Never in my life have I been more delighted by a public restroom. My calves ached as I lowered myself, but once sitting, they practically cheered. I felt so silly enjoying this simple act, but I returned to civilization and it included beer, pie, and indoor plumbing.
After washing my hands, I splashed water on my face and used the soap to wash both my face and neck and I noticed how red the sun colored my skin. I dried myself as best I could, despite the few drops on my shirt. I looked tired, and thankfully my hair was not overly hideous. Still I took it out of its ponytail, flipped it upside down and spent several minutes running my fingers through it, trying to eliminate any tangles that developed since I brushed it that morning. I started to pull it back again, and then instead took time to section it into thirds and wove it into a soft braid. I turned to check my work when I finished, and decided it would do for now, and would probably last until I got home. For a moment I thought about how fabulous a warm shower would feel after three days and I hoped I didn’t smell too rancid. The ATVs outside the entrance led me to guess that cleanliness was not a prerequisite to dining.
As I thought about getting home, I suddenly felt a twinge of disappointment that our weekend was ending, and I needed to make the most of our remaining hours. I’d hoped I could look back on it fondly, and not as a complete disaster. I wished I brought my toothbrush inside, but instead moistened a paper towel, rubbed it against my teeth and wiped my tongue. I rinsed and spat for good measure. I didn’t feel anywhere close to immaculate, but I felt far more presentable than when we arrived at the inn.
The scenery around the lodge offered a view of the forest wood line beyond the wide meadow, and from here until we descended the slopes of the mountains, I was determined to savor the scenery. Of course I would return again on my own at some point, but I could enjoy the splendor far more as a passenger, so I reminded myself to absorb the view.
When I returned to the table, he was gone, as was the menu, so I guessed he already ordered. Grace came by again to check on us.
“Okay, I put in the order and I was just going to mention that we did have pepper jack cheese.”
“Oh lovely, thanks.”
“You know, honey, you must be pretty special for him to bring you up into his mountains.”
“Thank you, that’s kind of you to say.” I didn’t want to tell her that I wasn’t really that special, but I was curious about his mountains. “His mountains?”
“Yeah, I think he sees them as his own. He bought that piece of land south of here a few years ago, but I think he felt like he belonged here long before then, and before I met him.”
“How long have you known him?”
“Let’s see, John died in 2004, so I guess we met when he was home in 2005, so almost ten years.”
“Your brother died? I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have pried.”
“Oh no, honey, it’s okay. John had a bit of a wild streak in him, and when he joined up, I knew he would jump head first into anything so I wasn’t surprised when John didn’t come home. So when he came up here and introduced himself, it felt like the reckless part of my brother stayed overseas and I got a brand new little brother instead.”
It made we wonder if he had siblings himself. I felt inadequate that Grace was educating me on things I never bothered to learn myself. As soon as I saw him headed back into the dining room, I wanted to ask him dozens more questions, and I again felt stymied as to where to begin.