Molly and I get into Travis’ car and head up I-84 East to the Bridge of the Gods. I am shaking. I have not slept, not really anyway— in roughly two weeks. I can’t relax! Because the business and the divorce and also because I’m fucking anxious and depressed and busy. Emphatically busy. I went from undergrad to grad school to teaching seven different subjects to high schoolers, to starting my own business, to writing a book, to opening a brick and mortar space for my gym. I have been busy for ten years and the accomplishments make me feel…nothing.
We pull up to the trail head and in the distance I see a tiny woman and three muscly trail men. My friend Nicole has been hiking the PCT southbound and going fucking fast. She just finished Washington and is about to meander on down through Oregon and instantly I know this tiny distant lady is her, by some genius stroke of luck we are crossing paths at just the right time.
“NICOLLLLLLLE!!!!!” I shout, pumping my fists. She runs into my arms pumping her fists right back and we squeeze and squeeze and squeeze.
“Don’t die!” She says
“I’ll try! I respond.
Nicole rejoins her muscly trail men, and in this exact moment, I know without a doubt that my diva cup is leaking. In the bathroom I discover a torrent of blood dribbling down my tiny shorts and onto the toilet seat. There’s no toilet paper of course, why would there be toilet paper?! I laugh as I clean up the crime scene using scraps of TP tube. This is very on brand I think looking at the mess I’ve made. Makes sense.
I wash my hands and exit the bathroom just as Priyesh and Homework roll up. Travis asks if we want to pull a tiny tarot card before we get walking and hands me a deck of cards roughly the size of my thumbnail. I shuffle carefully and draw the three of pentacles. “Everyone can see your accomplishments!” He says, reading his equally tiny book with sincere and glittery eyes. “This is your reward!”
Priyesh, Homework, Molly and I start walking uphill- a steady state that will last the rest of the day. We all know one another a little, but only Molly and I know one another well. I am excited to walk with these people that I know a little but not a lot because we have a million conversational jump off points but know almost zero complete stories.
“THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!” I exclaim and the others look to their left, toward the still very visible highway.
“Just look the other way!” I scowl as they low key make fun of me. “I just am ready 4 beauty, what can I say?!.”
Homework breaks off to stretch. Molly and Priyesh surge ahead and I decide to be alone as I ascend up rocky ridges and clear cuts and breathtaking forest that I guess I can admit is indeed much more breathtaking when the freeway is a distant memory.
I eat a nature valley granola bar and I fucking love it. “Are nature valley granola bars maybe my favorite food?” I ask myself out loud. “I think they are my favorite food”.
I listen to the Dear Sugar podcast and I cry. I listen to Hunger by Roxane Gay and I cry. I listen to a playlist that I made for Carrot and I cry. I’m not sad, really- actually I feel ecstatically happy at the 507.2 mile expanse of fucking freedom stretched ahead of me. It’s just that there are so many feelings inside of me and there’s been so little space and now they are pouring out my eyes in steady streams. I have a lot of emotion to expel.
I think of my lover. I think about how the two of us are together / how positively engorged with enthusiasm we become / how her eyes light up and she says “it’s youuuuu!!!” When I enter a room even if I’ve only been gone a little while. I think about how we’ve known one another for, like, ever – how we went on dates ten years ago, even- but how we maybe never really found each other until now. I think about how when I look at her I see everything all at once sometimes; I see how much we both suffered growing up in these twisted and severe ways and how now we are building these strange lopsided dream lives as adults and how we’re only going to get older and weirder and have so many more stories and how maybe we’ll be together a long time or maybe only a short time but now we’ll always get to know the real one another either way. I think it’s so LUCKY, the ways people get to really know one another when the time is right. I am overcome with gratitude and again, I cry.
By mile thirteen the climb intensifies and my sleep dep is real. I have intense chafe on both of my collarbones and the back of my right knee hurts. Who even am I? what’s going on? why am I still moving? maybe I should just sit down! this tree is very soft like a pillow!! Perhaps I should close my eyes?! I think as I push uphill. The group has agreed to meet at mile 15 to assess if we should camp there or at mile 20 where there’s water and I’ve made up my mind – they can totally go but I cannot go any further. I briefly consider the question of Am I Afraid To Camp Alone and my whole body tells me I’ll be fine. I’ll wave them off and see them in the morning.
I get to mile 15 and there my friends are, laying on pads and snacking and smiling and planning to get up and go, go, go to the water.
“I can’t do it!” I exclaim with a very excited smile because I’m so fucking happy to see them, damnit and I know if they push even a little I’ll recant.
Homework tapes my collarbones with medical tape. Molly makes the voice of my dog friend Quito. Priyesh pokes me with a pole. “C’monnnnnnnn” they say. “We’ll surround you in a circle of love and trust.” I can’t say no! I love to feel wanted.
The last five miles are a hilarious parade of suffering. Molly falls twice. Priyesh and Homework get stung by wasps. I roll my bad ankle. But then! Rock creek appears and it is clear and cold and the water tastes fucking great (it would have sucked to camp without water.) we all make pots of noodles and beans and soy curls and Homework and Priyesh attempt to sauté a lobster mushroom we found on trail before we all agree that it’s 100% certainly old on account of it being all leathery.
I awkwardly pitch my tent on a sandy alcove, closer to the creek than I’d like but holy shit, I don’t care, I’m so fuckin tired I will legit sleep anywhere. I hunker into my tent and I think about how long I’ll be doing this and I smile into the swiftly approaching dark.
I’m free. I whisper. I’m free.