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My proscription of improper behavior barely made it out of Canada. Taking my first-ever step into the lower 48, the aura of adventure lit me up like a Roman candle. We booked a motel in Bellingham, Washington, and I just plain jumped him.
This I was used to. I had made a high school career of being the aggressor, the stealth riot grrrl. But this time, the boy aggressed right back. The meeting of two such electric forces sent me to place I didn’t know existed. Animal places. It was true: sex in the contiguous United States was much better.
At the denouement of our third mutual assault, I found myself in a position better suited to Cirque de Soleil, not certain which limbs were mine. When I located Harvey’s face, somewhere near my left foot, we both burst out laughing, which caused intense pain in my left elbow. It was true: sex was better with Boys Who Got Laid.
The next morning, I drove us toward Seattle, enjoying all the little scratches and bruises that tickled when I moved. As we approached the center of town, I thought there must be some mistake – I-5 was headed directly into a huddle of skyscrapers. What a trip when it shot beneath them, a mile-long stretch ceilinged by a web of city streets and overpasses. I felt like a space probe digging into a concrete planet, and I kept having to merge left in order to keep going south. I was thinking, also, that I should wake Harvey, but when I looked over he was up, dark eyes reaching into the vista.
“Is this it?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Way too much. We need to do this ‘civilization’ thing a little bit at a time. Keep going.”
“Are you going… the same place I’m going?”
He smiled and put a hand on my knee. “I guess so.”
That was our big talk – and, as it turns out, the offramp to the rest of my life. Soon after came the tiny alchemies that turn sex into love. He started to call me darlin and honey, took my hand as we walked into a restaurant, rested an arm on my shoulder as I slipped a hand into his back pocket. Our momentum was building.
But first, we climbed a long hill, bore to the right, and discovered a luminescent presence.
“There,” said Harvey. “Let’s go there.”
Such was our youth and alien status that we didn’t know what this presence was. But we trusted in signs. Rolling past a roadside amusement park, we saw the words Enchanted Parkway/Mt. Rainier and exclaimed the last word in unison.
A half hour later, we were headed right for it, splitting a long, semi-peopled valley bracketed by high treepicket ridges. We were nearing the foot of one of these ridges when Harvey slapped the dash and said, “Hey! Pull over. Take this ramp.”
I was looking forward to an explanation, but getting only directions. Left under the freeway. Left at the light. Left into a turnout. He got out and beckoned me to follow. I caught up to him at a tall wire fence and followed his gaze to the center of a wide pasture, where stood two haystacks with legs.
“Bessie and Ben,” said Harvey.
“Brown, boisterous bison. Bessie and Ben.”
“You know their names?”
He took my hand and guided it, as you would a blind person’s, to the sign against which we were leaning. The one that said, Bessie and Ben Bison – Please Do Not Feed.
Once we had enough of watching two bison who refused to move, I turned and saw another sign, For Rent, in front of a small clapboard house across the street.
“There,” I said. “Let’s go there.”
Two days later, we were in. I yanked open the chimney flue and brought in some logs from a woodpile behind the house. As I wadded up pieces of newspaper and stuffed them under the grate, I spotted an article.
“Hey, honey!” I said (enjoying the sound of honey in my mouth).
He called from the next room: “What?!”
“We’re on a mudflow!”
He peered around the corner. “What?”
“The last time the mountain collapsed, it left a mudflow that was thirty feet thick. And we are sitting right on top of it.”
“Well thanks!” he said. “I feel much safer now.”
“Says if we live here thirty years, there’s a one-in-seven chance we’ll be buried alive.”
Soon after the word “alive,” I found myself drifting over the earth. Piecing it together afterward, it appears that Harvey hit me with a flying tackle, wrapped his arms around my midsection, then spun himself beneath me so he could take the brunt of the impact. I landed on top of him and went about reinitiating my lungs to the concept of taking in oxygen. Then I swatted him on the head.
“Are you nuts?”
He spoke between snorts of laughter. “A demonstration… of the everpresent dangers… of living.”
I straddled him and delivered a theatrical kiss. (Why was I rewarding bad behavior?)
“So when are you going to play for me?”
“Guitar?” A cloud of puzzlement passed over his face. “Oh! Guitar!”
He rolled me to the floor (gently this time) and dashed into the bedroom, then returned with his guitar case. He opened it to reveal rubber-banded bundles of plastic cassettes, padded at the perimeters by rolled-up socks.
“Video games,” he said. “I figured I would get the console once I settled someplace. But these… these are a major investment.”
As much as I tried to hide it, I couldn’t help feeling deceived. Harvey wasn’t one of my nice nerd-boys at all – he had proved that much in Bellingham. And now he wasn’t a musician. I pictured the molten vaults of magma miles beneath us, ready to break enormous chunks of Rainier and hurl them down the slope. Then I lit a match.
Photo by MJV