Friday, November 30, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #15

Max lay in the hammock, rocking gently from side to side. He was gazing at the sunlight being filtered through the leaves and branches above him, completely lost in thought.

Cindy and Greg had left just after lunch and he had spent the two hours since then out back with only his thoughts for company. He knew everyone else was inside watching an important game of some sorts on the TV but he could not be a part of that just yet.

Max needed, quite simply, time to miss two people who had grown to be very dear to him over the last few months. Close bonds tended to be forged quickly and deeply on the road and this one was no different.

In the absence of friends and family, finding kindred spirits is a joy that tends to be latched onto with a fierce grip and treasured greatly. This results in the time of separation being especially difficult and jarring.

Max closed his eyes and tried to center himself before rejoining the crowd inside. The two Brits were fantastic company and he knew they would keep in touch. And there were still several guests remaining that he was close to, like Tobias and Tim and Cate… oh, there was very definitely Cate.

“Hey Max, you alright?”

He kept his eyes close and continued swaying slowly as his thoughts were scattered to the wind.

“Hey Cate. Yeah I’m alright, just needed some time to myself.”

“Want some more or is it okay if I join your mourning party?”

“Haha, no, go ahead and grab a hammock. It’s very therapeutic.”

Max listened to Cate settling into the one behind him, their shared tree yawning lazily at its new burden. When she next spoke her voice came from close by, which meant she had chosen to lay heads together. For no particular reason he found that comforting.

“Funny how quickly you get attached to people when you’re backpacking,” she said wistfully.

“Yeah, back home it would take a year to get to know people as well as you do in a month at a hostel,” Max agreed, opening his eyes to once again watch the sunlight play with the leaves overhead.

“Do you think it’s just the combination of forced close quarters and common interests,” Cate asked, “or do you think these bonds would happen as long as the people meet at all?”

“You mean do I think I’d be close to the same people at home as I would be on the road?” Max asked carefully.

“Yeah, I guess that’s what I was trying to ask,” came the soft reply.

Suddenly he was not so sure they were talking generally. Things were getting very specific, very quickly.

“Well,” he began while grasping wildly for the right words, “I reckon the potential for that closeness would be there – it would just take more time to develop at home.”

“That’s true – I don’t even see my best mates more than a couple times a week back home.”

“I guess we’re lucky then,” Max replied before he realized what he was saying, “it would have taken forever to get to know each other so well back in B.C.”

Well that’s probably the bravest thing you’ve said to her. Sadly.

Aye, he thought, or the stupidest.

Cate took a few moments to reply as Max held his breath and hoped for the best.

“Yeah, we are,” and he could hear the smile in her voice. “Which reminds me – about the other night, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have imposed on your trip like that. I had no right-”

“It’s okay,” Max told her gently. “I’m glad you did.”

“No, I really… you are?” To his biased ear she sounded a little surprised, a bit confused, and a whole lot pleased.

Damn biased ears, trying to show you reality when all your big stupid eyes want to see is –

Hush, this is important.

At least you’ve got that much right.

“Well I know for sure I’ll need that extra kick out the door to leave here,” Max laughed. “By then I’ll have been here longer than I was in each of my last 3 apartments in Vancouver!”

“Right, yeah that’ll be tough,” Cate said a bit flatly.

We’re losing her here...

All in due time, all in due time.

“And it’ll be great to have someone to split a rental car with,” he continued casually.

“Totally,” she replied without a hint of enthusiasm.

Psst, Houston? We have a problem.

Oh ye of little faith.

“Maybe we can go the Jay and Diego route and paint it red and white, with the words to O Canada written on it.”

Cate gave a forced laugh, and then Max heard her shift around in her hammock as though she was preparing to get up.

Good idea girl, I’m out of here too.

Well, if you like – but I don’t think you’re going to want to miss this.

“But most of all, it’ll be great to have some company on the road. Especially,” Max closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and dove into the deep end, “when that company is as fun, smart and pretty as you.”

You… no way…

You are now free to leave me the hell alone.

Cate paused for a short eternity before finishing getting out of her hammock. Max heard her approach but kept his eyes firmly shut as he did his best to remain calm.

“Despite your best efforts, you can be very sweet Max,” Cate said as she reached down and tussled his hair. He slowly opened his eyes to see her smiling down at him, her face framed by her sun-fired hair. Not having the slightest clue as to how to respond, he turned once again to his old friend Silence.

“Come back in soon,” she told him with a small wink. “The hostel isn’t the same without you.”

She turned and strolled back to the hostel, pausing briefly at the doorway to turn and give him another smile. After she had disappeared from view, Max counted to ten and, as casually as possible, followed after her.

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