Outside of Three Sisters, Oregon
Cam came from a family of missionaries in Saudi Arabia and last month he gave up his faith. I could barely stand Cam so it seemed particularly cruel that I had to go into the woods alone with him for nine days.
We were working support for an outdoor adventure camp. We had to make sure mountain bike trails weren’t snowy, that campsites were secure. We had to find wells to fill up bladders of clean water, that sort of thing.
Cam thought everything was very serious. I think that was because he thought God was very serious and now that God wasn’t there he was looking hard to find something concrete and serious to take His place. Like love, for example.
Cam told me he wanted to fall in love a lot. He would say this while we were driving, or while we were setting up our tents. He said he believes in love at first site. That when he meets the woman he will marry he will know and then he will be happy. I told him he sounded like a thirteen year-old girl. I rolled my eyes.
It was Cam’s 25th birthday on the second day we were together and I felt awkward about the whole thing. We had set up in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor. The area where we were camping was by a stream beyond which were fields of purple and white wild flowers, a far ways away were pine trees crawling up the base of the mountain which sat majestically, proudly puffing out her breast.
Cam had brought red wine. We had messed up the rice but we ate it anyway because there was nowhere to throw it out. Cam made a fire and opened the wine and then he read me that famous Seagal story. I listened to it. I was sitting against a tree. The sun had set; the bugs came out and then relaxed. It became dark. The fire replaced the mountain as our focal point and anchor. I watched it while Cam read. I drank the wine from my Naligene bottle.
I didn’t like Cam but I was very happy then. The last time I saw Cam I was sitting between him and Ryan in Ryan’s flatbed truck. We were dropping Cam off at a used motorcycle shop in Eugene, Oregon. He was going to buy a motorcycle and ride it down to San Francisco and then he didn’t know what he was going to do.
While we were in the woods, for those nine days, he finished “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” When he closed the book, we had stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Two pumps on dust. A rack of warm bottled cokes. A gas attendant who could have been 111 years old. Cam said, “This book just changed my life.”
I thought he was being dramatic. I thought he was being too serious again. I told him I had read it several years ago, read it while I was in France I added. I agreed it was good. In a partially conscious way I think I was trying to dumb down the experience he was having, I was trying to make it less novel for him. I don’t know why I wanted to do that. It seems cruel now.
Cam ran back to the truck, Ryan and I had been sitting there waiting for him for fifteen minutes, we were getting restless. We had made bets whether Cam would actually go through with buying the motorcycle. I didn’t bet on it.
He told us he got it. He was ecstatic. He high-fived Ryan. He took his bag from the truck. We both got out, I adjusted my tank top. We hugged him. He said he had to do some paperwork. That we could go. He thanked us for the ride.
Ryan and I got back in the truck and looked at each other. “So we should go?” Ryan confirmed. I shrugged my shoulders. Then nodded.
“Can’t believe he got it,” Ryan mused.
“Yeah,” I said.
Ryan asked me where I wanted to go next. At that point we could go anywhere. All the things we owned were in his truck. Everything I did with Ryan felt new and novel. Ryan taught me how to hitchhike that summer. He taught me how to properly pack a backpack and to air out my sleeping bag every morning. He taught me how to sleep outside, that the trick was to sleep on a tarp so the moisture doesn’t come through. I don’t remember where Ryan and I went that afternoon. Later that night we slept in a valley that was covered in hay.