So we’re gathered, the three of us,
around a tiny table with our choices
of soup, salad, fresh-baked bread.
I’m less uncomfortable than I’d
expected, actually. Or it could be
discomfort is becoming so familiar
after three and a half weeks stuck
in the city that a little bit more
awkwardness doesn’t even register.
My mind drifts, counting off how
much longer before I can drive
again, how long till I can trust
my shoulder enough to pitch a tent
and build a fire, how many more
nights I have to sleep upright,
how long until the stars the stars
the stars again unhazed by light
pollution. I’ve drifted, missed
something matchmaker colleague
said, pull myself back into present
company and moment, then realize:
I’m not just imagining the sense
of reassurance, I’m being comforted
by scent, something more than that
of coffee and fresh bread. I inhale
deeply, catch another taste of it:
just a hint of campfire fragrance
hovering like mist from the cuff
of the flannel shirt-sleeve nearest
to me. I close my eyes, breathe in
again, sweet sweet smoky freedom.
Open my eyes, join in the conversation,
just in time, because the man I’m
here to meet is asking me: Have you
ever been to Stoneman Lake? No, not
yet. I haven’t. Haven’t been out
for a few weeks. Maybe next time I
am able to leave the city I will go.
Matchmaker decides he has to explain
me: Her doctor told her no driving
until she heals from her injuries.
She was in a climbing accident.
Not an accident, exactly. (I correct
him, don’t want to leave the wrong
impression.) Not an accident, exactly.
More a decision, with a consequence.
That’s harsh. How long have you been
down? Four weeks. A little less.
Eleven days left. Counting. A spell
of quiet around the table, then an
invitation: I’m already planning on
driving up to Stoneman this weekend
if you’d like a ride that way. My ribs
begin to ache, my lungs get tight,
all of me with longing to escape
the city suffocation, population.
But what I say is not quite yes,
but rather: Kind of you to offer.
But I’m not quite back to where I’m
fit for camping. For eleven more
days I’m supposed to be sleeping
mostly upright in a chair. He offers:
My truck has bucket seats. You could
have the cab of the truck to yourself,
bucket seat and pillow do? And I
can’t help but open to the possibility,
but then: It probably would, but
still, I shouldn’t. Even if I were
to go, and managed to build a fire,
I’m not certain I could cover
it to dead-out with a shovel after,
and I’m not sure that I’d be able
to be useful or even be good company.
If you can make the seat and pillow
work for you, the rest’s no problem.
I’ll just pretend that you’re not there
at all. And matchmaker boy-scout ever-
ready hands him a piece of paper:
That’s PERFECT! Here’s her number.