In the she-hut
Jennifer reaches out for the phone on which Tracy has just received the message.
“Give me that,” she says. “I’m calling him.”
Tracy shrugs with her usual good nature and forks it over.
“Just try to stop Jennifer from doing anything,” she says.
Jennifer strides away into the darkness of our campground, and calls the troublesome Joe to tell him she thought they had a deal. He was supposed to leave Tracy alone.
“The funniest thing,” Tracy says, “is she’s doing it on my phone,” which will be identified as such.
I am writing from Fayetteville, West Virginia. Pretty much each year, when the bowhunting season that occupies half my household ends, I go climbing with friends.
In this case, four: Heather, like me from Carbondale; Tracy, formerly of Glenwood and now of her hometown, Asheville, North Carolina; and Jennifer and Pamela, also Asheville.
Heather and Tracy have both recently ended long relationships. Heather moved out in a split that went cleanly, and her former partner is cheerfully minding her dog this week; Tracy’s situation is a lot more complicated. Pamela is the single mother of a 17-year-old daughter. Jennifer is married, happily so now that her husband is, under duress, building a “she-hut” behind their house where she may go if he is in a bad mood, and he is not allowed. I am married with two kids and no she-hut, but a climbing trip every October. I am having the best time.
Taking these trips hasn’t always gone smoothly. Years ago, I traveled to Yosemite for a week, partly for work, hired to be part of a climbing film. My sons were 1 and 4, and as my departure approached I found myself in a state of great anxiety. What if something happened? And I never saw them grow up?
“Ah, you’ve found it,” my friend Tami, also a parent, e-mailed me. “The curse of motherhood. You can never just go anywhere again. They have your soul!”
Each year I worry a little, but go.
So here we are, staying in a little cabin with bunk beds and no heat that we call our she-hut. After our second day on the area’s endless sandstone, our friend Mike cooks us a bounteous green-curry dinner. John and Thomas join us, as, miraculously, I tune in upstairs to the KDNK web site and the Roaring Fork Rams game, in which my older son is playing. I shriek whenever I hear his name.
My friends yell back up. “What’d they say?”
“That someone just ran over him!”
“Is he OK?”
“Well, they didn’t say he isn’t!”
More yelling. I rejoin the party.
Talk turns to the aforementioned Joe, and at some point someone wonders whether, given three months to live, he’d change.
And then all ” tequila is now involved ” are wondering what we would do, given only three months.
“Go on, Alison,” Tracy says. “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”
“My kids,” I say. “What I would tell them for their lives.” I really just think of seeing all my family, “and hiking Red Hill and watching the seasons change.”
Tracy says she’d eat all meat and no carbohydrates. She’d buy organic beef and bacon, and drink Spanish wine. Heather says she’d eat all carbohydrates, ordering baguettes and pain au chocolate from France, that she’d see her friends and go to a yoga retreat, also to the Best Friends animal sanctuary where she and Tracy have both volunteered. “And stay home, except I just remembered I don’t have a home anymore. And I wouldn’t have an alarm clock. And I’d get a Thai massage from Akaljeet Khalsa every day.”
In the morning, Mike will claim he doesn’t remember what he said, and Tracy will remind him, “You said you’d line the women up.”
Funny, none of us talked about trips. We all seemed to think that given three months, we’d mostly stay home.
Thomas finally says, looking around at us all and including himself, “You might just live your life the way you always have.”
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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