I face off with the mountains for my Fourth of July and decide once and for all that this must be a journey of Independence. I will forgive myself for my wantings, laugh at them when I can because of course they will still come up, and gently press forward without a man, without self-torment, devoted instead to a love affair with words.
The sky flutters and flashes with the distant flare of fireworks but I cannot see a single trick break above the ridgeline of the mountains or even the tallest tresses of the trees. I sit in near darkness on the deck, back leaning against a yellow pine post and stare deep into the night, through the thicket, in praise of the eastern slopes of the Black Mountains. Fireflies are my “bombs bursting in air” and the mountains go unmoved while the rest of humanity shutters and shakes with the need to entertain itself.
Today up at Joe’s farm I took life in stride, working steadily for four hours with the sweet, earthy apprentice who I will call Dorianne. “Life is hard up here,” she says, “without any other women to relate to.” I laugh a little, then nod in agreement telling her I have it easy because I come to the farm when I want and leave when I need my space. “The men up here talk in grunts or make no sounds at all, except to spit,” she says. “Like Joe and Riley. They just work, hard, all day. They sweat together and it’s as if they’re father and son or something.”
Later, I tap on the door of Joe’s cabin when it is time to leave and Buffy the golden dog pitter-patters to my feet, falling in a lump-of-dog-belly on the floor and asking for affection. Instead I find Riley, who is checking a concert schedule online for the evening’s festivities in BigCity, NC. We had tea together this morning during a break on the porch of the Herb Shop, and admittedly I felt relieved to work on the farm free from the storyline while still receiving the benefits of his husky presence. I noticed he was wearing cut-off Dickie’s shorts today and as he teased me about my coffee obsessions (a natural segue since we were sharing tea) and I tried not to stare. After, I dropped down to the lower gardens to finish my work and actually forgot about him for a little while.
I quickly touch base with Joe then make my way out the door, at which point Riley calls out, “Hey Katey, do you want to go to a punk show in BigCity tonight? I might-maybe go, but probably not.” He won’t look at me when he says this, but I walk back inside and put my hand on his back, noticing the tightness of muscles and grainy-salt texture of his clothing.
“Gimme a call, yeah, that might be good for me.”
“Ok, yeah, if I go,” he says unconvincingly.
But by then it doesn’t matter if we’ll end up going or not – or whether I’m even home if and when he calls. The point is that he asked, and that I didn’t have to obsess about it all morning in order for to receive a flattering invite. And as it turns out, Independence Day alone on my porch, toasting the mountains and their unshakeable stability (something to model after), was a better date than even Riley might have been, ruffled hair, mountain man mystique, and all.