David mumbles and I hiss, "Hey! Wake up! Do you hear that?" Then he's sitting up and we're both straining to hear. At first there's nothing, then footsteps and the sound of something being dragged. David unzips the front flap and shines the flashlight; we both stare out into the unyielding haze. Gradually, quietness descends and we fall back into uneasy sleep.
Early morning, I get up to pee, wander past the neighbor's campsite. The tent is flattened, silverware is scattered everywhere, and a single male form lays wrapped in a blanket on top of the picnic table. It is like staring into someone's living room after a party where uninvited frat boys showed up. I look around for the children's things, but see nothing. Domestic altercation or bear attack? The level of violence seems about the same. I look closer to make sure the human form is breathing.
Then, as much as I try not to, I stop and think about my own miserably failed marriage, the one I've been out of for three years but which still lurks behind my every mood swing. I think about the innumerable public fight scenes, the shouting at one another in movie theatres, the cold silences in the car before family visits. Waking at night with the steady pressure of unhappiness in my chest. I look at the campsite and a wave of anger towards the man on the picnic table rushes through me. I turn away gritting my teeth.
I'm not sure why I assume it must be his fault. There seems to be a recklessness in men that I have yet to encounter in women. The violence in women expends itself in self-blame, in inward spirals that don't usually cause tents to flatten. Men make the physical world, it seems, a tool of their anger, while women make it an accessory to their comfort.
Back at our campsite, David is boiling water for coffee and brushing his teeth. He has carefully set up face towels at the picnic table for place mats. I grin at him, and he raises his eyebrows. At this moment, beneath all the surface uncertainties, I sense a core of safety, a confidence in the limits of his recklessness. If everything is known in a relationship there is no movement, no suspense. This is not what I want. When David takes the toothbrush from his smiling mouth I ask him, "Hey, want to go look for our pennies?"
When we hike up, there they are, shining ovals flattened in the gravel.
When have you been reckless?