I was surprised to learn I wasn't the first hiker to arrive. Puzzling, since I hadn't seen another northbound thru-hiker in days. Ushered into the hikers' lounge by the Retreat Center's proprietor, I found the lesbian couple from the night before already sitting at the dining table eating delivered pizza and sucking down giant bottles of Gatorade. I was instantly jealous.
"Wow," I said, very articulately. "I didn't expect to see you guys again so soon. I didn't think you'd make it eighteen miles!"
I was trying not to sound like a jerk. I don't know if I succeeded.
"Oh, we didn't," said Brünnhilde, the slightly more verbose one with previous hiking experience. "We hitched in from a road some eight miles back."
I didn't even know that was possible.
"I didn't even know that was possible," I marveled.
"You're an idiot," she teased.
And so I am.
"Well, that's too bad, because I thought of a good trail name for Eileen."
Eileen was Brünnhilde's girlfriend. They both gaped at me confused. I guess because I hadn't explained myself.
"You have the same pack as this girl I was hiking with before," I said, nodding to Eileen's lime green backpack. "Her trail name was Redwing. So because of that, and because you hike so fast, I was going to name you Blackbird."
They still didn't get it.
"As in the Red-winged Blackbird? And also the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest military jet ever? Oh, never mind," I mumbled.
"Sounds like you had a bit of a crush on this Redwing character," assessed Brünnhilde, her eyes twinkling.
"What? No!" I stammered. "She had a crush on me! I have a girlfriend!"
I poked myself in the chest emphatically, as if that meant something. "I have a girlfriend!" I repeated, to no one in particular.
Brünnhilde and Blackbird nodded to each other knowingly.
Angry at myself, and mortified, I stumbled off into the bathroom to hide my shame. I turned the shower on to cover the noise, but just sat there on the floor, weeping gently. It was a very confusing time.
Okay, that never happened. Except for the bit about the trail name. I was, and remain, awesome at bestowing trail names.
But who cares about the truth?!? Or such things as "narrative consistency" or whatever?!? Here's what I wrote in the Retreat Center's hiker registry, and then copied into my journal for posterity:
Later, I found the courage to write the following in the Retreat Center's Hiker Register:
I'm missing my friend John's birthday party for this?!?1 ... Oh well. I can't be much of a friend, because I just spelled his name wrong. No "h." In other news, I'm only a day behind someone I know!2 ... And tomorrow I'll probably be a day and a half behind, since I'm only doing 15 miles. This heat sucks.3 Cold showers, on the other hand, are/were the order of the day! (Especially considering what I resorted to thinking about4 to make it those last few miles, ahem, without water.) Thanks!1. Sorry, Jon. And notice how fond of "?!?" I am today.6
2. Ten-fiddy. Met him twice before.
3. It was ≈10,000° that day.
4. SEX! In case you couldn't guess from my reference to cold showers. Which you probably couldn't. It was a rather obscure, obtuse allusion. Inference. Something. Whatever.
5. Why did I sign my own journal entries?
6. Also, of footnotes.