Monday, June 18, 2012

Snug Harbor (Part 7)

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. Robert Brault

            I don’t remember much of the night’s festivities but I do remember waking up with a dry mouth that felt like someone had snuck into my tent in the middle of the night and dumped a bucket full of used kitty-litter in my mouth. I felt around for my canteen and quickly realized I was not alone in my tent. I slowly rolled over and saw a full head of brown, tangled hair. I tried searching my memory of who this person might be and why they were sleeping next to me but all I drew was a blank. The last thing I remembered was laughing and falling off the log I had been sitting on by the fire.
            I slowly crawled out of my tent and headed for the pond. I scrubbed my face with the cold morning’s water and leaving using my t-shirt as towel to dry my face. I tried to shake loose the cobwebs of the previous night’s debauchery as I headed back to the camp and bits and pieces of my memory started to fill in. I was almost certain the girl in my tent was Teresa but as to why she was there, I had no clue.
            I quietly crawled back into my tent and lay on top of my sleeping bag using my hands as my pillow. The confusion that filled my mind was not completely new to me but it was more extensive than I had experienced before. I did not remember how Teresa got in my tent or when she arrived. Did I ask her to come in with me? Did she crawl in here accidentally? Did we do anything with each other? What are my new friends going to say? Does she have a boyfriend and if so is he going to kick my ass for this?
            I felt my tent-mate stirring and I looked over and saw it was in fact Teresa who was lying next to me. As she rolled over her eyes opened and I could see she was a bit confused. “Hi.” I said.
            “Mornin’ Skip.” She mumbled and then began to rub the sleep out of her eyes. “What time is it?”
            “About eight or eight-thirty is my best guess.”
            “Ugh, I should still be asleep.”
            “Well, go back to sleep. I’m not going to stop you. I could use some more myself.”
            “Don’t think I can. Umm…”
            I looked at her and could tell she was uncomfortable. There was something bothering her and I don’t think she knew how to say it. She started to play with her hair and I could see she had coiled some around her left forefinger. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
            “I don’t really know how to ask this, but… umm… did we… you know?”
            “You mean did we do anything?” I filled in.
            “Yeah, did we?”
            “You don’t remember?”
            “Not really, I don’t even know how I got in here.”
            I laughed a bit. It was a mistake, I suppose Teresa took offense to it and slugged me in my arm. “Ow! Why did you do that?”
            “You’re an ass.” She cried and she started to climb out of the sleeping bag she was in.
            “Hold on… hold on.” I said “I don’t know why you’re upset, but if it’s because I laughed, I’m sorry.”
            Teresa was sitting up and she stopped moving. I could only see her back and I could see her shoulders moving up and down. Her head was lowered and I could only guess she had her hands covering her face. Soft sobs were slowly filling the tent. I reach out and rubbed her back. “Look Teresa, I really don’t think anything happened between us last night. First off, we both have our clothes on and second, you slept in your own sleeping bag and I slept in mine.” I explained.
            She twisted around and looked at me through the tangled mass of hair that hung in front of her eyes. She reached out and touched my leg. “I sorry for hitting you, I just don’t like being laughed at.”
            “Teresa, I wasn’t laughing at you; I was laughing at the situation. Besides, when I get nervous or scared I have a tendency to laugh.” I explained.
            “I guess we have a lot to learn about each other.” She smiled at me.
            “Yeah, I have a lot to learn about all you guys.” I said “You really don’t know how you got in my tent?”
            “What’s the last thing you remember?” I asked.
            “I remember when you left the fire to go to sleep. After that, things are a bit sketchy. Too much rum and too much weed.” She let out a nervous chuckle.
            “I think I missed the weed.” I said.
            “Yeah, Mike brought it out right after you went to bed.”
            She laid down next to me and fumbled around in her sleeping bag for a minute. “Shit.” She exclaimed.
            “What is it?”
            I could use a smoke but I can’t find mine. You got any?”
            “Sure, but let’s open the flaps first.”
            As we scooted around in the cramped tent we bumped into each other, boney elbows and knees ended up in soft fleshy areas and grunts, groans and cries of pain filled the tent which were shortly followed by laughter. “You should get a bigger tent.” Teresa suggested.
            “I’ll get right on that.” I said.
            We got situated, both of us with our heads sticking out of our own sides of the pup tent flaps. I pulled my pack of cigarettes out, slid the matches out from the cellophane, handed Teresa a smoke and then popped one between my lips. I lit a match and cupped it in front of her, she leaned forward and took a few puffs and nodded her head to me. I quickly lit mine and shook the match out, licked my left thumb and forefinger and pinched the burnt sulfur and then discarded the small piece of cardboard.
            The camp was quite and we could hear the periodic snores of our friends in their own tents. The birds were flittering between the trees, squirrels and chipmunks were battling each other for tree supremacy and as my gaze drifted towards the pond I could see a Doe standing watch while her Fawn drank deeply from the cool water I had only moments before washed my face in. I nudged Teresa and nodded towards the deer. I heard her gasp slightly and I turned my attention to her. She was grinning and there was a twinkle in her eyes.
            “Wow.” She whispered. “That’s amazing.”
            “One of the reasons I love being in the woods. I get to see all the animals.” I quietly answered. “The fawn can’t be more than a two months old and see the way the momma stands guard while her baby gets water… she is protecting it from predators.” I explained.
            The deer stayed for a few more minutes, taking their time with their own daily chores. Their existence intersected with ours for only a few minutes, the fog of their morning breath scattered in the morning light and blended with the gentle fog coming off the pond. We watched in fascination and silence, our wonderment in the common creatures of the forest seemed to overtake our worries of our lost memories. Some smaller creatures pranced close to the deer but maintained a respectful distance. Once the deer had taken their fill of water they leisurely strolled away, not knowing the memories they had gifted two juvenile delinquents stuck in the limbo of the 80’s and on a quest for self discovery.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snug Harbor (6)

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

            I can’t say I really remember much of that first jump, sure I remember throttling through the gears as fast as I could to get enough speed to be airborne, and I remember hitting the ramp and pulling up on the bike as hard as I could. But the time I spent in the air and how far I actually traveled were a blur to me. I do remember the one constant thought in my heard “Don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t crash.”
            My only real physical memory from the jump was the landing. I hit the soft sand and my front wheel decided it would rather turn to the right than stay straight. I fought it with all my might while pulling in the clutch and applying the front and rear brakes simultaneously. As the bike slowed to a stop I sat back down on it and turned the machine off. I could hear my fellow riders screaming a racing towards me and I got off the bike and watched them approach. Kevin was the first on to me.
            “MAN! THAT WAS AWESOME!” he screamed as he shut his machine down. I barely heard him over the din of the oncoming bikes. I looked at the riders and noticed everyone was smiling but Mikey.
            One by one the pulled up in front of my and shut off their bikes. They congratulated me on the jump in a rushed flurry of voices. A couple of the guys patted me on the back and the girls gave me hugs. I was speechless. That is when I noticed Mikey had not gotten off his bike, I walked over to him and nodded. He nodded back and said “Not bad. Not bad at all.” He then kicked his bike to life and sped off.
            I turned to look at my new friends and it was as if they all knew what I was thinking, “Don’t worry about him, he thinks he is King of the Dunes and you just beat his jump record by at least five feet.” Big Pi said.
            “I didn’t know there was a jump record.”
            “He’s an ass.” Steve said.
            “Don’t worry,” Teresa said, “He’ll get over it.”
            I shrugged my shoulders and walked over to the Suzuki and climbed back on it.
            “Hey, let’s play follow the leader.” Big Pi suggested and tore off in front of us leaving a rooster tail of sand to fall on us. Kevin followed after him and so did everyone else. Once again I was almost dead last. I barely beat out Little Pi for a spot.           
            We rode most of the day, changing leader positions and only once did we have to ride up to the gas station for fuel and snacks. We learned a lot about each other on those dunes, what our limitations are, what we were willing to do, and how fast we were ready to go. As the sun began to wane we headed back to the neighborhoods to retire the bikes and refresh ourselves.
            Everyone met in the backyard of Kevin’s house. We were all tired and in good spirits and like most teenagers, we were starving, thirsty and ready for any opportunity that would appeal to us. Kevin had fired up his folks grill and was in the process of placing several packages of hot dogs on the heated grill. The aroma of the cooking tubed meat was making everyone’s mouth water and as we impatiently waited for our dinner to cook, Big Pi went next door to his house and brought out a cooler filled with cold sodas.
            With all the fun and camaraderie I lost track of time and as the glowing embers of the grill brightened the day darkened and turned into evening. I became aware of the night with the glowing of the first fireflies, “Guys, I’ve got to go. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to find my campsite by the time I get out of the neighborhood.”
            “Don’t worry Skip, we’ll take you back. Besides, I already asked my folks if I could camp again tonight and they said I could.” Kevin said.
            “We’re coming too.” Big Pi announced.
            “I think most of us are coming out there with you Skip.” Kevin said with a smirk and he closed the distance between us “Besides, I think Teresa thinks you’re cute… better make room in your tent.”
            “Well, if we are going to we better head out soon. It’s gonna be a bitch setting up every ones gear in the dark.” I stated.
            Kevin chimed in with “Ok, everyone who’s going, head home, grab whatever you need and meet us at the intersection at the entrance to the neighborhood in twenty minutes.” And with that everyone split up. Kevin and I headed into his garage where we filled up my canteens and water jugs. We then raided his folks canned goods cabinet and then I went and grabbed two rolls of toilet paper from the bathroom. When I got back to the garage, Kevin was holding a black large black trash bag over his shoulder.
            “What’s in the bag Kev?”
            “Some blankets and other stuff we might need.” He replied with a grin and a wink.
            “Okay…” I said and wondered if I should ask what the “Other Stuff” was but decided to let it slide.
            “Hey, we better get going, it’s almost time to meet everyone.” He said as he opened the pedestrian door to the garage and stepped out into the night.
            I followed Kevin to the end of the street, the sound of crickets filled our ears. As we approached the corner we could make out the shapes of the rest of the gang. They were all there, ready and waiting for us with their backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. One by one they all turned to look at Kevin and I and then greeted us by telling us we were late and chiding us for our tardiness.
            We all got situated and everyone picked up their gear we headed out into the night. Kevin and Big Pi assured us they could get us to the campsite in the dark so we trusted them to lead the way. It was a short hike, less than a mile but it took us almost forty-five minutes to get there. We had to walk slow and our flashlights cast shadows in the woods showing us false trails. On three occasions we almost went down one of these false paths, but we quickly discovered our mistake and backtracked to the main fire road.
            By the time we got to the campsite we were all tired, frustrated and more than a bit irritable, I quickly went to work getting the fire started as the rest of the group helped each other set up their tents. Within an hour of our arrival at the site we had everything set up and were sitting around the fire telling each other lies.
            Kevin, who was sitting next to me nudged me on the shoulder and placed a bottle in my hand. I held it up to the fire and read the label “Barcadi Light Rum”. “Go ahead  man, take a swig and pass it on.”
            “So this is what was in the bag?”
            “Yup, and we have more too. So don’t be shy.”
            I unscrewed the cap, took a sip and felt my throat burn as I swallowed a mouthful of rum. I handed the bottle to Big Pi who was on my left as a new warmth was introduced inside my body.
            “It’s looking to be a real fun night.” I heard Mike say.
            And he was right.