Thruhiker: Day 0

We were going to get married, but we didn’t. I’m glad. I’m OK with being somebody’s girlfriend, or even somebody’s lover, but I don’t want to be anybody’s wife.

After my boyfriend moved out, I sold everything. Bought my Osprey Arial AG 55 pack, my ultra-light quilt, a Tarptent, rose-purple Salomon shoes, a few pairs of socks, shorts, t-shirts. Water bottles. Cliff bars. I am ready to go.

I’m hiking the Cross Country Scenic Trail, affectionately known to thruhikers as C2C, corner-to-corner, because it runs from the southeast corner of the nation to the northwest corner.

The trail is 2,055 miles. If I hike 20 miles a day (and the serious thruhikers do upwards of 30), it will take me nearly 103 days. That’s only three months.

I’ve downloaded the Guthook app, so I can scope out the best tent sites and places for water. Hikers post comments, too, so I’ll be able to keep up with the latest conditions.

I guess it’s so millennial to be hiking with a phone. My dad, he hiked this trail when he was a little younger than I am. Of course, he didn’t have a phone, except for the payphones at ranger stations or refill stops along the way.

I don’t have any timeline, except that dictated by the seasons and their weather. I don’t have any place I have to get to, except the next tent site, and the one after that, until I get to the end of the trail.

It can take me three months. It can take me five. It could even take six, but after that, the weather will start to get cold up north.

The point is that it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got my gear. I’ve stocked up on food. I’ve set up my tent in our old bedroom, and I’m sleeping in it tonight, to get used to it.

Tomorrow, when I wake up, I pack my tent, I pack my supplies, and then I leave my apartment. I drop off the keys with the manager. And I’m off. I’m hiking across the country, and I’m leaving all this–all of it–behind.

Author’s note: Hey, what’s this? It’s a new SimLit series! I’ve been inspired by a thruhiker’s blog, Roaming Wild Rosie, which tracks her route along the Pacific Crest Trail (which happened to be one of my dad’s favorite trails and one I grew up hiking sections of). I can’t really take five months away from my job and home to hike the trail, so I thought I’d send a Sim on a trek. Maisie Santos will be traveling by foot from Willow Creek all the way to Brindleton Bay, and in my imagination, that’s from the southeast corner of the Sim continent to the northwest. Let’s say it’s 2055 miles. She’s blogging her adventures on the trail, and I hope you come along for the journey!

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Eight Pieces: Fragments

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After her husband of thirty years left her droopy old self for some perky thing half her age, Kristal Kraft faced the empty space that stretched before her the way many do: She filled it with the old dream dredged from the recesses of freedom she abandoned when she married that jerk.

She would finally find her talent.

She would become an artist.

She googled “artist hideaway retreat three months availability someplace secluded,” and on the second page of listings she found what she was looking for: a small, simple studio cabin near the plaza of Santa Maria, El Selvadora.

She subleased her home for the winter to a visiting professor, and by mid-January, she found herself in the tropics, walking the path to her cabin.

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It hit her then that she was alone, in a town where she knew no one and barely spoke the language.

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The cabin was simple, but, as advertised, well-appointed for the visual artist, with a fancy tea-maker, three easels, and stacks of canvases. She’d brought her own brushes and oils, but the agency provided the Turpenoid in 2 liter bottles and a can of linseed oil.

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The light felt like cream and the shadows like velvet. She chose a larger canvas and set it on the easel on the porch.

The cabin stood in a small clearing, with the jungle pressing in around it. Her thoughts felt like this, tangled, confused, one wrapping around the other, choking off its growth. The softness was there, the cream and velvet, but it only draped the pain and hint of terror underneath.

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She truly was alone.

There had been an afternoon, when she was eighteen, during a summer spent at her grandparents’ cabin in the rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. The grandparents had gone into the city for some reason, and she’d stayed behind to paint. She painted the forest, with ferns and huckleberries, lichens, moss, and cedar. The painting had felt like this one, overcrowded, without a focal point, a jumble of shape and texture, lacking contrast. But she had liked it. It showed how she felt inside.

This one did, too.

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OK. She was a mess, she admitted it. It was OK to be a mess after your husband becomes your ex. It’s OK to be angry, sad, lost, confused, afraid, and also, maybe a little bit excited. Maybe a little determined. Maybe a lot stubborn.

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Maybe it was OK to pull out those pieces that had been forgotten about for decades, to look at them in their jumbled mess, and to begin to consider where each piece might rightfully belong, to slowly put the fragments back together again.

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Author’s note: It’s a new bonus short! Eight chapters, an artist finding herself at last, and lots of pretty jungle pictures! 🙂

Whisper 2.09

Hi, Riley!

I’m here! I’m at college! And guess what? I’m staying in Mom’s old dorm!

And guess what else? All her old art is still on the walls and the walkway. I guess she’s like some famous celebrity-artist alumni, so they’re leaving up her art for posterity. I think it’s so awesome.

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So college is really cool.

At orientation, I met some of the other students.

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Man, you wouldn’t believe how cool some of them are.

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I met this one girl from Bridgeport. She has the greatest style. She was wearing cargo pants, layered tanks, and–get this–sandals. And a big classy hot-looking belt with a huge buckle. Wow.

It takes somebody really confident to pull of that look. And that’s Jaclyn. Confident and… well, you fill in the blanks!

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Riding home from orientation, it hit me: I’m here!

College is all about discovering yourself, right? Or at least, that’s how I feel. You’ve already discovered yourself!

But me? I’m just figuring out who I am, what I’m all about. That’s the college experience.

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I guess my dorm mates are OK. OK, they’re weird! But heck. Who’s not weird?

This one guy was dressed like some sifu, and he sat next to me at supper. Didn’t say a word. Just sat there, with a concentrated look on his face. I asked him if he was meditating, and he mumbled something, and then dove into his tofu dog. Oh, boy. People are strange.

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After supper, I got a phone call and it was some guy inviting me to a party! I hadn’t even met the guy! But get this! He knew Mom!

His name was Mahmoud something, and he’d actually gone to school with Mom. He never left town, even after graduating. Still lives in the same frat he lived in back when he was a student. I was so tempted to go, just to meet someone who had that connection with Mom.

But I was so tired. And I had classes early the next day. So, I declined.

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Oh! Guess what? I’m even staying in Mom’s old room! I’m using her easel and sleeping in her bed! It’s sort of weird, but also…. Well. I guess you could say that it comforts me. I mean, I don’t feel so alone, and I don’t miss you and everybody so much when I feel Mom all around me like that.

Do you think it’s funny that connections are so important to me?

I mean, I’m always acting so independent and everything. But Riley, I’m not really independent. It’s just that I’ve got you and everybody at home supporting me, and that makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

But actually, sometimes, when it’s late at night, and no one’s looking, and I’m all alone, I feel sort of… not really lost, but sort of alone. I guess that’s why I wanted you to come with me, so I could keep pretending to be brave.

Don’t worry! I’m not guilt-tripping you! I’m glad for you that you did what you want.

It’s just that I’m also really, really grateful that I get to sleep in Mom’s old room because it makes me feel a little less like a bunny in a basket dropped on somebody’s doorstep twenty years ago…

Anyway. Enough of that.

So I woke up super early on my first day of classes. I was so excited. It was pouring down rain, which made me so happy since it felt like home, only warmer, and then I raced to my class.

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Class was cool. The prof is from Champs Les Sims, and he talks with a really strong accent. I felt like raising my hand and asking, “Ou est la fromage, c’est vous plais?” LOL! But I didn’t. I refrained. Because, you know. Manners.

I’m trying really hard to make a good impression on all my professors. Plus, it’s interesting. Did you know that CĂ©zanne strove not to copy nature, but to recreate it, trying to produce “a harmony parallel to nature?” I think that’s awesome. It answers something I always wondered about, which is, now that we have photography, what’s the purpose of painting? And this gave me insight into the answer.

I’ve got a little bit of time in between classes, so I thought more about that while I was waiting for the next class to start.

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I’m taking such a full load that Mondays and Wednesdays are packed. I just go from class to class with, like I said, a little break in between to digest the material from one lecture before cramming in the stuff from the next.

Tuesday, I’ve just got a single class in the lecture hall, but the first Tuesday, I was so tired that I slept right up until class.

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At least I didn’t sleep through the lecture like some people!

I was so focused on taking notes. I want to remember everything!

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After the lecture, though, guess what? I got another phone call from another person who’d gone to school with Mom! She invited me to a party, too. Can you believe it? I was so surprised.

And you know what? This party, I’m going to. I want to meet this person who says she knew Mom back when they were both crazy rebels and anarchists. Did you know Mom was an anarchist? I didn’t either! I wonder if it’s true…

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Well, I’d better stop writing if I’m gonna make it to that party. Man, I miss you so much!

Did you make the special beef food for Zoey and Roxy? Give them lots of pets and snuggles from me. Tell Patches and Bo that I miss them and that I hope they’re not giving you a hard time.

And when you write, be sure to fill me in on everything that’s going on with you! I can’t stand not being there to hear everything right from your own lips as soon as it happens. Of course, it’s not like you ever did share all your secrets with me, you rascal!

Anyway, love you lots. Miss you and the fam.

Be good. Have fun.

Dang, I really better go or I’ll be late for that party.

OK.

Bye.

Love you lots,

Mari

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Skill U: 6.7

Honey W. | V.W. Estate

Week Six, Day Seven – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

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One thing I’ve discovered during my “discovering me” project is that I like to face forward. Rather than looking back, I like to stand facing the horizon, looking into the oncoming current of time.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that when it comes to men, I’m clueless.

My own feelings of attraction puzzle me. Well, it’s not so much the feelings–it’s who activates those feelings. Married men are off limits, right?

Yesterday during my workout, I noticed that Geoffrey Landgraab had come over to watch. I immediately started focusing on my form.

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I was feeling pretty good.

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I glanced over at him, and that’s when it struck me.

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I was flirting. I was flirting with a married man. Not only that, he’s my dad’s age. Or older.

Crum. Am I attracted to older married men?

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A little while later, when we’d moved over to the weight machine, Don waltzes by, wearing just a towel. Seriously?

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And there was Geoffrey again, standing there with a smile, watching while I did leg curls. Fortunately, Kaylee had set the stack to a really heavy weight, so I had to concentrate to complete my reps, but I saw out of the corner of my eye that Kaylee was quietly chuckling to herself. Close the open book, I kept reminding myself.

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Next thing I knew, Nancy Landgraab was there and Geoffrey had wandered off. Move along, nothing to see here, I felt like saying.

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And then Don comes back down the stairs.

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And he is wearing the cheesiest grin when he walks right between me and Kaylee.

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I read in the paper this morning that he and the other fitness trainer were getting married, and I’d remembered seeing her upstairs in the gym that day, so I guess his cheesy grin and bath towel had nothing to do with me at all, which is a huge relief. If I’m clueless about men, I don’t want somebody who’s never been clueless to be the one to bring me into that whole world.

After the workout, Kaylee suggested that we head over to Lady’s Night at the Llama. It sounded like fun.

“You might meet somebody cool,” she said.

She left as soon as we got there. “Man, I’m really bushed,” she said. “Besides, look! There’s Jacques! See? Somebody you know!”

And there was Jacques, there for his club meeting, wearing his hearty boxers and bunny slippers. And he’d been so good about dressing appropriately, lately.

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Of course, Nancy Landgraab was there for Lady’s Night.

“Haven’t you heard of ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service?'” she moaned. “And what about ‘no pants’?”

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But no one else seemed to mind Jacques’ apparel. Everybody knows the Villareals, after all.

I had a pretty good time. No guys showed up, and I didn’t really talk with any of the women except for the bartender, but they’ve got this amazing jukebox there, so it was fun night, after all. I hardly ever go out. I can see why–it wasn’t all that fun–but still, it was fun enough for a now-and-then type of thing.

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Saturday, we were all bushed. In the afternoon, all of us except Max took long naps. Hugo didn’t even change out of his work clothes–just crashed right there on the sofa.

I had a wish to talk with my friend Charles. I don’t know him that well, but I’d like to get to know him better. I invited him over.

After chatting a bit, he and Max danced. Max had these new moves he wanted to show him. And I worked out.

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It’s the last day of my term of discovery. During senior year, I’ll have an internship as a music performer. I’m hoping to get to play with a quartet or maybe even a symphony, but Dr. Dean says a lot of the time, I’ll just be playing solo gigs at private parties.

That’s ok–at least I’ll be playing music and getting a head start on my career.

So, I’m not that sure what I’ve discovered about myself. I learned that I like to have a goal to work towards. I learned that I make friends easily, but I’m really not all that social. And I’ve learned that I am completely inexperienced and oblivious when it comes to romance.

I’ve also learned that I like to face forward. When I look back, I get a little nostalgic. But when I turn around and greet each day, I see life spreading out before me, inviting me with an inquisitive look. What does life want today?

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