For months, I'd been dropping canyons with two friends who, including myself, made up a love triangle after the fashion of bad formula romance—achingly, heart-breakingly bad.
Girl A likes Guy B, but Guy B likes Girl C, who's friends with Girl A and uninterested in Guy B, because she's really in love with Guy D!
I'm Girl A, by the way.
Now let's plop these characters into the most beautiful, dangerous, intimate of adventures together for days at a time. We go deep into the wild places—the hidden growing sanctuaries where only beasts and gods live.
We share food, water, shelter. Blood mingles, sweat pours and dampens shirts and chonies, bras come off, freeing bodies that work and play and laugh and smell together. These are the beautiful, sharp-edged moments. I listen to their voices dance—for I can't see them ahead of me around the bend in the river. The sun beats down. The creek is a glass snake, mottled with the deep green of the bank and the clear water sky. There is a rock in my shoe.
I come to these places with them because this is my home, and they are my companions. We work well together. He knows best the harsh embrace of this land. We've cultivated our own respect for it. She is brave, handsome, tall, and strong, with a smile like a moon crescent, white-radiant. No wonder he loves her.
When we cross the river and start the trail back, mosquito-stung and drowsy, I know I will not return to the Gila Wilderness with these two. I can't look at him without the pain of knowing.
I want to despise her. She doesn't love him, either.
I turn and take in the towers of crumbling cliffs through which we've traveled, the tangle of green summer growth. I see her hop the last of the river stones. The ash from last night's fire like a tattoo on the backs of her legs. She is a dark angel.
Grim, we face the city, and brace ourselves for reentry.
Click here to read "Reentry Meditation" in Black Heart Magazine.