With the final swing of the axe, I could tell he was nearly exhausted. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t do some of the work the next day, but he could have other plans. Maybe when he works alone he chops wood for a while, then loads it as he goes, breaking up his activity. Regardless, he finished his part, put the axe in the truck, and came over to help me load the rest.
As he reached for a piece of wood, I grabbed him by the wrist. “You have worked really hard. Please let me finish this. Please?” I didn’t want to be forceful or bossy – I’d done enough of that – and with minimal compassion.
He didn’t debate me and went for a water. He leaned against the trailer and watched me work and I could see him still breathing heavy from his exertion. Even if I didn’t look at him, I could hear him as I walked away from the trailer. When I glanced at him while returning with a load, he bent over and stretched downward, possibly relieving his back from its strain. Providing a half-decent massage to his affected muscles following all of his work would be plausible, but even if he accepted my offer, which given our previous discussion, I doubted, my ability to stay focused on the task would be questionable.
I’d spent the last hour as I worked considering how far out of line my opinion took me. I was truthful, completely truthful, but considerably too harsh given our budding acquaintance. Usually it takes me a couple months for the wheels to come off a relationship. Now I had it down to a couple days.
I kept loading the wood. I expected he wouldn’t wander off because only another dozen or so pieces remained, and once finished, we could return to camp. The trailer was filled nearly perfectly using his jigsaw technique and equal-length sections, but I didn’t know if he tied ropes or anything over the load. For now, I just wanted to finish.
I walked back and forth completing my task, not sure, and not really caring, if he watched me, just trying to keep him from waiting any longer than necessary. Once finished, I wanted to ask him about the tie downs, but I still felt as if anything I said to him would be disrespectful if I didn’t apologize first. I walked close to him, but not too close.
“I am so sorry.” I took off the gloves and bundled them in my hands, folding them long ways and tightening them in my grip. “I did not mean to be disrespectful. I cannot imagine what you have seen, and I apologize for speaking like I did. It was wrong of me, and I apologize.”
He didn’t answer. I went to put the gloves back in the tool box, and when I closed the lid, he spoke quietly, still leaning against the trailer.
“You weren’t wrong.”