…especially with me. I am not a glass half full kind of person. Neither am I glass half empty. I’m more of a “Hey, there’s half a glass of water over there. Don’t drink it-someone probably spit in it,” kind of person. Truth is in the gray. But it is a dark gray.
I don’t want to say good-bye to Aaron. I want to find some way for him to just be with me, always. But he has to go home. He has to take care of our animals. He has to continue his writing career; interview musicians, review shows in Sacramento. There’s just no way we can both do this hike. It kills me, and on the way to Warner Springs, I don’t dare say anything, because “take me home” is on the tip of my tongue. When we park at the gate where the trail begins yet again, we are oddly formal with each other. We’re both trying to keep it together, trying not to make it harder for the other person. It’s so impersonal that I wonder if we’re going to shake hands as a good-bye. Of course we don’t; we hug, we linger, we smile at each other until I have to turn my back and walk away.
It’s just so wrong. Everything in me tells me to go home. Yet, I can feel it there; the faint tug of the trail, the perpetual question of, “What’s next?” I try to hone in on that sensation and let it lead me through the open meadows and woodsy groves. I pass a private campground. It has strange, candy-cane shaped poles that have a giant hook coming out of each of them. This is where the locals come to flay people, I think, remembering Shane and his giant knife. There is a rusty shed. Padlocked. Mm-hmm. this is where they keep the flaying tools. I hurry out of there and quickly scurry over Hwy 79. Just in case.
On the other side, Things get dry and sandy. The trail is overgrown with really annoying weeds, grasses, dying trees. There is a creek I’m making my way toward, so there are flying bugs everywhere. My mood darkens. Aaron’s gonna go home and bond with the dog. Nisa won’t remember me. When I get back, they’ll have a whole routine, and I’ll be an outsider. Why did we get a dog anyway. She’s just gonna die. And I will be heartbroken. We’ve set ourselves up to have incredible pain. Love is a bad idea. It hurts too much to love. I don’t want anyone I know to ever die. Dying is so long. It’s infinity. Life is a blink. I want Nisa to be with me for the rest of my life. I want to hide and love no one, ever.
I imagine, in excruciating detail, what my dog’s death will be like. I focus on how she won’t know she’s dying. I picture her eyes. I picture her perfect doggy face. I immerse myself in the morbid fantasy until I am bawling my way along the trail, hating every second of these shitty dry weeds, these shitty cacti, this lame ass chaparral. Fucking bugs. I hate you. I hate you, Manzanita. Quit your stupid shedding. I hate you, trail. All your damn uphills and hot sand and rocks tripping me left and right. Why? Why are you here? Why am I here?
Why do I do this to myself. I don’t know. It’s existential panic. It’s years of Manic Depression. It’s an overactive imagination.
The trail is doing a lot of uphill today. And it’s so hot. I take a break and find a tin canister behind a bush. Inside is a pencil, a tiny note pad, and some ripped out advertisements from a travel magazine. The note pad is a short, succinct trail journal of sorts. Found water. Nice weather. Enjoying the view. I re-hide the canister and move on.
Half a mile before CS124, I see a little spot close to the ridge. I’m thinking I can get cell signal here and text Aaron into the night, battery be damned. So I sling my pack off and attempt to get my tent to fit in the awkward space. It doesn’t help that I haven’t pitched my Solplex since last August. I’m clumsy with it, and the spot is unforgiving. I finally give up and just let the tent slant and sag at it its own discretion. I get everything inside. Choke down some Pop Tarts. Snuggle into my quilt and hit “Airplane Mode Off”.
Nothing. No signal. What. The. Hell. Now I am truly feeling sorry for myself. Today is the worst. The trail was ugly, and so was I. Even the sight of unobstructed deep space and twinkling stars can’t alleviate my bad attitude. All those twinkling stars are dead, I think. Just like us.