Monday, February 13, 2017

Love Bites: Chapter 2 Bushwhacked

I had no trouble remembering Pearl's ex. He was memorable--and not necessarily in a positive way. What I did have trouble with was Pearl's testimony that I bore some responsibility for ruining her relationship with this man. This was a charge that I vehemently denied.

But to be honest, I didn't have a favorable impression of the guy the first time that I met him. Pearl brought him over to Star's place where we were having a party. He was introduced to us as an investment banker. Banker seemed gregarious and a little assertive.

Within fifteen minutes, it was clear that he was a bit competitive and a tad aggressive. I wasn't sure if that was his real personality or just traits he picked up from work. He kept trying to one up us all, telling stories of his amazing feats and ostensibly using power poses--standing straight, arms folded, and legs wide apart or akimbo with hands on hips, chin held up high. It was an effort to make himself seem bigger or at least appear dominant in the group conversations.

Twenty minutes after meeting the guy, he challenged me to an arm wrestling contest. I beat him hands down. He wanted a rematch. I beat him again without any problems. I'm a lot stronger than I look. And I had years of arm wrestling experience from high school, when we actually held an arm wrestling league. That's right! An arm wrestling league. And I won a lot of matches. I was a multiple champion across different divisions and classes.

I grew up on a farm and did a lot of heavy field and livestock work that help build up my strength. Who needs a gym and weights when you've got large fence posts, firewood, logs, and bales of hay and produce to haul? And often I had to pick up a piglet or lamb or kid that had gotten lost or tired in the fields, and carry them home. Sometimes, it was an actual kid, a niece or nephew staying with us on the farm, who was too tired to walk home on their own steam. Sometimes, it'd be an injured or elderly adult animal that needed assistance back to the safety of the pens and barn.

Growing up on the farm made tough and strong. The farm also taught me valuable lessons about life, survival, and courtesy. And since leaving the farm for the outside world, I've learned that not everyone shares my values and beliefs, so I try to be open minded. Still, some behavior continues to bother me, even though there was no intent to offend.

And while I kept my face calm and appeared relaxed, inside, I was cringing when I saw Banker reach into the fridge to take the bottle of wine he had brought to the party; and then he left the party, taking his bottle of wine with him! It was uncouth to take back something that you brought to share at the party; and it was worse to take it back home without sharing it with anyone. It was a faux pas where I come from. It's kind of rude! It was understood that the host would keep any leftover items meant to be shared at the party.

But then, I thought, maybe they do things differently where he was from. Maybe they didn't do host gifts or potlucks where he grew up. So I was willing to overlook him taking back his bottle of wine. And I was was also willing to forgive him for pestering me for arm wrestling rematches three and four. Again, I had no trouble beating him. Though, I refused a fifth rematch request, because now, it was getting ridiculous; and I didn't want to waste the evening arm wrestling when there were other fun things to do.

But what I could not overlook, however, was Banker's littering. I don't like litterbugs. He left his used cups and plates and plasticware all over the place, even though the trashcan was clearly present and obvious in the kitchen. It bothered me to see him just leaving his trash around carelessly, when he was just steps away from the trashcan. I wasn't sure if he was just lazy or filthy, but either one did not sit well with me. And it's hard to shake off a first impression, particularly an unfavorable one.

Nonetheless, I made an effort to excuse his behavior, hoping for things to improve. Maybe it was just a small misunderstanding. Everyone deserves a second chance. But our second meeting only confirmed my suspicions, and it did not end well.

I love the outdoors. That's no secret. So when a rare three day holiday weekend presented itself, I eagerly made plans to go camping and do some hiking, river tubing, and swimming. While other people were making plans to have BBQs and watch fireworks, I was headed out to the woods to experience and enjoy the wonders and adventures in nature.

Most times, I camp and hike alone; it's a very fun and rewarding endeavor. A few times, I'll go with friends. My best camping buddies live out of state. And every chance we get, we'd take trips to meet and explore some of the great national parks spread out across the nation. Whether solo or in a group, I love the outdoors adventure experience.

As much as I love going to the beach, spending the hot sunny days swimming and enjoying the cool water; or pass the clear nights under the stars and having fun around a bonfire; sometimes, I just feel the need to head into the deep woods and up the mighty mountains to explore the natural marvels and challenge myself to climb higher and go farther, to conquer new heights and cover longer distances.

There's something very primal and exhilarating about pushing yourself to the limits, breaking through the walls of exhaustion, and reveling in the thrill and overwhelming joy of making it to the top and surviving a grueling ordeal to reach a little bit of paradise. It's a cathartic, spiritual experience to know that you can go farther, you are a lot stronger, and you are so much hardier than you realize. You are a warrior! And it's an amazing event when it all happens in the majesty and splendor of nature.

So I was quite happy to plan my three day weekend camping adventure. Planning and preparation are the key to any successful venture. And this particular venture was special, and I wanted it to be a resounding success. I was just starting to get to know someone new, and I was pleasantly surprised when she accepted my invitation to spend the three day holiday weekend hiking and camping.

A beautiful woman is a gemstone. And a beautiful woman who enjoys nature and the outdoors is a rare and most precious jewel. So I wanted things to go great. I wanted her to have a good time. This was our first romantic getaway, and I wanted it to be fantastic.

I made camp reservations four weeks in advance. I knew a great spot with awesome views, and I wanted to claim it before the holiday weekend rush. I had the maps and gear checked and ready a week before the holiday. And I had supplies and water stocked and inventoried four days before departure. I packed a standard medical kit and other essentials necessary for a safe, enjoyable experience.

I pack mostly canned and some dry goods so I don't have to worry about refrigeration or animals getting into the food. Also, if a wild animal tried to attack me, I figured throwing a heavy can at it would hurt it just as much as throwing a heavy rock.

When I was ten years old, I was walking home with a bag of groceries when suddenly, a large, wild, stray, feral dog came out from behind a large dumpster, growled and started running towards me. I was scared as hell as that dog came barreling down at me with large teeth baring and mouth foaming. The only thing that I could think of was to reach into the bag, grab a can of ravioli, and throw it really hard at the attacking dog.

The can hit the dog right on the head, knocked it to the ground, where it lay for a few seconds. Then it got back up, unsteadily, shook its head, steadied itself, then it turned and ran away. My heart was pounding, my hands were still shaking as I bent down to retrieve that can of ravioli. I quickly made my way home, all while warily keeping an eye out in case that crazy dog came attacking again.

Luckily, I made it home safely. I told my Mom what happened, and she called the police. The cops and animal welfare were all ready in the area, as the dog was suspected of biting someone else earlier in the day. They caught the dog and it was sadly discovered that the dog was very sick and had to be put down. The person who had been bitten was treated at the hospital and eventually recovered.

I was very lucky that can of ravioli was sturdy and strong enough to serve as a projectile weapon that protected me from getting bitten. That can only had a few scratches and some dust on the paper label, the result of falling on the ground after hitting that wild, crazed dog. I gladly washed off the dust and grime and heartily enjoyed eating that can of ravioli for dinner that night.

To this day, whenever I go camping or stock up on emergency supplies, I make sure that I have some cans of ravioli on hand. Not only is canned ravioli delicious, but the sturdy cans themselves serve as wonderful weapons in case of emergencies.

I also bought some steaks and started marinating them the night before the camping trip. I planned to keep and transport the marinated steaks in a small cooler of dry and regular ice. The dry ice would keep the smaller cooler cold enough to safely keep the bag of marinated steaks cold on ice for at least two days. I figured grilled steaks would transform the usual camping chowtime routine and elevate it into a classy, al fresco dining experience.

I planned for a memorable, romantic getaway. I made sure to reserve a spot far away from the other campers, secluded but within close walking distance of the restrooms. I picked a spot with a great view of the sunset and valley and hills, just a short walk to the river, whose babbling would help mask any noise and provide some privacy.

In the small dry ice cooler went two quarts of pistachio ice cream--my camping partner's fave ice cream. I planned for a wonderful and fun camping adventure, full of pleasant surprises. I also bought some chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bars, and marshmallows to make s'mores around the campfire.

To set the mood, I bought a box of chocolate candies and two bottles of wine to celebrate. The wine would go in the big cooler with the 12 pack of beer cans, sports drinks, and two large gallon jugs of drinking water. I also packed my mood music mix to set the right ambience and put us into the right, relaxing, desired frame of mind.

And if things went well, I had some subtle, intoxicating, sweet, relaxing scented lotion that was great for sunburns and moisturizing. It was perfect for massages to work out the kinks, put the mind and body at ease, and take things up to the next level. I planned to make our first weekend away together a truly fantastic and spectacular event.

Yes, indeed, I had worked things out and made an excellent plan for a great, romantic holiday weekend escape. I had thought of everything to help bring two people closer together and share an intimate, enchanting experience. I had a great plan and prepared for a good time.

Unfortunately, life has an uncanny way of messing up plans, no matter how well prepared or well planned out they may be. As we were leaving town Thursday after work, I got a call from Pearl. She was back in town after a long work trip, and she'd heard from the others of my camping plans. She wanted to hang out with me and relax in the great outdoors. I knew the rest of the crew had scattered out of town for the holiday weekend, so I suspected that Pearl was alone.

I wondered if the others had told her that I wasn't camping alone. Surely those gossiping hens would've spilled the beans by now. It was no secret that I was dating someone new; I just hadn't introduced the crew to my new friend. There was no reason to and no rush. And frankly, I'm not the type to kiss and tell.

We were still in that new, discovery and exploration period. We had not yet reached that level where we would introduce ourselves to the other's intimate circle and wider social network. For now, we were just focused on getting to know each other better and enjoying each other's company.

This may seem selfish--okay, it was totally selfish--but I didn't want to hang out with Pearl. She was not part of my plans, and I worked way too hard to set up this holiday escape. So I told Pearl that I was all ready out of town--I wasn't. I was still within city limits for another five minutes, getting gas at the service station, about fifteen minutes from Pearl's place.

Pearl said she had her own car and just needed directions to the campgrounds. 'Dammit. She really wanted to go', I thought. So I tried another excuse. I told Pearl that I only packed one tent. Technically, it was true. Although I had two tarps and enough rope to construct a second tent, but I wasn't going to tell Pearl that.

She replied that she could go to my place and pick up my spare tent. 'Aw, frak!', I forgot that she knew about my second tent. And I cursed myself for giving her the key to my apartment a while back.

As a last ditch effort, I told Pearl that I didn't pack enough food for an extra person. That was a lie. I always over pack food, in case of emergencies or if I wanted to extend my stay as I often do when I really like a place.

But Pearl said it wasn't a problem. We could do a supply run. Inside, I screamed, 'Gawd dammit, woman, take a hint! I have other plans! And they don't include you!'

But then I felt guilty, because I was acting like a selfish, self-centered jerk. She was probably looking for comfort and a chance to recharge and relax, to hang out with a good friend after a stressful week of working in strange town, dealing with strangers, far from the comforts and safety of home. And here I was, giving into my gonads instead of listening to my heart. I was not being a good friend.

So I relented and gave Pearl the campground location and campsite number. Even though my gut was telling me 'Aw, hell, no!', I decided to go against my instincts and be a better, more thoughtful person. Well, I guess I'll just have to make it a good experience for the three of us this weekend.

Except it wasn't the three of us. Before she hung up, Pearl mentioned casually that she and Banker would join us at the campsite in a few hours. I was like, 'What? Banker's coming?'

Pearl just said yes, she and Banker would be joining us this weekend. The four of us could have a lot of fun doing things together. Inside my head, I was like, 'This ain't no couples retreat! This was supposed to be a romantic getaway for two! Not four!'

I knew that I should've listened to my gut! Every time I ignore my instincts and let someone else talk me into doing something that I didn't want to do, I usually end up regretting it. I should've stuck to my guns and did my own thing like I wanted. But it was too late now. And I had to make the best of it, even though a small part of me felt pissed off at the turn of events.

I finished fueling up the car, got in, and informed my friend about the changes in our plan. I apologized for the changes and unexpected additions, but my new friend was cool with it. And I felt a little better, knowing the two of us were in this together.

Two and a half hours later, we reached the campsite. We set up our tent and still had plenty of time to do a hike by the river, soak our feet for bit in the cool waters, and started roasting potatoes and getting the grill ready for steaks.

The diced, seasoned, and buttered potatoes would cook in the foil envelope over the grill for at least forty five minutes. And when they were done, six of the marinated steaks would only take around four to six minutes per side to cook. Then after letting the steaks rest for ten minutes, dinner would be ready. By the time the steaks were done and resting, the sun was beginning to sink gloriously in the distance.

I had chosen our location well. My friend was quite astounded at the stunning sunset, changing colors from yellow to orange, red, then pink and purple as it sank further down the far horizon. Our eyes locked on to each other, and her smile was as gorgeous as the vanishing sun, and I felt my heart beat a little faster, happy, content, at peace. It was a beautiful, intimate, enchanted moment, everything that I had hoped for.

And it was ruined the instant Pearl and Banker arrived, with Banker driving Pearl's car, and announcing their arrival by honking the car horn loudly! It totally broke the magic moment, and my serenity instantly transformed to irritation, climbing up to agitation and vexation. But I told myself to cool it, took a deep breath, and made introductions.

And while my friend, Pearl, and I started setting up the second tent and stowed gear, Banker excused himself to go use the restroom. Fifteen minutes later, the second tent was up and gear was stowed away properly. It was only then that I realized that while the three of us were busy working, that bastard Banker had been chowing down on the steaks and beer! He had eaten four of the six steaks, most of the four diced potatoes, and he had all ready drank two beers!

I was flabbergasted! This jackass had snuck off while we did all the hard work, then helped himself to the food without even waiting for us! I was pissed! And though I tried to hide it, I made eye contact with my friend, and she was raising an eyebrow, clearly stunned at Banker's behavior. But Pearl? She was oblivious! Not only was love blind, but in Pearl's case, it was deaf and dumb, too! She was either too blind to see what was happening or she didn't care!

But I cared! And I had to bite my tongue to keep from cursing out Banker! Dude, seriously? You don't bring any supplies, you don't help set up your sleeping tent, and then you just help yourself to all the food without waiting for the rest of us doing all the work!?! What the f*ck is wrong with you!?!

It took all my energy and will power to keep my mouth shut and keep my anger in check. Calm down, I told myself. Don't let this idiot ruin your weekend. But I was all ready dreading the thought of spending the rest of the weekend with this idiot.

But I pulled it all together. I was still a host, and I had two other guests to tend to. So I gave the girls the last two steaks and all the remaining potatoes. And while I was dishing out the remaining food, Banker was at the Pearl's car, talking on his cellphone, trying to get a strong cell signal.

As the girls ate, I told them to save room for dessert and went to fetch the pistachio ice cream. I scooped servings into two cups and gave one to each of the girls. My friend asked me to share her steak, but I said, No. She asked me what I was going to eat, and I told her that I was going to get a can of ravioli.

Good old canned ravioli. This was the good kind with the delicious, overstuffed meat filling and scrumptious thick sauce. It was the can with the pop up top--no can opener required! Awesome! And it was heavy, strong, and sturdy enough to use a projectile weapon.

And using it as a projectile weapon was exactly what my instincts were telling me to do. When I came back to the table after fetching the canned ravioli from the supplies, I found Banker eating out of the pistachio ice cream container! The jackass didn't even think to scoop out a serving into a cup. He just ate right out of the container, leaving me nothing! Oh, this thoughtless a$$hole was about to get clocked!

But instead of knocking some sense into that jackass, I focused on remaining calm. I didn't want to do anything to upset the girls, though I really wanted to cuss that a-hole out! I had a firm, tight grip on my can of ravioli, and I was just moments from launching it at Banker's f*cked up head. But one look at my friend's raised eyebrow and I pulled myself together.

I calmed myself down and managed to eat my cold can of tasty ravioli. It was no steak and potatoes. But it was still good enough to eat. By the time the rest of us were done eating, Banker had downed three beers. And I made it a point to tell him that the recycling bin was by the restroom, so he could dispose of his empty beer cans there. He just nodded nonchalantly and muttered an insincere, Sure. And I had to rein in my immediate instinct to punch him hard in the face!

But I resisted that justified urge and finished my can of cold ravioli. The girls were eating their ice cream; and since the campfire was still burning, I went to fetch the s'more supplies. I figured some s'mores might make things better. This was a camping trip after all.

But when I got back to the fire with the s'more supplies, things didn't get any better. In fact, they were worse! I returned to the sight of that bastard Banker, chugging on one of the wine bottles! Straight from the mouth, not bothering to use a cup or even offering us a drink. He just stopped chugging my wine long enough to say, "Wow! This is some good wine."

Inside my head, I screamed, 'You're damn right, it's some good wine! That's why I bought it! And I didn't buy it for you, you piece of crap!' Oh, this was it! I was ticked! I was about to let loose and cuss that a-hole out when I suddenly felt my friend's hands grab mine and gave them a gentle squeeze. She looked me in the eye, and I was able to calm down before she took the s'more supplies and divvied them out. She insisted on roasting my marshmallow for me, saying that I all ready had done enough for them, and I needed to just sit down and relax.

That was a very sweet thing to say and do. But honestly, I think she was worried I might stab Banker with the pointy end of my roasting stick. And she was right. Because not only would I've stabbed him, I'd've beat him senseless with that stick!

But I felt so much better when she fixed me some s'mores, and I washed it down with a beer. We decided to make plans for the next day. I told them that I wanted to wake up early for a fast breakfast, and then hike the nearby eastern hills at dawn. If we made it to the hilltop early enough, we'd witness a spectacular sunrise.

Then we'd make our way north along a challenging path through the rugged terrain until we came to a tributary. We'd follow that river down to the main river and hike back to camp. We would see some fantastic sights on the way. I figured that if we hustled, we could be back before noon before the sun got too hot. We could eat lunch and cool off in the river by midday.

That was the plan we agreed on. And that was as far as I willing to plan ahead. I didn't even want to think about spending any more time than necessary in Banker's company. I figured we could do this one activity together, then we could split off and do our own thing. I was going to salvage what remained of my romantic plans and figure out a way to enjoy the rest of the three day weekend.

I was jolted out of my thoughts by the sudden loud snoring of Banker, who had passed out drunk. He managed to drink most of the wine and was now incapacitated at the picnic table! This idiot! He managed to irk me once more, even while he was unconscious!

I tried to hoist him up, but his legs were jelly and he was unable to comply. Then he started drooling! I was tempted to leave him at the table. F*ck him! Leave his stupid ass where he passed out. But then I thought better of it and ended up carrying him fireman style to his sleeping tent, where Pearl had rolled out the sleeping bags and was waiting.

When I returned to the picnic table, I found my friend cleaning up, and it pissed me off because she cleaning up Banker's mess! The plates, cups, utensils he used and his empty beer cans and the wine bottle were strewn all over the table. I was furious! I was about to go wake that lazy, filthy drunk up with a kick, or at least pour a bucket of cold river water over his head.

But then my friend grabbed my hand, squeezed it, and I let that homicidal urge to eliminate Banker pass. We cleaned up the place, discarded the trash and recycling properly. Then we extinguished the fire. My friend said that she was impressed with how patient I was.

I confessed that I wasn't patient at all. And the only reason why I hadn't exploded and kicked Banker's inconsiderate ass was because I was trying really hard to be courteous and not cause a scene.

My friend laughed and said that she could tell. And she was impressed that I was putting up with all this crap, just so I could be a good host to her and be a good friend to Pearl. I sighed, and she suddenly took hold of my face, leaned in and kissed me.

It was a magical kiss that took my breath away. And all the anger and tension left my body. She pulled back, smiled at me, and suggested we go for a walk by the river. We found a secluded spot and sat down to enjoy the clear night skies, marveling at the innumerable, sparkling stars and mesmerized by the ethereal moonlight dancing on the river's ephemeral, shimmering surface. So the night wasn't a total loss. And though our plans to spend a weekend alone had changed dramatically, we were still able to get back on track and create a memorable, blissful night.

The next day, my alarm woke us up before dawn. The morning was a bit chilly as I made my way over to wake up Pearl and Banker. Honestly, I was kind of hoping they'd be too tired to join us on our sunrise hike. But they surprised me by getting up. And armed with a breakfast of chocolate pudding cups, cheese and peanut butter and crackers, we made our way up the hills with some headlamps.

Just over a half hour later, we had reached the top. The skies were lightening up. But we still had time to sit down on the rocks and oohed and ahhed as the sun began to rise and climb the skies. The rush and mix of colors were magnificent as silver stars faded away with the purple night.

Lavender, pink, orange, and red light streaked across the skies and painted the hills resplendent colors for a few moments. Then the sun ascended higher, and the skies became blue with white clouds sailing upon the invisible winds of high. The hills and mountains revealed their earthy, rich colors, as the forests, deep with shades of green, awoke to the bright rays dancing upon the many varieties of leaves. Songbirds filled the air with their cheerful, lively singing, heralding the beginning of another new day. It was a serene and tranquil feeling, this new day. And I was hopeful that maybe things would get better from here on out.

It started out pleasantly enough, but as we started hiking, things began to sour. It began when Banker challenged me to climb a tall boulder. I made the mistake of telling him that I had done it before on a previous trip. But he doubted me and insisted that I prove him wrong. Ordinarily, I would've just ignored him. But I was fed up with his crap. So I climbed the boulder to shut him up. When I got back down, he tried to ascend the boulder, but he couldn't, and he kept ignoring my advice. Finally, the girls went ahead of us, and we followed them soon after.

When we got to a particularly steep hillside, Banker refused to take the long, winding switchback trails. He insisted that climbing straight was much faster. And he had a point. The shortest distance between two points was a straight line.

Unfortunately, the straight path he wanted to take was extremely steep and it cut across unstable terrain. I warned him to stay on the switchbacks. I told him the park rangers were adamant we stay on the trails. But he didn't listen. And while we trekked up the long winding switchbacks, he tried to climb vertical. He made it six feet before the rocks became loose under his feet, causing him to slip and slide downward on a small landslide!

He landed on his butt, buried under inches of dirt, gravel, leaves, and rocks. For a second, I was worried he might've injured himself. And a small evil part of me expressed glee. But I managed to holler out quickly, asking if he was okay.

He stood up, dusted himself off, and said he was fine. Then we waited several minutes for him to catch up with us on the trail. I wasn't going to make an effort to go down to get his stupid ass. And the girls seemed perfectly content to wait for him to catch up. At this point, the steep trails and rugged landscape was proving quite a challenge. We were sweating and breathing hard, fighting gravity and the rough terrain as we worked our way up the trail. So waiting for Banker to catch up was the perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a break.

After a short break in the shadows of the trees on the hillside, we trekked on and eventually found the canyon where the tributary flowed. This was the halfway point. We'd follow the tributary down to the main river, then we'd follow the river down towards camp.

The path down was just as steep as the other parts of the trail. But the downward trail was made more treacherous in some parts, especially areas where the spray from the tributary had made the rocks slippery with algae and mud. And when we finally reached the bottom of the canyon, our path down river was blocked by a huge boulder.

The last time that I took this path, I waded into the river to get around the boulder. So I suggested we do the same. But Banker challenged me, saying we should just climb over the boulder instead of getting ourselves wet in the water. I told him that the wading in the river wasn't hard. But he argued that climbing the boulder was faster.

That may be true, I conceded, but I told him that if you try to climb the boulder, you're going to end up rubbing up against the poison ivy that draped over the top of the boulder. Hearing that the tree spread out on the top of the boulder was poison ivy convinced the girls that wading in the hip deep waters was a better option.

But Banker, he refused to listen. He wanted to know how I knew that the tree was poison ivy. I told him it has leaves of three, so leave them be. And more importantly, the last time I was here, the rangers had warned us about the poison ivy along the trails, including this one.

Banker looked at me, mulling things over. Then he surprised us by reaching up, grabbing a handful of leaves and then rubbed them in his hands!

We gasped! Dude, what're doing? He looked at his hands for a few seconds, then he declared that it wasn't poison ivy. It was just a normal plant. Then he ignored our advice and climbed up the boulder. Up there, he brushed up against the leaves. And still, he stood taller and declared, "See? It's just a regular plant. Not poison ivy at all. I had poison ivy a long time ago as a kid, and it was a fast reaction. This plant looks nothing like the one that I ran into when I was a kid."

As if to prove a point, he grabbed a handful of leaves and rubbed them on his face! We gasped again. But he laughed then climbed down the other side of the boulder as we waded in the cold river to get around the huge boulder.

When we got out of the river and back on the trail, Banker seemed to be in high spirits, laughing at how we were soaked and should've just climbed the boulder. He was emboldened by conquering that tall boulder, and he led our way back towards camp.

An hour later, we reached camp. It was about ten in the morning. The sun was getting hotter. And the three of us laid out our wet socks and shoes to dry in the sun. We were wearing slippers (flip flops or thongs or sandals in other countries). Banker was by the car, talking on his phone as we started to make lunch. We had ravioli cans and soup cans and stew cans. The only thing we were debating was whether we ought to light up a camp stove to warm up the food or just pop open the cans and eat them cold.

But our lunch debate was put on hold when my friend gasped and pointed out to Banker. His face was red and swelling! And his hands showed a red rash! He was having a poison ivy reaction!

I told him to stand where he was and take off his shirt, where he had rubbed up against the poison ivy. I told the girls not to touch him or his clothes. I grabbed a tube of hydrocortisone from my med kit along with some gloves. I told him to stand still while I applied the cream to his face and arms.

I told Pearl to grab a blanket and throw it in the back of the car. We were taking Banker to the hospital, because I had never seen anyone's face swell up from poison ivy before. Banker protested but I ignored him. I was worried his reaction might get worse. Banker got into the back of the car, and I warned Pearl not to touch him, because he still could've poison ivy irritant on him.

My friend hopped into the front seat. I got in the driver's seat, and within ten minutes, we were in the emergency room. Banker was taken in immediately for treatment. His face had swelled up even more!

It was a very stressful time for us, especially for Pearl as we anxiously awaited news of Banker's progress. The doctor and staff told us that he was in good hands and getting treatment.

Two hours later we were relieved to see Banker's condition had improved. Though his eyes were still a bit puffy and there was some residual redness on his arms, the doctor assured us that he was safe to be released to recover at home.

And so we decided to make sure that Banker would get home where he'd recover and find relief using his prescribed medication. I told Pearl to stay with Banker while my friend and I would head back to pack up.

Half an hour later, we were back at the hospital. The aide helped Banker to the car using a wheelchair. He didn't need it, but it was hospital policy to discharge patients and transport them to their vehicles using a wheelchair.

After settling Banker in the front passenger seat and buckling him in, I gave Pearl her car keys back. Pearl got in the driver's seat. I gave her a small bag with a tube of hydrocortisone, just in case of a poison ivy reaction, and a can of ravioli with some cheese and crackers snacks, in case she got hungry and didn't feel like stopping somewhere to eat. I also gave her a map and told her to follow us. We would take her as far as the interstate, then she could drive home from there without any problems.

Pearl started the car, then she paused and asked, "Wait. Why can't I just follow you all the way home?"

So I said, "Oh, we're not going home. We're headed back to camp. But we want to make sure you reach the interstate. And from there, it's a straight shot to home."

Pearl's mouth dropped open. I assured her, "Don't worry. You'll be fine once we reach the interstate. You've driven it many times before, so you won't have any problems getting home."

Flash forward to the BBQ and Pearl was telling the others, "And that's exactly what he did. He just led me as far as the interstate, then he exited and left me to drive all by myself. That was a long three hour drive!"

"It's only a two and a half hour drive," I interjected.

She glared at me and declared, "You ditched me in my hour of need!"

I said, "If I recall, it was your boyfriend who needed medical attention. You were perfectly fine to drive. What exactly did you need?"

Pearl glared at me and said, "I needed comforting and support!"

"You weren't the one who got hurt," I said.

"I was stressed out!", she argued.

"We all were," I replied.

"I was looking for some kindness and some help from my friend!", she said.

"And you got that help," I said.

She looked at me like I was crazy and demanded, "What help did you give me? You left me with nothing!"

I gasped with disbelief and said, "I left you a map to get you home. I gave you a tube of hydrocortisone, in case you needed it. And a can of ravioli--the good kind!--with some cheese and crackers, in case you got hungry!"

At this point, the others were laughing as Pearl glared at me. "You ditched me to go off f*cking!"

I was taken aback by her outburst, "You make it sound like I did something wicked and sinful and filthy! Like I'm some sort of shameless, debauched miscreant!", I paused for a moment, then proudly said, "Thank you."

And I held my head up high and marched over to the cooler to get myself another beer. The others were laughing but Pearl was ticked, "You were a selfish a$$hole!"

So I replied, "Your boyfriend was the selfish a$$hole. And anyway, I still don't see how your break up was my fault."

Pearl argued, "You put me in a position that ruined my relationship!"

I didn't get it, "Come again?"

Pearl continued, "I wasn't ready to be put on the spot and be forced to take care of him that weekend. Both of us weren't ready for that level of commitment! And that whole situation reflected badly and made me see the worst of him! He wasn't in the best shape that weekend. And by the second day, all I could think off was what a whinny baby he turned out to be! And I felt guilty for thinking those thoughts. And after seeing him at his worst, there was no way we were going to stay together."

"Well it sounds like I did you a favor," I said, "I saved you from dating a man-baby!"

"You put me in a bad situation that I wasn't ready for", she claimed. "And when I was going crazy and tried calling you, you didn't answer any of my calls or texts! Probably because you're too busy f*cking around to take my calls!"

No argument here, so I just shrugged nonchalantly. "I still don't see how it's any of my fault. That dude was a tool and a jackass. He brought that crap on himself. Anyway, I don't get why you blame me for your poor dating choices."

"I'm blaming you for putting me in a bad situation! I wasn't ready for that level of commitment," Pearl argued,"but you abandoned me to go off and f*ck around when I needed help to think things through, and I needed help to sort through all the sh*t that was going down!"

"I still don't see why it's my responsibility to fix your relationship problems," I defended, "You picked the guy. You were dating him, so you were responsible for him."

"It's not about fixing my relationship problems!," exclaimed Pearl. "It's about you, seeing me in a tough situation, but then abandoning me on my own while you go off to f*ck around while I'm stuck and stressed out! As my friend, you should've known that I needed you to drop everything and help me with my injured boyfriend, not ditch me to f*ck around!"

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said. "We seem to have had a miscommunication. I'm not a psychic, you know. If you want something from me, just tell me what you want, because I don't read minds nor pick up hints. Seriously, if you need my help, then just ask for it!"

"And just so we're clear, " I continued, "If it's a choice between me helping you sort out your relationship problems or me getting laid. I want you to know this," I paused to make sure that I had everyone attention, "I will always choose to get laid over helping you sort through your crazy relationship problems! Always!"

The guys thought that was hilarious! The girls, not so much. And they expressed their displeasure by throwing things at me. Luckily, they had terrible aim and I was able to duck most of the objects thrown at me.

"You see," said Star, "That's your problem right there. You say things that you shouldn't, and take action that ends up affecting everyone, and you do so without thinking or caring about the impact you have. The things you say and freely do affect us. And your words and actions set us up in situations that lead to breakups and heartaches!"

And so Star told her tale of how I carelessly and thoughtlessly ruined her last relationship.

Related Links

It's the Most Stressful Time of the Year
Love Bites: Chapter 1 Toast


  1. There you have it... I rest my case. When you come from a position of truth it's hard for others not to respond with anger or hurt... Stick with your personal authenticity and leave it to others to sort out their own emotional immaturity... Banker was a total arsehole and you showed an extreme level of tolerance and maturity in continuing to try and make the best of what was seemingly a very intolerable situation for everyone...

    1. Princess, You're right about being authentic and true to yourself--I'm so much happier being me than pretending to be someone else to accommodate others.

      I try to treat people the way I would like to be treated. But there a few who need to be treated like the crap that they are--discarded and disposed of.

  2. I hope Pearl later thought about Banker's actions & attitude (both at the party and camping) and let you know she understood how patient you were and why you did what you did?

    1. IDV, Pearl was just embarrassed that she hooked up with an idiot; and she didn't like being ditched. And I told her that I didn't like being interrupted in the middle of a romantic getaway.