Friday, September 21, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #5

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Max could barely make out the road in front of him but he could see enough to avoid the potholes without breaking stride. The only sounds disturbing the pre-dawn quiet were his steady, deep breaths and the rhythmic thumping of his runners meeting the asphalt.

He had set his alarm for 5 am so that he could make it to the beach in time for sunrise. The three other guys in his dorm did not seem to appreciate the early morning buzzer – in fact if he had been facing a touch more to the right the shoe Tobias threw at him would have ended this run before it even began. As it turned out, his right hip was a bit sore but here he was.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

We are not happy with you, his body told him for the tenth time in the last two minutes.

“Don’t care,” he said aloud. “I need this today.”

But it’s Sunday, his body replied. You never run on Sunday.

“Shut. Up.”

Sunday is the day of rest.

“Don’t you dare bring religion into this.”

We should be in bed right now.

“We’re done here. No more. Be quiet, I need to think.”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Normally Max ran with his iPod blaring to keep himself distracted from the aches and pains and the desire to stop. This morning, however, he had left iT behind at the hostel. He needed the peace to bring some order to his chaotic thoughts.

“Ok,” he said to the morning. “What the hell is going on?”

The morning, wisely, remained quiet while awaiting further clarification.

“I’ve known this girl for a whole eight days. Eight!”

Max jogged on for a few moments in silence, passing a farm house to his right. When he came by during the day the front yard was always alive with dogs and children but they had enough sense to still be abed at this hour; thus he remained the only intrusion to the tranquility of the morning.

“What do I know about her after eight days? She’s smart. Pretty. Fit. Funny as all hell. I have met women like this before. So why the hell am I arse over tea kettle for this one?”

The morning, quite unhelpfully, remained mute.

“This makes no sense. I don’t get it at all.”

The morning stubbornly held firm to its silence, tempted as it was to respond. It was not about to ruin a few thousand years worth of work just because some dumb arsed Canadian was getting all worked up about a girl.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The sky was beginning to brighten noticeably as he navigated the final S-curve and began the last straightaway to the beach. He picked up the pace slightly to ensure he got there in time. His legs groaned. He ignored them.

He could feel a fine trickle of sweat travel down his spine so he unzipped his pale grey hoodie a bit further. He was wearing a ragged old once-white t-shirt underneath it with his favorite chocolate brown, knee length cargo shorts – they weren’t ideal for running but they were ridiculously comfortable so he made do.

Max gradually slowed his pace so that he hit the fine sand of the beach at a brisk walk. He sat himself down on his thinking log with a few minutes to spare before daybreak, gazing out to sea with his brow furrowed as his breathing leisurely returned to normal. He rested his forearms on his thighs and listened to the gentle cacophony of the waves as he attempted one more time to marshal his thoughts.

“Alright. Romance and travel. So tempting but rarely a good idea. I’ve seen far too many couples break up while backpacking. But what if it works out? That would be pretty incredible. But I don’t even know if she likes me! What if I go for it and she says ‘no thanks’? What then?”

The sky was rapidly transforming from plain black night into a raucous blend of reds, oranges and yellows. Max’s head finally went silent as he lost himself in the glorious display of nature.

“Nothing like a touch of spectacular natural beauty to make you feel like an insignificant git,” he muttered.

The first rays of sunshine finally peaked over the horizon, painting the water with a golden hue. Max remained seated on the driftwood, treasuring the few moments of peace he had regained.

“Living on the west coast back home is great,” he murmured. “But there’s definitely something to be said for this.”

As the sun climbed higher, the colors overhead faded to a soft blue. The shade of blue reminded Max of the exterior of his parents’ home back in Vancouver – he could vividly recall the last time he saw it. It was his big sister’s 30th birthday and everyone was gathered in the backyard watching Vicky open her presents and eating the black forest cake Mom had made. That cake, like every other she made, was so mind-blowingly good that…

“Stop it! Stop avoiding the bloody subject!” he yelled suddenly. “I came out here to figure this out, not day dream about cake! Stupid, worthless brain cells!”

This was not working, he grudgingly admitted. He needed to talk this over with someone. But who? Cindy? Maybe. She and Greg had decided last night to extend their stay for another week, so he had a bit more time to speak with her.

Max stood up, stretched himself out and strolled back towards the road, his mind still buzzing with ideas. What about Mossy, he thought suddenly. The big man had a good head on him and he had been like a second father to him these last few months. Max had yet to see him steer a single backpacker he had encountered wrong, he was just always full of good advice.

His mind began to settle down, as it always did once he had reached a decision after a long struggle. He liked this notion a lot. This could work. He stepped onto the asphalt and began the run back to the hostel with a small smile creasing his face.

We thought we were done with this nonsense, his body sighed. We liked it on the beach.

“Shove a dirty sock in it,” Max said contentedly.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

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