by Kate Simmons
The speed limit is low on the reservation road. We arrive at the trailhead late and in the heat of day, but decide to proceed against our better judgment, starting down from Hualapai Hilltop with 50 pound packs strapped to our backs. Sleep deprivation from David’s snoring in the night is fouling my mood and my mouth is dry from being too tired to keep it closed. The first part of our hike is spent traversing gravelly switchbacks. We shuffle down in silence, David leading me now by a few turns in the trail. I peer down two stories to see the man, a tattered tan colored cap with long flaps hanging on by Velcro draping down to his shoulders and I think he looks stunning like Lawrence of Arabia. I wish to beat him down to the bottom by a good distance and in my mind envision myself soundly passing a more decrepit him later. My calves are not square knots as his but I have the age advantage and my heart pumps with my own valve and not a pigs. Hearing the close clomping of a mule train I pull over. The mules are taking other hikers packs down for them so that they can go without the weight but we thought it cheating. After the pack passes and dust settles down, I quicken my pace to catch up with David who has pulled over also and is resting against a huge boulder. He has four Gatorade bottles fastened to his front vest pockets like suicide bombs. I swallow hard to hide my breathlessness and hoist my pack onto the boulder next to him. Without so much as a word of warning David staggers out onto the trail with his pack still strapped on and his back toward me. He then desperately grapples to unleash his belt buckle. A steady stream of his piss splashes off pebbles and onto his shoes. I watch this fascinated, and for a moment wish to run ahead to see the fountainhead from whence I sprang.
You’re like Siamese twins joined at the hip, my friend observed. So funny! You both dance with your mouths open and eyes shut. David is my birthfather. We met for the first time seven years ago and now we meet up a few times a year on hiking trips.
Tomorrow morning we will each, in turn, lament our failed dates on Match.com over granola at the campsite. David will wring his hands over his last lover, a woman twenty years his junior. He’ll clank his metal bowl down hard on the picnic table for effect. And then it will be my turn. The lesbians I see have ten years on me. They are older than most of his dates and leave me equally puzzled. His last date had a husband who wanted to watch and mine had four exes who ruined her life and took over all hopes for future conversation about anything else but how they all wronged her. We’ll hope to gain insight from one another, but instead we’ll spit out toothpaste into the dirt by the river, and we’ll mutually concede that women are just not worth the trouble.
Two months later, each of us will lose our big toenails. We wore only old tennis shoes rather than hiking boots and did not cut our nails short enough so that the front of our toes kept bruising against the tips of our shoes as we descended. I changed my facebook status to – lost my big toenail today and David commented on my status, that’s so cool, I just lost mine too.