Chapter 13: Our First Night Together
We walked back into camp, both naked and a little chilled by the deepening evening shadows. I walked straight to my tent, pulled my clothes sack out, and re-dressed. As soon as Kaitlyn saw what I was doing, she did the same.
“No tricks to keep me naked?” Kaitlyn taunted.
I smiled and replied, “No. I’m not a perv, or a zealot, or an ascetic. It’s getting cold here in this shady canyon, so it’s time to get some clothes on, simple as that.” Then I said, “Look, I didn’t bring any fire starting tools with me, and I’m mostly carrying natural fabrics and food. I purposely left behind all of my high-tech camping gear. I wanted to leave as small a tech footprint on this area as I could this weekend, so I didn’t have to walk out even farther away from my camp to do my working. I even took the lights off my bike. If I’d been out here alone tonight, I’d have just had a cold dinner, then read a book under a blanket until the light went too far down, then gone to sleep until first light. What was your plan?”
“Well,” she began, “I’d planned on gathering up a bit of deadwood to make a small fire so I could make some tea, then warm up the can of beans I’d brought. I hope my backpack full of camping gear isn’t what messed up your work this afternoon.”
“No, as I said, I think all the litter is the biggest problem. You were able to sneak up on me because I’m pretty good at focus now, and I was focusing deep as you were walking up on me.”
“Just like a guy,” she teased, “so focused on going deep.”
I grinned. “I think if I could have gotten past all of the unnatural bits scattered around here, I’d have noticed your camping gadgets and such as you’d walked into my working radius. A Zippo lighter has to be farther away from my working spot than a tee shirt to have the same amount of effect, for example. If you like, the lighter puts a bigger dent into the natural fabric, because it’s less natural and more technological, so it has to be farther away to smooth out to acceptably ‘flat’ again, like the old model of gravity visualized in terms of a rubber sheet. All that litter just poked hundreds of dents in the sheet, so your single big dent didn’t much signify.”
“Hmmm,” was all I got out of her with that monologue.
“I’m giving up on my original project for this trip. I’m going to have to clean up this canyon first, then the neighboring canyons, so why don’t we go with your plan? Me caveman. Og like fire. Fire gooood.”
She smiled and said, “Okay, I’ll start gathering deadwood.”
“Belay that,” I said. “I’ll gather the deadwood, you start working out the cooking arrangements. We’ll be using your food for the most part, so I need to be the one doing most of the labor to pay for it.”
“You don’t think teaching me magic was enough payment?”
“Well, I suppose, but I still think, ‘Your food, your task.’ I wouldn’t feel comfortable digging around in your bag, deciding what we’ll have; and what I brought doesn’t need to be cooked.”
She agreed, and we set about getting dinner sorted.
After dinner, Kaitlyn started looking a bit nervous.
“Spill it, shishya,” I demanded, mock seriously.
“Um, what were you thinking about the…ah…sleeping arrangements?”
“We each brought our own,” I pointed out. “I’m trying to be a gentleman and not invite you into my bed the first day we’ve been together. I don’t even know if we’re anything more than teacher and student at this point. For that matter, I don’t even know if we won’t just go our separate ways tomorrow.”
I couldn’t tell if she was relieved or disappointed. That’s one of the downsides of being on the spectrum; we end up decoding emotional states in others more by rote matching to learned patterns than by empathy, and this was not one of the areas I’d had a lot of study time in.
“Tell you what,” I offered, “I’m a guy, so of course I’m interested, but you make the first move. I intend to bed down in my own blanket tonight. Beyond that…que será, será.” That seemed to satisfy her.
I’ve done some glamping in my time, going out with a cot, air mattress, nice sleeping bag, a pillow…the whole works, very nearly the equal of my bed at home. We’ve got several great camping stores back in Moab to meet the needs of the tourists. Shortly after getting settled here, I’d gone a little crazy with my newfound wealth (by Indian standards) and bought a bunch of camping junk. This was before I discovered my magic. Now that stuff largely stays at home.
It’s not that I’m some kind of ascetic, disdaining comfort. It’s just that I wanted to do this stuff on my bike, and that meant there was a pretty sharp limit on how much weight I was willing to drag along. And, some of my fancier gear put some awfully big dents into the eco-field, to reuse my rubber sheet analogy; I’d have liked to read long into the dark night on my backlit tablet, and it’d be nice to be able to light up the whole campsite with my battery-powered lanterns, but it’d cost me in time, not just weight, because I’d have had to hike farther out away from it to work this afternoon, then I’d have had to spend the same amount of time hiking back.
Tonight, I was sleeping in a tube tent made out of a waterproof canvas tarp, with me wrapped in a 100% cotton sheet, and around that a woolen water-shedding blanket. I was going for all-natural fibers on this trip, as much as I could.
It was almost completely unlike sleeping at home. I didn’t even have a sleeping pad with me on this trip, wanting to minimize my use of synthetic fabrics, so all I had for padding under me was a bit of sand that had collected up here in a shallow depression in the rock shelf. I still kept the windows closed at night at home this early in the year, so I’d be getting a lot colder tonight, too. The only thing the two experiences had in common was that I was sleeping naked, as always.
Nevertheless, I’d worked hard enough today to slip into sleep easily.