I hiked fourteen miles alone, wearing faux Chinese luggage on my back so that I looked like a sci-fi monster, which caused otherwise friendly dogs to bark, reached a wind-blasted ridge and Baldy Peak at 12,600 feet, descended to a cliff-cradled lake, camped overnight in an inscrutable tent purchased that morning from the sporting-goods store, ate crunchy dehydrated spaghetti and meatballs because I could not start a fire with my “Surefire” matches, peed under the bedazzled New Mexican night sky, fought off an invading marmot or deer or possibly a coyote with a miniature and mostly impotent flashlight I felt compelled to blast around through the nylon like a toy gun, passed out rigid with fear, woke up stiff, ate half a granola bar saturated by a leaking water bottle, bandaged my bleeding toes, smelled human feces when no one else was around, and hiked back.
The next day, I flew home to my long-haired Italian friend who hiked, biked, bellowed, “Bring me Caligula’s horse!” while playing badminton without a net, whistled until the birds whistled back, collected bicycle reflectors, played tennis, refused to take his meds, braved the traffic in Ocean City and Chincoteague and Atlanta, touched a dolphin that actually cried out when he left, endured bad massages but gave only good ones, smoked weed (by himself), shopped like a fiend (online or in stores selling giant foods), plastered Facebook with one zillion selfies, cyber-flirted with other women and dropped to his knees, begging forgiveness, did enough of my laundry to cover a cruise ship, reminded me every few minutes of my beauty and his love for me, curled my toes every time, laughed whenever people asked if I was his mother, shouted, “Liar!” when I called him bipolar, and cooked never-ending meals for more than a year.
I said good-bye—good luck in Colorado!—and I sang “Here Comes the Sun” at the top of my lungs while he packed a hope chest full of Lilliputian perfume bottles, T shirts folded into squares only a Marine could love, and a Civil War bullet he had dreamed of selling online (having found it on one of our hikes), all the while moving at the speed of an old-folks’ comedy routine, until I curled myself onto a pink-striped bathroom mat, moaning, convulsed by grief at the sound of the taxi, honking, and the door as it closed behind him, and for three days, I turned in all directions around the empty house, deafened by the echo of my footfalls: wall, ceiling, corner, floor—faster and faster until the phone’s ping poked at my heart; I fell down and replied, waiting while the curtains turned dark and then light again, and when he knocked, I nearly yanked the door off its hinges.
Ginger Pinholster’s third novel, Seeing Gethin, a love story about mental illness and stigma, has been coming along nicely. Her second novel, Angel-Dog Finds Me, awaits its fate. Ginger’s stories have appeared in The Northern Virginia Review and Boomtown, an anthology of the Queens University of Charlotte, where she earned her M.F.A. degree. Murmuration, her first book, was a finalist for a Santa Fe Writers Project award. She is chief communications officer for a nonprofit group, and an instructor at Northern Virginia Community College. Every day, she misses her daughter Caroline, who attends Eckerd College.