After the first artist, only the copyist
- Renny Russell
For anyone who has a love that's returned, whose love is not spread out over mountains or poured into rivers, I envy you. I remember sleeping next to my buddy beneath the covers and and breathing in his smell of soap, detergent, sweat and dirt. Thinking that this one would last. That this was the smell I would inhale for the rest of my nights. Getting used to sleeping alone, with no one to throw an arm around in the middle of the night, legs kicking in space, my body curled into a useless crescent around a memory, this had taken some getting used to. But you adjust. There are your pillows to take the place, blankets, books to divert your attention, pills if you need them. But camping alone is the hardest. Alone in your tent, your back flat and rigid against the hard ground, feathers and nylon and foam protecting you from rocks and roots. You breath a white mist into the cold air, curling deeper into your sleeping bag. Trying to block out the dark, the quiet, the memories of a warm buddy next to you. Your ears are hyper sensitive to the sounds of clicking animals and cracking twigs, footprints, strangers, avalanches. And your exhausted heart keeps running over the well worn memories of your buddy lying next to you in a red sleeping bag. Resting your head on his chest as he wraps you in warmth. Do you remember what it's like to be woken up to the sound of rock falling in the valley? You imagine the rocks gaining momentum, smashing into your tent. The whole hillside rolling away. You turn over and bury your face into his neck. "Just a rock fall," he says, not quite awake but still aware of your fear, kissing you on top of the head. Camping alone has been hard ever since I left my buddy. Keeping the fire going and running out the batteries in the lamp, rearranging the things inside the tent to try and fill the space. But gradually its gotten easier just as everything gets easier. Think of a fire lulling down to coals. You become familiar with being just by yourself again. Looking after yourself. It does become bearable again.
So why did I go to Idaho, and be reminded? I got down on the ground and stirred at the embers and fed them pure oxygen. A glowing tent on a deep blue lake so far off the trail no one could ever find us. That splendid heart I once pretended to know. My buddy. His long arms that cast a flyfish reel in wide arcs and gutted the fish and folded me against him like origami. Why pick at the scar that had come so close to healing, why, why, why. I sat by the lake the morning of our second day in the Sawtooths, drinking coffee, knowing very simply that we would never be together. I know I love him beyond reason, I miss him more than any other person or thing on the planet. I know that this is the very end, and, I guess, the time when everything starts over for me.