I was hanging around the Parking Lot of an evening, minding tall racks of steel shelving, stacked with electronics I presumed, crated and tarped.
My buddy sitting nearby talking at me from a folding chair when a student, 19 or so striped in the bright colors of South Vietnam, joined us. She energized our dull waiting around, but she couldn’t stay.
She was hungry, she wanted to eat, she wanted me to go with her, she promised Steve (or whoever that was) he’d be fine without me awhile, took me by the arm and hauled me off (pouring her breathy voice in my ear), suggesting there was a whole evening ahead, we didn’t need to hang around the Parking Lot.
Besides, I could get something to eat too. Dragging me along, she clung to me like the personification of youthful desire, chattering happily. How tired was I of being myself?
I put my hand around her waist, lithe as pheromones on air. Were we soon to weary of each other’s face, me of her sweet thoughtstream of shiny chatter, her of my heavy inertia and lack of impulse?
These thoughts crossed my mind but for the moment I was buoyed by her presence. We emerged from the garden and entered a cafe, selecting a table, I told her to have a seat—I just had to check on something, it would only take me a minute, I’d be right back.
She looked up hesitantly; “Be back in a second,” I assured her, threading through the mostly empty tables and cream tablecloths in the lights of evening, hurrying off, between fern fronds seemingly along the same path as before.
But perhaps not—the path, winding between dense brush and trees, ascended toward a distant ridge, mountain peaks shining with the last light of day in vertical distance. Finally the damned path was not only barely a trail, it was no longer even easy hiking—it had become a slog stepping gingerly in sodden black mud.
It was like some transcontinental trail somewhere between Nicaragua and the Pacific Northwest, and I doubted my purpose, if I had ever had 0ne. Time to turn back!
On the way down, I bumped into yet another former student, Alyssa, stouter and more muscular perhaps than the actual Alyssa, nylon rope coiled over one shoulder, hiking her way to a climbing route in the peaks above us.
We exchanged greetings, I wished her luck (surely darkness would catch her high in the peaks? I wondered) anyway she seemed very strong and determined, without a doubt, confident smile as she hiked on, close-cropped hair dyed lighter than I remembered or perhaps bleached by long exposure out of doors.
The path descended through a ravine like Boulder Creek, a rushing stream pouring over and under large boulders, down into the steep forest. I strode down determinedly, hurrying back to the 19 year old.