as far as it will go, fitting as much of the skyline into the frame as possible. I’m stretching and stretching, my arm reaching its maximum and my neck straining. I smile and click my teeth, and my vision soars upward, high into the sky and blurring. My feet go cartoonishly up and my legs scrape wood as I fall. The modest pavilion is shrinking as it rises out of view, and as I fall, the only thought that comes to mind is how cheap it all looks.

I’m tumbling down thick branches and smooth, moss-covered rock. I’m grasping at tree limbs and missing, my other hand clenched tight around the selfie stick. People all around me are screaming. I somehow turn in the air and catch a glimpse of how far I have yet to fall. And my hair? It is not banging.

But my head is as I crash into level after level of tourists. I’m taking down seasoned hikers and leveling groups of exchange students. I’m sending bundles of joy flying and separating honeymooners. And my makeup? It is now totally smudged and caked with blood. Oh. Em. Gee.

I’m smacking flat after flat and spiraling, head over heels. The fog that encircles the mountain is now reaching up at me, opening its jaws and threatening to swallow me whole. I am bruised, cut, battered and disheveled. I am dirty. I am ratchet.

I can no longer see clearly, and I am too dizzy to contort myself enough to even try to break my fall. I hear the blaring of a bus horn and the sound of gravel crushing under tires. Then panic. Then nothing.

Nothing until the explosion roars from below. I am, like, so embarrassed right now.

I come to a thud and the world goes still. People crowd around me. I can smell the sickly sweat again. Grodie.

I wonder for a moment if I’m dead. When the paramedics unfold my ruined arm and straighten it at my side, I am painfully reminded that no, I am not dead. I am severely injured but alive. I have not killed myself.

I have, however, completely murdered this photoshoot. I have, for lack of a better phrase, murdered this moment. I am, like, totally ashamed to have thought that a simple selfie on top of some woo-woo mountaintop would make me famous. But falling down that mountain to your near death, maiming and killing locals, all for the love of parents who just had to be sent off the way they’d always wanted? Now that’s a story you just can’t fake.

I can see it now. From my hospital bed I will livestream and be showered with heart reactions. Someone will surely start a GoFundMe to pay for my medical bills. If I’m lucky, maybe someone hot will duet with me on TikTok. Harry Styles, I am, like, so available.

A nurse shuffles in and closes the door softly behind her. She looks at me with sad eyes, like she pities me, but I know the truth. She’s in awe. She’s mesmerized. And don’t think for a second I don’t recognize her face. She’s a follower.

“I’m so sorry,” she says, unwrapping a sterile wound kit and donning fresh gloves. “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? This is going to hurt.”

“Yas!” I say back, beaming. “What’s the Wi-Fi password here?”