I'm awake to thick birdsong. Robins are everywhere singing so loudly, a jay chats and a raven croaks somewhere far away. Dawn is dark and blue outside of my tent. I stretch my feet in my downy sleeping bag and I want to go back to sleep. My morning anxiousness has worn off and now, now I just want to snuggle in and not move.
I sit upright and stuff my bag away and get myself moving. I stumble out of my tent like a drunk person. The first several steps are always achy and painful. I limp my way to the bathroom, while a fine mist touches my face.
I'm mostly packed up and eating my breakfast, looking over maps. A stellars jay is hovering near by, scolding me for not leaving treats. There's a lot of road today, but I'm optimistic and envisioning a great place to stick my thumb out and hitch. It's all going to work out.
Rain is coming down now and I'm happy about it. I feel refreshed and lively because of it. The small trail by my site will lead me up and over the Cape and on to highway 101... where I'll be either hitching or walking. I step over massive slugs and snails on my way up. Stepping on them always feels like I've committed some great crime. A few young rabbits dart around the path. They're so cute.
I come up to the information center and walk around its wrap around deck and viewing area. I can't tell exactly what the tide is doing. It's in between. I haven't used a tide table in about a week. I've just been making mental notes by smell, temperature and wave formation. So far, it seems to work. In my mind, ocean is Mama. My center. The womb.
Mama knows best.
I cross a parking lot and drop down to another trail that takes me to a grassy trail area. I stop to pee at a junction. I'm pulling my shorts up when I hear a, "hello," from a man behind me.
How fucking long was he standing there? I ask myself. We're taking the same trail and he lets me pass him. I don't like him being behind me, so I kick it up and walk fast. I drop him quickly.
Eventually, the trail leads to a gravel road and then turns out to highway 101. The shoulder doesn't exist. I stop on a small bridge that has a walk way. I watch two ravens clucking softly and grooming one another. Their gestures are so sweet and gentle. They love each other. A jay is nearby chastising them. I'm disappointed because I wanted to linger and watch. Eventually, the ravens are fed up and fly off. I peek at my maps. The road is quiet, but the occasional truck, car and semi passes by. There's nowhere to hitch, and from the looks of it, nowhere to hitch up ahead.
Well, I guess it's time to log those real road mile now, eh?
There was road construction probably a few days ago so there's no shoulder line. I walk behind the railing which is soft fluffy asphalt, dead ferns, brambles, and very steep. The road curves sharply so I can't see when a truck is coming behind me. The going isn't easy, but I keep going. I stumble and trip, I hold the railing so I don't cause a mini landslide of shit falling down the steep side of the sloping road. Finally, it levels out a little. I'm approaching a place called Neptune View Point. I decide to stop there to access my situation.
A familiar van flies by out the corner of my eye. I walk into the view point parking lot and the van pulls up next to me. It's the guy I had met in Yahats the day before who gave me his email, Mark.
"I sure am glad I saw you!" he says out the rolled down passenger window.
I waste no time, this was a god send and I am now an opportunistic hiker vulture. "Me too, do you think I could get a ride?"
"Uhh, yeah. I'm headed to Florence, is that cool?"
I debate it for a minute. Getting into Florence today would be amazing. Much of the beach out here I've seen before. I wonder if I'm cheating.
"Yeah, Florence is perfect," I say.
He opens the passenger door. I see hot pink pills on the seat in front of me.
"Don't worry, it's not mescalin or anything. Although I'd be fucking psyched if it was. Just some b-12's," he tells me.
I get in the van. My pack is in the back. This makes me feel nervous. What if I need to bolt? What if this guy is a fucking creep? My lifeline is slightly out of reach behind me. I tell myself to calm down. You're being irrational, he's helping you. Accept it.
He drives slowly down the road. We discuss running high traffic websites and being entrepreneurs. Making a living from the internet. We learn a little more about each other. I relax, he seems OK.
He slows his driving. There's a big brown blob in the road.
"What the fuck is that?" I say. There's a very strange dead animal in the middle of the road. Not a deer, or elk. "It looks like a llama," I observe.
"I think you're right. What the fuck?" He says.
We pull into Florence. He shows me the laundromat with pay showers, the Fred Meyers and tells me where the library is. It's still early and he offers to take to me to the coffee shop in town. "OK," I agree.
I walk in with him. I am fumbling with my trekking poles and wallet and dropping things and looking like an idiot. I can see him looking at me from the side, amused. I order a 20oz coffee and he buys it for me. This makes me feel a little weird.
"Sit wherever you want, I'll join you in a second," He says.
I pick the spot overlooking the underside of the bridge. He sit next to me. I plug my battery pack in and look over my maps. I'm much farther ahead than I thought I would be right now. We go about our own internting business.
"Do you wanna get a beer later, say around 3?" he asks.
"Um, sure. Sounds good."
I linger in the coffee shop a little while longer and then walk around the quiet old town for a bit, tourists milling about. I find a small natural food store and order a big egg breakfast before heading to the library. Once inside I am greeted by a former PCT thruhiker named Seesaw, he recognizes me by my shoes and pack. We chat for a minute.
I find a seat in a corner and take off my shoes and curl up while eating an organic coconut cream and raw chocolate bar. It's so rich I get goose bumps. I write a little on my phone and call my mother to check the tracking on the package I'm supposed to get here in town. I see Mark walk by and he slows, squinting his eyes at me in recognition. I wave at him. I'm off the phone with my mother when he approaches me.
"Do you wanna get that beer now? I can drive."
"Sure, give me about 5 minutes to wrap my stuff up," I say.
We drive back into old town to a place called the Beachcomber, he said it's the best beer bar in town. He buys us both a round of 9% triple IPA. I know my beer, but what I hadn't counted on was the fact I was in hiker mode and therefor sensitive to alcohol, also dehydrated and also, I had a relatively empty stomach. It hits me quickly. We have another 7% ginger IPA and we're having a kind of weird philosophical debate about hate. He doesn't believe in holding on to it, but I think hold on to a kernel of it is healthy. Because how would we know the extremes of emotions? We are told to love fiercely, but why can we not hate fiercely as well when the hate is directed to a justifiable thing?
He tells me that he communicates with an extraterrestrial, and he tells me how ridiculous it is to believe this, but he knows when he smells bullshit he tells me. He asks me about my father. He points out where I am carrying tension in my body. He presses his finger into a spot on my forearm and it sends a jolt into my hand, tingles my arm and then it seems more comfortable than it had before. Relaxed even. "Did you feel that release?" He asks. I say yes.
We agree to cash out and drink a 6 pack in a nearby RV parking lot. I had nowhere to be but my camping spot about a mile away in another RV park that caters to hiker/bikers. So I felt fine with it, even though he was a little weird. We had a good flowing banter and his eccentricities made me curious and in a spectating kind of way.
We're each two cans into the 6 pack, he's telling me that I need to know my own femininity, that I need to embrace it fully. Because to him, I am not doing these things. I listen, I'm drunk.
He asks about my father and I tell him a little.
"You have this desire Briddon, to be held. To put your left cheek on the right pec," he tells me. I cringe every time he says my name, he doesn't enunciate the T's. It's Britton. I don't correct him.
"You've had a string of bad relationships where you weren't cherished enough because your father was absent in your life," he tells me. He grabs my hands and pinches the fatty flesh between my thumbs and pointer fingers, hitting a pressure point. "The thing is Briddon," I shudder, but do not pull my hands away, he locks eyes with me. "The thing is, is I can see right through you, I know you, and you are so pure of heart." He is saying all of these words repetitively and with a soothing cadence. Tears begin to well up in my eyes as some of these are half truths. I am crying. Being fond of uncomfortable challenge, I stare back deeply into his watery blue eyes, I want to crush his small pitiful body into nothing. He knows nothing. A deep seated rage is boiling just beneath the surface of me. Like hell fire licking at the seat of my soul, right where my pelvis meets my spine and I welcome it. I draw it up into myself.
The chorus of a large group of crows cawing begins to pick up, this draws me out of his hypnotic speech. He still grips my hands firmly. I peer out of the window and see the sunlight hitting a patch of yellow sand on a high dune in the distance. I want to melt my body into the earth and be consumed by it. I can see the beach in my mind. You gotta get back to Mama, I tell myself. They're screaming all around the van, the crows.
"Do you hear them singing?" I say to him. The crows are rallying around me.
"Briddon! Come back to me," he pinches my hands harder and I do as he says. I look back into his eyes.
"You are adored Briddon, you are adored, you are adored," he repeats. I hate the way he says my name. I drift off again, to the sun lit dune patch. The crows are still going. They've perched above us on the parking lot lights. "Briddon, come back to me."
CAW CAW CAW! Over and over they say. They're calling to me. Their collective sound is tugging at my spirit as it is slowly untethering itself from my body, I can feel it. My body and psyche are putting itself into a protective place, I am recessing like a snake into it's den. This man is an intrusion and a danger.
Go back to Mama. My whole body wants the ocean right now. That is where I am safe. This is not a safe place.
"Briddon, kiss me."
"Briddon, wouldn't it be nice if I fucked your mouth."
I snap out of it. And with full clarity I tell him to take me to the RV park.
"Seriously?" He says. "You can just stay here, I have a comfortable bed in here."
"And you won't fuck me, right?" I ask.
"I promise I won't have sex with you," he says.
"Take me back to the RV park" I say firmly.
It's 10PM and he points out that they're probably closed. I don't care. I drink some of his water that he collected from the springs at Mt. Shasta. It tastes like wildfire and smoke, I can taste its wildness. He doesn't derserve this water.
I find a small patch of grass situated on a little knoll in the dark. I know I shouldn't be camping here, but the whole RV park is dead quiet and I somehow in my still drunken stupor manage to pitch my tent perfectly and get everything set up for a quick escape if I am caught sleeping here.
As I lay in my bag being drawn into sleep, I feel triumphant that I escaped him. But I am writhing inside that I made myself so vulnerable. That I let him. I am so naive.
Why am I so trusting? Why do I just let people in?
My greatest weakness and strength: my vulnerability.