We cleaned up our mess similarly to our previous meals with nearly identical responsibilities portioned between us. The full day stretched me physically and mentally and when he settled back by the fire near me, I realized his day included much of the same.
“Did you want dessert?” I liked when he broke the silence. I forced conversation, or so it often felt.
“You know, the challenge is that if if I say no, I am rejecting your offering. If I say yes, it reflects negatively on my physical appearance and the impressions associated with it.”
“Yes or no?”
“Are you serving s’mores?”
“You really do not need to do that on my account,” I tried to decline politely, but I knew an ulterior reason. “Besides, the chocolate sat in the warm cab of the truck for part of the day and in the sun for the rest of the day, so its consistency may be far more pliable that you might expect.”
He glanced towards the truck, the prospect of melting chocolate most likely never occurred to him, and he appeared disappointed, but nothing more on the topic was offered. If I camped alone, I might have wiped the melted chocolate on the graham crackers anyway, or smeared the marshmallows with chocolate, or just popped marshmallows in my mouth until I couldn’t stand them anymore, but that image guaranteed a significant lowering of my grade, probably as low as a D minus. So much of the way I viewed myself, and assumed others did too, was with flagrant awkwardness and ungracefulness. Additional visuals weren’t needed.
Despite realizing the quantity of work we accomplished on that Saturday, I ignored my weariness until a yawn escaped my mouth and made its appearance at the campfire.
“Maybe we should call it a night.” Without waiting, he reached for the shovel to extinguish the fire.
“Wait, let me do it. Maybe it will bolster my camping grade.”
“Okay, but don’t forget to turn on the lantern before you start.”
My look confirmed that he was stating the obvious, or at least I attempted my expression to appear as such, when in fact I completely forgot to provide another source of light. Once I killed the fire, fumbling in the darkness would be a challenge, especially since the moon already set. Now, if only I could remember where I set the lantern last.
I don’t know why I tried; he read directly through my expression anyway. As he left camp to take care of his personal business he shouted back, “I think we left it in the bed of the truck.”
“Thanks.” Other than the bounce of the flashlight he carried, he disappeared smoothly into the night. I successfully followed his previous example in extinguishing the campfire, pouring almost the entire rest of the first jug of water onto the coals. I even knelt down to feel their temperature after stirring them with the dirt. When fully put down, I retired to my tent leaving the lantern illuminated on the log for his benefit when he returned.
Inside my tent, I recalled tucking my pajamas under my pillow, so I kept the flashlight off while changing, feeling around for them in the darkness to prevent casting inappropriate shadows, in case he returned while I changed. Of course, even when given the blatant opportunity, he turned me down and eliminated the possibility of any interest in extracurricular activities, so he may not have even noticed my undressed silhouette. Nonetheless, I decided to maintain the cloak of secrecy that included the pink print pajamas into which I stretched my legs. Getting dressed sitting down took a measure of coordination, which I never seemed to perfect.
I opted to leave the window on the front of the tent unzipped after I changed so I could watch for him. His flashlight beam crossed my tent during his return, and upon reaching camp, he turned off the lantern and said nothing, assuming, perhaps, I’d already fallen asleep. I listened to him unzip his tent, step inside, and rezip it again. I tried to listen to the sound of him undressing. Part of me was curious if he could hear me when I did the same, and part of me wanted an audio connection to accompany my imagining him sliding out of his jeans. How much I enjoyed the ample opportunities he allowed for me to see his chest throughout the day. A girl can fantasize.
I heard the sound of each boot hitting the ground, but since he was most likely sitting, they didn’t have far to fall. Next he unbuckled his belt and I heard the sound of leather sliding through the loops and I considered how much fun I would be having if I were taking care of that for him.
Either he remained dressed or was unbelievably quiet because I then heard him unzip his sleeping back, and zip it back up, and then saw the glow from his flashlight extinguish. As he settled into his bunk, I listened for the sounds of him breathing or even snoring. Despite my yawn, I wasn’t quite ready to fall asleep yet so I listened for any sounds from his direction.