The Girl With The Red Hair
I awoke to the sound of fellow hikers chatting and walking about the hostel; the spacious garage that was our temporary home. Muffin Man was reading a book he had found on one of the tables, fiction of the mystery/thriller genre. He spent most of the day continuously turning it’s pages, leaving me feeling envious. Whenever I read, I can’t go more than half an hour without becoming distracted. The girl with the red hair entered the room, a new addition to list of hikers staying for the night.
“Did you do the gallon challenge?” She asked me, noticing me laying on the couch.
My stomach was still morbidly full, and I felt disgusting. Despite this, I tried to play it cool.
“Yeah. It was terrible.”
She laughed, “Awe, what happened? I wish I could’ve seen it.”
“I was in way over my head,” I said wearing a half smile.
“And you were so confident you could pull it off!”
I laughed at myself, feeling silly for being so naive, “Yeah, I thought it’d be easy. But I’ve never been more wrong in my life.”
“‘Oh I can do that easily! It’s just a gallon!'” She said poking fun at my naivety, gleefully reminding me of what I had previously said.
I nodded, laughing, “Yeah that pretty much sums it up. Now I feel absolutely terrible.”
“Did you vomit afterwards?”
“No, but I probably should’ve. I’d probably feel a lot better if I would’ve.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because vomiting sucks!” I said enthusiastically, gesticulating to emphasize my point, “plus when I puke I make a lot of noise. I can’t help but yell because it hurts so much.”
Maybe I should change the subject.
“So I’m reading this book,” she beat me to it, “it’s a romance novel,” she said pulling the book from her pack, holding it up for me to see.
“Is that one those erotic romance novels you always see old ladies reading?” I asked, getting a good look at the cover.
“Yes!” she laughed, “I found it in a shelter, so I picked it up as a lark.”
I laughed, “So what’s it about?”
“A dishonorable duke,” she said sitting down beside me, “and these two sisters who’re trying to win his heart. One is a lady, one works as a caretaker at a brothel.”
“Interesting,” I said grinning, giving my best attempt to look cute.
“He’s supposed to fall in love with the lady, but he’s really falling in love with the one who works at the brothel.”
“Are there any descriptive sex scenes?” I asked, grinning dryly.
“I haven’t gotten to any yet,” she said smiling at my forward question, “the one who works at the brothel is really coy with the duke, they’ve only kissed once.”
I nodded, “I’d like to read a sex scene, I’ve never read a sex scene and I wonder how the writer would provide imagery.”
“You mean you’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey?” She asked sarcastically.
I raised an eyebrow, “no.”
“Here, lemme try to find one,” she said opening the book, skimming it’s pages.
I glanced up and saw Muffin Man on the other couch, still reading his mystery thriller novel, and wondered if he was listening in while pretending to read, or actually reading. The garage was quieter than the night before, as many hikers hit the trail early in the morning after a night of drinking and playing darts. How long was I out for?
An hour went by as we all hung out at the hostel, other hikers and cyclists began pouring in, filling the room with a cacophony of multiple dialogues. I walked outside to get some air and what I saw made me glad I decided to stay. Tarzan was walking up the driveway of the hostel, grinning ear to ear.
Delighted to see him, I gave my best Hulk Hogan impression, “What’s up, brother?!” Then I held out my fist for a fist bump, which is the universal handshake among hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
“How long have you been here?” He asked.
“We stayed here last night, Sundance and Q tip left this morning. But Muffin Man and I are zeroing here.”
Muffin Man came outside with open arms, “Tarzan!”
“Muffin Man! Good to see ya.”
“Is Scarecrow with you?” Muffin Man asked looking over Tarzan’s shoulders.
“I haven’t seen that guy since Pearisburg,” he began, “I took two zeros there at that church hostel and when I left he was still hungover. He drank the whole time I was there with him.”
We shouldn’t have been surprised, as this was typical Scarecrow behavior, but I really expected to see him there with Tarzan. Somehow I knew he’d be alright, this wasn’t the first time he’d fallen behind because of a hangover.
“Did you say anything to him when you left?” I asked.
“Nah I just got my shit and left,” Tarzan said.
I turned to Muffin Man, “Looks like he didn’t learn much from Hot Springs when he was too drunk to hike out.”
He just shrugged his shoulders and we went back inside, “You guys drinking tonight?” Tarzan asked us.
“Nah I feel like shit. I almost drank a whole gallon of milk today.”
“What? Why?” He asked.
“I tried the gallon challenge, and it went horribly.”
“He was this close dude,” Muffin Man said holding up his thumb and index figure to indicate what little milk remained in the gallon.
“That’s fucking ridiculous,” Tarzan said laughing, “Why didn’t you finish it?”
“Cause I felt like I was gonna die!” I said with wide eyes.
We all laughed as we took a seat on the couch, where Muffin Man and I listed some key points about the hostel for Tarzan. We made sure to warn him about Eddie’s antics.
“So are you guys drinking tonight? Eddie is gonna shuttle us to the convenience store to get beer,” The girl with the red hair asked as she sat down next to us, gesturing to some of the other hikers in the room.
“Yeah I’ll take the shuttle down,” Muffin Man said.
“I’ll go too, I needed to resupply anyways,” Tarzan added.
“You gonna drink?” Muffin Man asked him.
“Yeah, I’ll drink a little.”
“How bout you, Romeo?” she asked me smiling.
I was reluctant, fidgeting “I don’t know if I have the room in my stomach, but I might have a beer or two,” I said in a noncommittal tone.
Muffin Man turned and looked at me smiling. Here we go. “You said you weren’t gonna drink!” Tarzan was smiling, and Muffin Man continued, “Now it’s a beer or two. What’s next? You gonna buy a whole case?”
My seat is hot and my balls are busted.
“When we ask him to drink he says no, but when a girl asks him to drink it’s a maybe,” Tarzan said, adding to the shit pile being handed over to me with a fork and knife to eat it with. Even the girl with the red hair was laughing at me now.
“Come on, drink with us!” Muffin Man said grinning.
“Yeah, drink with us!” She added.
“Alright, alright, I’ll drink with you guys,” I said throwing my hands in the air, and just like that, we were off to the convenience store.
After purchasing several cases of our favorite kind of Pilsner beer, we returned to Four Pines for another night of revelry. By this time many more hikers had arrived on the scene, mostly people whom I had met for the first time that night. Some of the older hikers in the room, those who had perhaps decided to embark on the trail after having recently retired, didn’t want to take part in everyone’s rambunctiousness, and they retreated to the far end of the garage to sleep in the available beds. Unless they brought earplugs, I’m not sure how they got a wink of sleep over the tempest of music, drinking games, and all around noise everyone was making. At first we tried to be cautious to those who were sleeping or trying to sleep, but after a couple beers most of us forgot they were even there.
Somewhere along the line I got the idea that the girl with the red hair had a crush on me. Like she wanted me to make a move. She stood really close to me when we spoke, and most of my conversations that weren’t with Muffin Man and Tarzan that night were with her. It was in the subtleties in how we were speaking to each other. I’m not sure what it was about me, but she seemed genuinely interested in talking to me throughout the night. I tried to strike a balance between flirtatious and coy, and it wasn’t until Muffin Man pulled me aside did I consider the weight of what was happening.
“She wants it dude!” he said to me with wide eyes before looking around to make sure no one was listening.
I laughed, “What’re you talking about?”
“Dude. Are you stupid? She is all over you.”
“Yeah?” I nodded.
“If you don’t make a move, you’re fucking up. Fucking up big time.”
An hour later the girl with the red hair and I were sitting on one of the couches in the garage, our arms wrapped around each other in a familiar way, though we knew what was happening between us, no words were spoken about it. We talked about anything accept what our body language was screaming at us. Good Talk was on the adjacent couch, and he pulled up a video on his phone of him rock climbing. It was impressive, and it kindled a desire in me to pick it up as a hobby after I got back home. The Appalachian Trail had parts where you’re climbing a little bit, but never at a vertical angle. Good Talk laid down to go to sleep, and rock climbing became the subject of conversation between her and I as we sat cuddled together. There were several moments of silence where we simply sat there on the couch, holding hands while she rested her head on my shoulder. She definitely likes me. But what do I do about it? I looked up and saw Muffin Man and Tarzan looking at us through a window, grinning at me mischievously. Those motherfuckers.
“You think he’s gonna pull it off?” Muffin Man asked Tarzan after turning away from the window.
“I don’t think so. He would’ve made a move already.”
“Look at them on that couch though, they’re about to fuck right there in front of everyone in the room dude.”
Tarzan laughed, “Romeo looks like he’s about to fall asleep. And it’s almost midnight.”
“He’s still got time. Are you drunk?”
He scratched his head, “Yeah I’m pretty fucked up dude.”
What do I say at this point. She’s holding my hand, people in here probably think we’re a couple for fucks sake. I thought back to all the girls I could’ve been with in high school, but was too anxious to make a move. I thought about some of the one night stands I could’ve had but for whatever reason I left the party thinking about what could’ve been instead.
After a moment of silence between us I lean over closer to her ear and say, “we can go somewhere a little more private if you want.” The shot has been fired. Your move.
She sits up and looks at me smiling, “it’s tempting.”
I smiled back and then she leaned in to kiss me. Woah. Okay this is happening right now. It became a full make out session right there on the couch. I wonder who’s seeing this right now. Good Talk is literally right there. Okay, just focus on kissing. I wrapped my right hand around her neck, feeling her red hair and pulling her closer. I wonder what she’s thinking right now. She doesn’t give a fuck who’s watching us right now, that’s for sure. This went on for a little while, and then she broke away, saying, “Let’s go somewhere.”
Guess I passed the kissing test. She stood up from the couch and walked towards the front of the garage and out the door. Alright, this is happening right now. I fumbled through my pack for my headlamp, then I stood up to follow her, probably smiling like an idiot while thinking about where to go once outside. I closed the door behind me to find her standing there talking to Muffin Man.
“I told these cyclists about your blog dude,” he said, pointing to a circle of people staring into their phones, ostensibly reading my blog, “they’re doing an on road cross country bike tour. I’ve been telling them all about the AT,” Muffin Man continued.
I nodded at him, and the smile he gave me was something like an approval. He knew what was going on. Referring to the cyclists, I said, “that’s cool,” then I looked at the girl with the red hair, and she was looking back at me, “wanna get out of here?” I asked.
I put my headlamp on, tightening the strap so it gripped firmly around my head. looking down the driveway of the hostel, I saw the old shack we passed on the way in, “let’s go over there,” I said pointing. I reached out to hold her hand, leading the way through the dark and into the dilapidated shack.
Holding my hand and looking ahead, in a playful tone she said, “you know, you’re a really good kisser.”
I’ve heard that before. But it feels awesome every time I hear it. I couldn’t help but grin, “thanks. You are too,” I said laughing.
Inside the shed we began kissing more, then she turned off my head lamp. In total darkness now, she removed my shirt. Between kissing I removed hers, and we continued the process until all articles of clothing lay scattered on the dirt and hay below us. In our birthday suits now, I ask in a whisper, “so how do you want to do this?”
“I don’t know.”
I pause for a moment. She wants me to take control. “We could go against the wall,” I proposed quietly.
She hesitated for just a moment before suggesting, “I’d rather just lay down.” Then she took my hand and laid down gently on the ground, bringing me down with her. As I laid on top of her, I could feel physical sensations all over my body. Here come the hormones. Dirt began to accumulate on my knees, toes, and balls. Damn. This is crazy. From the pond behind the shed I could hear frogs and crickets among the farm animals moving all around the shed. This has got to be the craziest place I’ve ever had sex. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to keep this story to myself.
The moment seemed to pass as fast as it arrived, and when it passed we laid there, breathless and careless. I laughed, unable to place my finger on any reason why other than sweet bliss. I ran my fingers through her hair, removing bits of dirt and hay. We stood up after I scrambled through the dirt to collect my headlamp, then we helped each other find our clothes where they lay scattered. As I helped her remove more hay that was intertwined with strands of hair, I asked playfully, “So uh, is it cool if I tell Muffin Man about this?”
She laughed, “No, I don’t mind.” Wow she’s so cool.
“Good. I was probably gonna tell him anyways!” I teased.
We held hands on the way back to the garage, where it appeared the party was finally dying down. Muffin Man was playing a drinking game with a couple other hikers at the table. They were discernibly drunk and I couldn’t be bothered by a thing. Tarzan and Clovis were passed out somewhere around the hostel, and I longed to do the same as a wave of sleepiness hit me. While it was the craziest, grimiest place I’ve ever had sex, I couldn’t help the romantic haze I was in, nor did I want to. I went to sleep in an utter state of bliss, and woke up feeling invigorated.
“How bout that epic breakfast?” I said to Good Talk upon waking.
He was already awake, but still laying down, “Yeah, let’s do it!” His enthusiasm inspired me to hop up and sift through the refrigerator where we put the items we had bought the day before at the convenience store. Most of the people in the hostel were still asleep or just opening their eyes, accept for the older folks who found rest much earlier than the rest of us.
“Good morning,” I said to her as she woke up, “would you like some eggs?”
“Sure,” she smiled.
“How do you like your eggs?”
“Any way you want to make them.”
“Okay,” I said, giving her my cutest half grin.
That morning-after-having-sex-for-the-first-time-in-too-long feeling inspired me to cook fried eggs on the stove top for everyone in the hostel that morning. Good Talk and I also made toast and cooked ham on the stove top as well. Everything was wonderful.
We all packed up soon after eating, I was feeling excited about hiking and whatever the trail might throw at me. The girl with the red hair stayed behind a little while longer as I left out with Muffin Man, Tarzan, Good Talk, and Clovis.
“See ya up the trail,” I said to her as I waved goodbye.
“See ya!” She said smiling. And I walked out that door and down the driveway feeling like the king of the world.
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