I watched as the packer saddled up my mule at Bright Angel trailhead. I’d crammed my whole pitiful history into those stuff sacks. I’d reduced my life into what could be carried on a beast of burden with an I.Q. of maybe 2. My darting eyes lingered only for Crawford. I’d met him on an online dating site for outdoor types. But what could I reasonably expect from an online service that called itself Leftovers.com?
I’ll tell you what I could expect: 175 pounds of pink steel, blonde hair, and green eyes. I’d outweigh him by five pounds. Oh Jesus, what’ve I gotten myself into!?
You’re old, Lily. He’s youthful. Well, youthfuller than you, anyway. You’re 37 and well past the first standard deviation on the bell curve for childbearing. In fact, you yourself are a standard deviant, avalanching down the second slope of the bell curve.
Here he comes, that man with . . . the girlfriend. Whew! Not him. Good thing. He was too good looking, a cruiser in the Brad Pitt class of vessel. I’d have to leash him to the lamppost when I went into the Starbucks just to make sure no one nabbed him.
A lost little old man half-stumbled down the trail, bereft of his legal guardian. But then he spoke:
“Lily, it’s me. Crawford.”
“Well, the accent’s right. But about the only thing you have in common with Crawford is that you both appear to suffer from Britlisp. You’re Crawford’s grandfather, right? Crawford, the Elder, if that’s how you refer to those things on your side of the Gulf Stream.”
“I’m sorry, Lily. I misrepresented myself. I did.”
“But the picture.”
“Photos can be doctored, alas. You . . . altered yours, too.”
“My body may have been courtesy of Victoria’s Secret, but at least the photo of my face was taken in the same decade we’re in. You sent me a color pic of when you were forty-five. They didn’t have color back when you were forty-five. They probably didn’t even have photography. Do you know how much money I spent on this? Do you know how hard it was to get my editor to re-extend a deadline!? Did it ever occur to Your Heinous . . . . “
I looked around. Everyone was staring, even the mules. I dialed my volume down a few orders of magnitude.
“. . . .So. You’re Crawford. And I’m Lily. Only you’re not Crawford, and I’m not Lily.”
I held back a tear. He looked away during those few excruciating moments that made one understand why dating often took place in various states of inebriation.
“Lil, we should call it a day and head back to our respective worlds.”
“Y’all right, miss?” our mule packer drawled.
I nodded as he packed my gear onto the back of an ass. Who was the ass? That gear should’ve been on my back. I required Demerol, Vikadin, pound cake. I took in Crawford’s pear shape from the corner of my blue eye. His hips were wider than mine, goddamn it. And he had those little nodules on his eyelids that older men get.
Only Crawford’s voice matched my expectation: appropriately mellifluous for an Anglo aristocrat. I felt myself going down that slide again, the slide that would end in the consumption of two or three pints, and a depraved threesome: me and Ben, & Jerry, doing the Karmel Sutra.