19 miles

I was delirious there at the end, and hadn’t noticed the blood.

We had stopped for water, and you were cooling your scalp under the waterfall. I was convinced we’d end up sick without a filter.

But you insisted the water was clean as you filled the canteen.

In the end, it didn’t matter. With dehydration and heat fatigue imminent, I had to risk it one way or the other if we were to finish. I’d deal with water ringworm later.

Your leg, you pointed.

A trickle of blood, mostly dried, ran its way down to my sock, staining the top.

I shook my head. I don’t know what from.

We’d been terse with each other these final miles, quietly blaming the other.

You’ve hiked longer distances than I have, you accused, when at some point, I informed you we’d only gone 11 miles, and still had 8 to go before dark.

Why didn’t you say something?

This infuriated me.

You were ALL about it, I said. And you always make it to where we do whatever the fuck you want to do. So don’t. I told you this would be 19 miles and it was stupid. But YOU insisted.

Use your voice then Linds, you began to lecture. I don’t know everything. This is where you need to learn how to be direct and tell me.

This also enraged me, the predictable ‘lesson-giving’.

Nope, I said – lifting my hand. Not doing this. You’re a 30 year old man. I told you we’d only gone 4 miles when we got to the pond. You’re smart enough to consider that 15 more was excessive.

Then why did YOU choose to come along?

Who the fuck knows? I sighed. We’re only in Glacier for a couple days. I wanted to see it.

I paused.

And I probably wanted to burn calories.

Your eyes lit up as I finished my sentence.

Bingo, you said, pointedly. Ah – the predictable truth.

I made a face.

But as you picked up the daypack, leaning there against a rock- you simply said:

Let’s just go.

And instead of telling you what I was thinking (which admittedly, would have been borderline verbal abuse on Psychology Today.com) I asked “What time is it?”

6:15.

I grimaced.

Wait why. How much longer?

I shrugged. 5 miles give or take.

You groaned, and had I not been so annoyed with you, I would’ve chuckled, because there’s nothing more amusing than hearing someone face a daunting situation with a guttural groan of realization.  

And 2 more miles back to camp after that, I threw in.  

We’ll hitch a ride.

Oh yeah? From who? The fairy camp-mother?

I couldn’t help myself. You had this way of assuming your needs would always be taken care of.

Only child syndrome, I snipped once.

But that day you ignored my jab, and clipped the backpack across your chest.

We forged on.

Towards the end, you trailed ahead and I lost sight of you several times until finally you turned a corner, and were gone.

I noted that for as long as I could see you, you never turned back.

I pretended to talk to you, when the silence felt too loud, and the crunching of the twigs grew monotonous.

Sure, I mumbled. Leave me in the dust. Just hangin’ back here, waiting for the bears to eat me.

Dickhead, I hissed.

And as I tend to do, when my relationships feel tough, and I want to escape:

I began to imagine others instead of you, beside me. Walking.

And I thought of him, over in Germany, though it’d been years since we spoke, and in my exhaustion, I forgot to forget him.

Would he have stayed beside me? Would we have laughed instead at the stupidity of this day?

At some point, I fished out my headphones from a pant pocket, and after pausing briefly to untangle them – I inserted the jack into my phone.

A second wind hit once I had music to fill the silence, and I slowed to admire the scenery. But, as the fading sun sprinkled through the trees, and between the slits of the canopies, frankly all it did was make me resent you more.

You, who takes life so seriously.

You, who can’t laugh through a stupid choice.

You, who claims to want a partner.

Me, who claims to want to support one.

So, why was it –

That there you were, a quarter mile ahead

While I walk here – by myself.

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