“No, did you bring any?” I asked Downtime a couple miles into our hike.
“Nope,” he answered.
I shook my head. We were on one of the Pacific islands, hiking the width of it, trying to reach a hidden beach one of the locals told us about. It was then we realized we had no water.
I use the word “hike” loosely; it was more of a climb. The island, after all, was a mountain range, and the only way to cross it was this single dirt road that went all sorts of up and down and over and across these mountains.
We didn’t have water. My pack weighed heavy, carrying two pairs of shoes, three books, a journal, a bunch of T-shirts, jeans, a towel, a soccer ball and (probably the only useful thing) a sleeping bag. Downtime’s pack held a tent, a sleeping bag, a few shirts and his camera.
A car drove by, and we stretched out our thumbs to hitch a ride. The car didn’t slow, but the woman had no problem rolling down her window and yelling out, “I can’t!”
“Can’t?” I pondered as the car sped off, kicking dust and dirt into our sweaty faces.
Downtime looked at me, disgruntled, “Damn it, August.”
August was the local who told us about the beach and assured us hitching a ride would be easy cheesy. He was a 60-something bartender. His name wasn’t actually August; it was just what we called him. I got the impression we were the first visitors he hadn’t hated in a while.
A few miles later, August’s words proved true, and a young posse of conservationists picked us up and drove us halfway to a small “town” that consisted of a playground, a horse ranch, a greenhouse and two houses.
There, a young girl gave us a couple bottles and showed us where we could fill them.
“Is there anything else you boys need?”
“Wanna give us a ride?”
She didn’t look back.
Probably half a mile later it smacked me right in the face, “What the [heck] are we going to eat?!”
We had no food. My pack was full of things useful to us while we had stayed in the town the days before, which were useless now. Downtime’s pack held two beers left over from the night before.
Of course not.
But I held firm to my belief that — having read Scott’s copies of Backpacker Magazine every time I took a seat in the past seven months — we would be just fine.
Several mountains later we reached the most spectacular beach I’ve ever laid eyes on. From a high cliff we had already seen the sunset once into the fog. Gorgeous. Soon we would see it again setting over the ocean’s tide as the fog pulled back. Eight-foot waves crashed down before us as whales danced and sang only meters away; the sand was charcoal-grey; the rocks black.
Through the generosity of a couple passersby, we started a fire. We unloaded our packs, drank our beers and sat quietly in the sand.
Years passed before a word was spoken.
If love ever painted a beach, that was it. I thought of someone I missed and turned to Downtime.
“I can’t believe I’m wasting this on you.”