“So where in Colorado?”
“Outside Boulder. We drove up yesterday and we’re staying through next weekend. Just a bit of a break from work, you know.”
“Same here, just a break from work for the weekend.” While dull, the banter offered a change of pace to the weekend.
“Are you from Wyoming?”
“No, not originally. I just moved here not too long ago from Texas.”
“Jonesin’ for some mountains, huh?”
“I guess you could say that.” I couldn’t decide if the remedial topic improved the hike any over the silence to which I’d become accustomed, but the slightly slower pace that the crew of three kept made talking easier. Plus, I felt less winded and rushed.
“Yeah, David suggested we head up here. I guess he used to come here when he was a kid.”
“Sorry, which one is David?”
“Got it.” I turned to talk to David, further slowing our advance. “Hey David, Eric says you used to come here when you were younger. Did you grow up in Wyoming?”
“Yeah, near Buffalo. My Dad and I would hunt here together.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think you could hunt in national parks, at least you can’t in Colorado.” Eric probably never tried hunting. And if he didn’t spent time in a national forest in Colorado, I doubt he’d done much camping either.
“You can’t in Wyoming national parks either, but since you are in a national forest and not a park, it’s allowed, during the correct season, of course.”
“Cool.” In his mid twenties at best, Eric obtained his style of communication a decade earlier and never bothered to update it.
I glanced back to see David and Ethan joking and laughing, and conversely, my hiking buddy as miserable as ever. At one point, he stopped and pulled out his water bottle allowing all of us to get ahead of him, and then he took his time catching up, which I only happened to notice as I tried to engage Ethan and David in our conversation periodically.
“So what do you do in Colorado,” I asked Eric as we weaved through an aspen grove.
“I work at a music store. We sell second-hand CDs, instruments, and even have rehearsal space for local bands. I know CDs are a fading platform, but we encourage people to buy them, download them to their digital music collections, then bring them back. Two dollars in, five dollars out.” I expected this catchphrase, or maybe the store’s logo, wasn’t its only source of revenue.
“So I guess you see a lot of the same people coming into the store.”
“Yeah, lot of regulars.” He reached out and touched my back as we stepped over a log buried in the path. “Hey, watch your step there.”
“Thanks,” even though I saw the obstruction, I appreciated his kindness in pointing it out, and as I stepped up over the branch, he slid his hand down my back and over my cheeks, running his fingers along the bottom edge of the stitching on my rear pocket. It surprised me, and it made me want to put a little more distance between us. I guess he wasn’t strictly being a polite hiker.
Why, I wondered, did Eric feel comfortable touching me? Did I give him some indication that I wanted to be hit upon? I didn’t think I did, but if someone was going to slide their hand along my jeans, I wanted it to be the Lumberjack. That, of course, didn’t happen, despite the night’s previous exception. Even during my time hiking with Eric, his behavior the previous night dominated my thoughts and I wished his hands were running along additional places besides the pockets of my jeans.