For all my fumbling in the woods and stumbling in my own tent, I wanted to crawl off to bed at that moment, thinking whatever else the night held, the night had been made precious by the most random of thoughtful gestures. Avoiding the minimalist banter that may happen when he returned would be advantageous, but after all his work setting up camp, my sense of obligation to wait for his return, or at least to keep an eye on the fire, superseded my desire to sleep. Undoubtedly he’d be more prompt on his outing, so I resumed the organizational set-up of my tent: unloading my bag, finding the items for tonight versus tomorrow morning, returning the flashlight to its perch, setting aside my clothes for Sunday, and even inventorying my personal items. Everything I intended to bring appeared on hand, until I realized I forgot the dry shampoo I’d bought that morning. Uck! My hair would be so disgusting before the weekend ended.
“Awkward, clumsy, and forgetful. What a prize.” I couldn’t imagine why he invited me on this camping trip.
I considered changing into my pajamas, lying in my bunk and just saying my goodnight from the comfort of my tent. I picked up the chocolate bar to eat it when I remembered we were to still have dessert. The pajamas would have to wait to avoid further embarrassment. I’d nearly finished unpacking and organizing when I could see a light coming from his direction of the forest.
I carefully watched my step as I exited the tent, as I frequently tumbled out of it on past excursions. Thankfully, the graces were watching over me and I stood upright just as he arrived in the space between our tents. He leaned the shovel against the logs around the fire and tipped water from one of the jugs onto his hand, splashing the other and shaking them dry.
I drew a blank as to what to say or do, choosing to sit down by the fire on one log that specifically left no room for him to sit next to me.
“Would you like a chair?” I didn’t know he’d even brought one.
“No, this is just fine.”
He wandered over and settled down no more than an arm’s length away, or at least the length of one of his arms.
Having blown through, yesterday’s storm left perfect weather, not too breezy, but I chose to only enjoy it and not discuss it. What a dull topic that would be. I glanced up to see if the stars were yet visible, and many were, but more specifically, I wanted to see the brilliance of the Milky Way. The faintest light still lingered in the western sky, so within the next half hour, I would be able to see its band wrapping overhead. He poked at the fire and I heard it crackle while I searched the skies.
“When I camp, I don’t bring a lot of gear, so I don’t ever light a fire. It’s nice to sit here beside one.” I was still looking upward and I hoped that wasn’t considered rude as I attempted conversation.
“Are you warm enough?” In small ways, he did show simple kindness: the chocolate, the blanket under the sleeping bag, the dinner, this question.
“I am.” I looked down again and directly towards his eyes. “Thank you.”
He held my gaze for a while, and we just sat together quietly. I didn’t feel a particular connection between us or a burning urge to lean forward and kiss him, although clearly the thought entered my mind, but getting to know him appealed to me far more. So why couldn’t I think of something to ask him?
I removed the elastic band from my hair as I often did before going to sleep, stretched it around my wrist, and began running my fingers through my hair as I watched the fire and rearranged the locks near my forehead so it wouldn’t hold the tight shape from the band. The day’s toll on my hair could always be felt by the number of tangles and as I’d reach a snarl, I’d work it out slowly. I could retrieve my brush from my tent, but besides not wanting to walk away (I certainly didn’t want him to think I was vain or shallow), I often toyed with my hair this way when reading or watching television, or even driving, and for now, it allowed me to pass time quietly. If I were in a movie, he would likewise run his fingers through my hair. That didn’t happen.
“I recall there being cobbler.”
“And s’mores, if you want one.” So that explained where the source of the chocolate.
“How often do you come here camping by yourself?”
“As often as I can, especially in the summer.”
“Do you always have s’mores?” I asked without glancing to see his response on his face.
“Do you ever have s’mores?”
“Did you bring s’mores for me?”
The quiet lumberjack brought candy and marshmallows and graham crackers for me. I was starting to understand this Wyoming style of speak, because I knew the answer to my question and he didn’t have to answer.
“Can we save them for tomorrow, when it’s not so late?” Again, no answer was necessary. “But if you have the keys to the truck, I’ll get the cobbler.”
“It’s unlocked.” Silly city girl, of course it was unlocked.
I found the container, but only one fork. I guess we could share. When I returned, another new log began to catch on fire, so I guess he wasn’t quite as tired as I was. I wondered what he usually did with his days, besides cooking dinner and loading the truck, and going to the store to buy candy.
I handed him the container so I could sit down. “I could only find one fork.” He opened the container and solved the problem by pinching a bite in his fingers.