“Relapses were inevitable,” he told himself. Everyone knew this, and he figured people would understand. It was only his inner circle that knew he was an addict anyhow.
And as much as he wanted to point a finger at her for causing the relapse, he couldn’t blame her. He wanted to. But he wouldn’t. She just wanted to have fun. What did she know?
He also wanted to blame work. Why did they have to give him two days off in a row? And in the winter? It’s like they had set him up for failure.
He had been clean for nine years. Nine years. Of course he missed it every single one of those days. Technically, he still was on the wagon. “Technically. Ha!” he laughed. He knew all about technically. No, he had fallen off the wagon–no “technically” about it.
It did feel amazing though. The rush. He could sense his blood flowing throughout his body as if it was reporting constantly that the journey was amazing–all while surrounded by a crowd of people. Wow. Naturally, he hid his high from everyone, avoiding any unwanted judgement, though deep down he knew that they all saw a man who was trying to pretend like he wasn’t high.
His primary thought then turned to money. Like any addiction, his had a price, and an expensive one at that. “Yep, I know it’s shameful, but I’ll just ask my parents for the money. Flat out. No lying this time. I’m just going to tell them what it’s for and if they love me, they’ll understand and help me,” he reasoned.
“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the call.
“Mom, it’s me.”
“Are you alright?”
“Sure, yeah. Well, no. That’s what I’m calling about,” he said, forcing an undignified voice.
“What is it? You know I hate when you call like this.”
“You know how I took H-, your granddaughter who misses you very much, to the mountains yesterday to go tubing? Well, I saw people skiing and I couldn’t control myself. I need money to ski. The season’s nearly a quarter over, so it shouldn’t be too much, and of course you and dad are invited to come out and ski with me any time you want as well. Ballpark figure, I think that only $2000 should cover me, equipment and all.”
“Mom? You there?” he asked, looking at the screen only to see the call had ended. “I can’t believe she hung up. She never did love me. I guess I should’ve seen this coming. I don’t know why I punish myself. I should have just called the ol’ softy first anyhow. Besides being a true believer, everyone knows the man can’t say no to anyone.”
“Dad. Father. How’s it going? Are the Cubs still looking strong next season? Say, I’ve got this favor to ask…”
No doubt durable, the brown, rubber coated metal picnic table was exploding with sandwich ingredients: two loaves of bread, two packages of ham, two packages turkey, one package of pepper jack cheese, one package gouda, one bottle of mayonnaise, and one bottle mustard. Present also were the sides to include individual bags of chips, apples and oranges; and dessert–nutty bars. Lastly there were sandwich bags. All this was resting amidst coolers filled with beer and dinner, a couple camp stoves, their personal cookware, and some French presses lazily soiled with the morning’s coffee grounds.
As socially graceful as possible they all took turns preparing their lunches that they would then carry in various forms of Camelback backpacks. Each person’s pack matched their personality. The veteran’s was camouflage, the ladies’, trim. The photographer’s had pockets large enough for a professional quality camera; the different guy used a modern word for fanny pack.
Once packed, the group packed the unused food in the cars, and grabbed the morning’s trash bags. Ah, bears. The probably unnecessary precaution justified itself through the addition of the slight thrill of danger. That and being prepared is never a bad thing.
The hike now well under way, storm clouds populated the distant horizon. The group pressed onward. The intervals between the unseen lighting’s thunderclaps decreased as the distance they traveled above the tree line increased. A light sprinkle had not yet become annoying as they began to notice most of the blue sky had become shades of grey.
One party became two.
As those with significant others present headed back down, the alone-and-unafraid pressed their luck.
Unifying them all was a hunger. Friend helped friend as they unzipped each other’s packs and grabbed the sandwiches. Was it the rain? Was it the hiking? Was it the company? Whatever it was, they had never tasted as good a sandwich as at that moment. And never had smiles spread so quickly.
Upon finishing their chocolaty peanut butter goodness, the two groups discovered they weren’t so far apart after all. The clouds parted and the sun’s return was interpreted only as it should have been—the punctuation to the joy incarnate they knew to be lunch on the trail.