The sun rises and spills light right into my eyes at dawn. Sleeping in a closed space without any air flow feels suffocating now. I lay in bed, looking at the red pink sky fill with light.
I sit up and make a little coffee water. I light the remainder of my rolled ciggarette from the night before. It feels disgusting this early, but it's a strange comfort. I get up to pee in the derelict trailer across the way from my little shack.
I find the others planning for breakfast and hitching into the nearby city, Lancaster. I decide to join them. We take the shuttle to a cafe down the road. We get a few things to snack on and make a game plan.
I get a text from the ex-boyfriend. It's angry and in my eyes tries to excuse the shittiness of the breakup with the fact that he isn't perfect, and that he told me this going into it. I try to get him to allow me to call him, but he won't budge it seems and it hurts. I just want to understand more and it doesn't have to end on a good note, but at least one of understanding.
I can't get him to cooperate with me, so I ask him to send me anything of mine to my mailing address and I say goodbye to him. I can't deal with being toyed with, or strung along. I delete our history of texts and photos of him. I can't hang on to it.
I palm the gift I bought him in Wrightwood, a small enamel pin of a western diamondback rattlesnake, coiled up and ready to strike. I was so excited to send it to him, but through the apathy and feelings of abandonment, I have no desire to send it to him, even in an act of compassionate goodbye I just can't send it. I take it off the small bit of cardstock it was on, and attach it to my own hat. This is my medicine now. It sits right next to my little Aries sign pin and I put it on.
Everyone is ready to get moving. The hitch we know isn't going to be easy since cars fly by pretty fast in this area. I spot however, two guys who seem to be on a rest stop and I ask if they're heading past Lancaster. They say yes, and I discover that they're rock climbers and quite hiker friendly. I arrange for all of us to get a ride right into town, by the Chinese buffet AJ and Bananas have been drooling over for what seems like weeks now.
We load into the car and take off at light speed it feels like. It nauseates me a little. The climbers drop us off right in front of the Chinese buffet, which isn't open until 11 we've got an hour to kill. We each offer them a couple bucks in gas money but they refuse and wish us luck.
I do some quick googling to see what is arond us and find a wal-mart. Engine and everyone else gets really excited. In my normal life, I would never step into one, but in this circumstance and the rapid deteriation of my insoles, it's sort of a nessesity.
We walk across an empty parking lot, around deteriating businesses and franchises. Like a pack of ranging feral dogs, people see us and avoid us. Our hiker patina sticks out and folks stare and leer.
We see the Wal-mart building, but it's all boarded up.
"How is it even possible for something like that to close?" I ask. "Especially here, in this depressing town."
We look further down the hot parking lot and can see droves of people coming in and out of a building, like bees, or ants.
"There," AJ points. "That's where it's at."
It's an entire wal-mart shopping complex . With seperate entrances and frontages for, outdoor, home and grocery. It's horrifying to me.
We step in, and the artificial lights and artificial air choke me. It smells like plastic and poisons. We all run to the toiletries and pharmacy area. I find my new insoles, AJ finds some caffeine pills. I look in vain for some electrolytes, but can't find any. I get some unscented baby wipes. We all sit on a bench in the pharmacy area, looking like trash. My mood is quiet, sad and depressed. My thoughts still linger on lost love. Bananas puts his arm around me. We sit in silence for a while, while Engine and Second Wind look for supplies.
"BANANAS! BANANAS! BANANAS!" Engine calls from several isles away. We laugh at the absurdity of her screaming his trail name in public.
I wander off to the food section to buy a few things. Some spam, tuna packets and cookies.
We all gather at the check out and a man tried to get us to visit his big cat conservation park.
"Do you have jaguars?" I ask.
He pulls out his wallet and shows me a picture of his hand raised male jaguar, named Cisco. I frown and realize he just owns a zoo.
We leave, and cross the scortching parking lot back to the Chinese buffet. The air is dry and a thick haze lies in the sky. Everything seems artificial and dead in this town and it makes me scared and sad.
I walk into the air conditioned buffet, a large glittering painting of a landscape greets us in the entry way and it plays a fake bird song.
Our mouths collectively drop when we see five seperate rows of buffet tables, full of hot piping food. We fill and fill our plates. I get full after only one plate and then I feel sick and drowsy. I take my shoes off and cut my new insoles out, not caring if I look like complete trash.
AJ, Bananas and Engine all go to a movie, while Second Wind and I stay in a booth. Occasionally getting more food, while I write and she and I talk.
We dose off on the table and the wait staff eyes us warily.
Eventually everyone comes back from the movie, and we find ourselves an Uber ride back to the cafe, since it's too difficult to hitch from the highway.
We arrive back at Hiker Town and mill about. Collectively we discuss how we're going to hike the next section, which starts off with a long flat walk along the LA Aqueduct. Because of a cold front that moved through, it won't be too hot to do some of the miles during the day. Most folks choose to night hike it. We decide to be ready to hike at 3:30AM.
I sort my pack and get some thing ready to go inside of an RV trailer. My body feels grimy and dusty. There's no way to escape the dirt here. I walk out of the trailer and to the facet to take a bandana bath and it leaves me feeling a little better. A wave of sadness hints me, and I sit on the stoop of the trailer and cry. Baloo rounds the corner and comforts me.
"Let's go look at some kittens," she tells me.
She leads me to one of the small old western style buildings. Inside are two beds, lots of broken things and dusty light beams from the setting sun. A few adolescent cats skuttle about. The bold one of the group lets me hold him and he flops into my lap, purring. Kitten therapy, it really works. A blond German called Twisted joins us and he sits on the bed across from me. The kittens swat at my braids, and we play with them for a bit. The light in the room, the space, the dirt coated creaking floors and the wind outside howling through the skeletal structure of the weird compound sort of suspends me for a moment. Such a strange place and such a strange time, with kittens and people I hardly know but we all care for each other, while we collectively wander in and out of the wilderness.
I wander my way back to the trailer. The sky burns hot pink to the east, behind the mountains. I don't know what to feel. I crawl up into the bunk space next to Second Wind and watch the sky out the small window. The wind rattles the trailer violently. I put in my earl plugs and try to lull myself into sleep for our early start tomorrow.