David can't keep his eyes on the road. He rests his cheekbone on the steering wheel as he drives, peering up, and I cradle the map on my knees. The highway runs along the river as though mimicking it, twisting back and forth, bubbling up over mountain passes and down again. Above us rise mountaintops of bare copper rock, mottled in gray light. The windows are flushed with pinprick mist, fragments of cloud litter the river bank.

This is the Mt. Baker wilderness area, two hours north of Seattle. The trunk of our car is full of borrowed camping goods. It's Labor Day weekend and the day before David's 29th birthday. Last week, David said he didn't want to wake up anywhere near the city on his birthday, so I suggested we go camping.

David has been quiet on the drive up, laughing politely at my puns about Labor Day and what his mother was doing 29 years ago. Occasionally he asks me if I want to make a pit stop, but I remind him I have an iron-clad bladder and he says it's one of the things he loves about me.

David is moving to New York in three months. This is one of the things we don't talk about. Other things we don't talk about include definitions of our relationship, how David feels about turning nigh well thirty, and how his family wanted him to be with them today, possibly his last birthday anywhere near Seattle. Instead David asks me about my shitty job. We anticipate pork chops and Scrabble later. We listen to Elvis Costello.

The map turns out to be useless, leading us past a mythical blue dot three miles downhill until we decide to turn around and go back to the last campground we passed. The only vacancy is closest to the highway, of course, but with direct access to the river, so we pay and set up camp. David is vastly and boyishly pleased by the ease with which this is accomplished; he hasn't camped much in the past few years and is newly amazed by the advances in tent technology. He dons a suede fedora he copped from his dad. The mist has coalesced into a light drizzle.