This is the eleventh installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”. The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.
I met her for the first time on the outskirts of a small crowd listening to a bluegrass band. Old hippies and younger artisan types with their kids twirling in gypsy skirts and bare feet were all gathered around the group, playing with their back to a river in a Rocky Mountain canyon. I was in my infant days of wandering and still craved company after a few days in the wild, just to be around other people and be reassured that they lived and did things like listen to music or eat meals or dance with their kids. Once I had my fill or I drew (or was drawn) too close, I fled back to the wild again. My loner callouses had yet to harden.
I saw her standing there, leaning on a boulder under an aspen, watching. There was a golden glow about her from the fall aspen leaves and I thought of some Tolkien wood elf with a holy beauty beyond sex or desire. I was awestruck and, as I stood staring, music receding into the background, she looked at me and noticed and was aware of me. I felt like I had perverted something, being caught like that and I looked away. When I looked back she was already approaching. The only option at that point would be to turn and run. I was caught.
“What the hell are you looking at?”
“You were staring. Gaping. Yes, gaping at me. Groping me with your eyes. What the fuck is the matter with you?”
So maybe she was no Tolkien elf maiden.
“I…uh…I’ve been alone for awhile.”
“So you thought you could just stare and have me like some object or lawn ornament.”
“I…uh…mean that…I’ve been walking in the mountains. My social… are…uh…that’s to say. I’m feeling really awkward around people.”
“So you weren’t admiring me?”
“Well..uh..yeah but not like that.”
“Not like what?”
“Well…not like sexually.”
“You don’t think I’m sexy?”
“So you do want to have sex with me.”
“No. I don’t even know you!”
Now she smiled and I knew she was playing with me. I wasn’t amused. I tried a smile that I’m sure looked like a grimace.
“My name’s Kat,” she said. “And I live in this canyon.”
“I wander,” I said. “I live wherever.”
“Do you have a name?”
“No. Not anymore. I left it behind.”
She rolled her eyes. “So how should I address you?”
“Just call me, Dude.”
She shook her head. “Dude, let’s go smoke a joint down by the river.”
Later, I asked, “You live in this canyon?”
“Are you from this canyon?”
“No. I’m from Pennsylvania.”
She looked at the water, the slanting sun flashing off the rolling current, bluegrass music just audible from up and beyond.
“I’m in exile,” she said. “I hate the world and the people running it. Women haters, racists, shitty rich people. My whole family are shitty rich people. I chose to leave all that. There’s good people here and no one cares who or what your were. I’m home here.”
“Why are you wandering?”
“I can’t be around people. It hurts too much.”
“It hurts them or you?”
So we sat there by that river and I felt small and silly in my selfish wandering next to her stand against a shitty world. But it passed as we watched it get dark in the canyon.
We didn’t have sex that night. That would have to wait.
And I got no ESP into her thoughts or emotions. Nothing. She was beautiful, principled, and closed to me.
I fell in love that day by the river.