Nineteen years old. I just can't believe it. I'm leaving for school in two months. I'll be all on my own. Shit. That is depressing. I've never worked, never had to cook, to clean. And now, I'll be all on my own. And I have no idea how to do any of the adult things that I should have learned by now. I've always appreciated my parents and how much they take care of me and my brother. But, now that I am about to be on my own, it just doesn't sound very enticing. I wonder if Aaron feels the same way.
Aaron is my twin brother by the way. We are prototypical middle class American kids. Our parents had upper management positions, until we were born, then my mother stepped down. She stayed home with us until we were in high school. After that she took a job at a pay cut doing administrative work for a local cellular phone company. But when were growing up she and our dad combined to make life wonderful.
I think ultimately that was the downfall. They just spent too much time taking care of us and ignoring themselves. Whenever we needed anything or wanted anything, they were there, working to make sure that we had it. We didn't have to worry about after school jobs, so we could hang out, play sports, do extracurricular activities. Afforded with the opportunity to be selfish, Aaron and I did what every teenager would do. Act selfishly!
But here we are now, in the mess that we're in. As I said before, my brother and I are nineteen and going off to college together. The real tough part of this is that my parents just separated. They sat us down and calmly told us that now that we were adults, they were planning on getting divorced. They had agreed three years before that they would wait until we graduated to do it.
We couldn't believe it! They seemed so happy around each other! Like the best of friends! But apparently it was all a show, so that we could grow up to be healthy normal kids. Looking back from where I am now, I think everyone may have missed something.
But that first day of July, I couldn't believe that I was going to be on my own. Aaron and I had celebrated our last birthday in our small hometown. All of our friends and family came. It was huge! So many familiar faces and friendly smiles. It was the perfect example of what a happy life could be like. The biggest downer was how happy and prepared our parents seemed to be after finally filing for divorce. It seemed so normal for them to talk and make chit chat with other men and women. It seemed so practiced and cool to watch them talk about the news with one another. For all I could tell, they hadn't ever spent twenty-two years of their lives together. It was ridiculous.
By the end of the day I had been seriously depressed. And now, the day after my birthday, I'm sitting in my room alone and wondering what I'm going to do. The thought process is way too disturbing. I don't like thinking of myself as an incapable ditsy cheerleader. Although my blonde hair and blue eyes and normally cheery personality might seem to lean that way. I decide that Aaron is the best fix for my problem.
Aaron is my twin brother, as I've already indicated. But his personality is the perfect balance for mine. I'm book smart, bubbly, occasionally absent minded, and very flirtatious. We look a lot alike, but the moment you start talking to the pair of us, you get the yin and yang effect. Aaron plays sports and is cute, like me, but his passions are totally different. Aaron is an artist- a real one. He works in any type of medium and considers them all fair game. His room (and a good portion of our house) are decorated in his work. He works with pastels, oils, charcoal, clay, plaster, digital imagery, and he even plays the guitar.
Whenever I'm around him I just feel complete. He's my other half. Technically, I'm the older of us (as I came out first), but I really look up to him. He's perfect.
Today is no different. The moment I step foot in his bedroom, I feel calmer, soothed almost. Aaron has his back to me, furiously painting something. I can't tell what it is but it looks more abstract then most of his stuff and a little darker.
"Hey sis," he mutters as I sit on his bed.
"Hey bro," I reply. We do all sorts of things that might be considered weird by anyone else, but we're twins, so we're entitled.
"How you doing," he asks. The questions not general, its directly aimed at all the things that have been running through my head.
"I don't know. I'm a little scared."
"Why," he asks, his brush coming to a momentary pause.
"It seems like so much of our life has been taken care of for us. And now mom and dad are split. It just seems so fraudulent. You know what I mean?"
His head turns back over his shoulder, his long blonde locks and their darker dyed streaks carefully brushed behind one ear.
"I know exactly what you mean. I would have never seen it coming."
"What are we going to do? We leave for Boston in eight weeks. And everything will change. I'm really scared."
He flashes me that smile, the one that makes the girls swoon and the guys simmer. To me, its just a package of confidence. It says don't worry, I'll be there. And its right. If Aaron is with me, I can get through it.
"We should do something," he says, as his brush begins to fly once more.
"What?" I like Aaron's ideas. They usually are really fun. Perfect for me and whatever mood I'm in. I think he can read my mind, or my subconscious or whatever.
"I was thinking we could go up to the mountains on Saturday. Stay up there and go hiking. There's this seventy mile trail that loops around the foothills. I always wanted to do it before I left. It would be quiet, peaceful, and there would be no reminders of all this," he says with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Seventy miles? How long will that take us," I ask. We have gone hiking or mountain biking regularly, but only for a day or two and never for a long distance.
"If we go on foot and we pack light, we could probably make the trip in five days or so. If you wanted, we could make it longer. There's a parking lot on one end where we could leave the car with another set of supplies. We'd hike in one way, finish the loop, pick up some stuff and then hike out the other way and loop back around. All in all its about one hundred and thirty miles."
I thought about it. It'd be like an escape. An escape from reality. We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, home to the largest national northern rain forest. Its always green and always quiet. Too many people in our area get caught up in caffeine and computers and jet setting. So the few of us who get out, have the whole place to ourselves.
"I like it! When do we leave, captain," I ask in my best fake soldierly voice.
It takes him a moment to respond. "Do you want to leave this Saturday? If we go the long way, it may be better to leave sooner. There are some lakes and camp grounds along the way. I'd like to take it a bit slower and have a chance to work on my photography and maybe paint a bit."
"Fine, let's leave on Wednesday. If you get the supplies and stuff together, I'll make sure I'm ready." Two days from now! I'm almost giddy. The chance to get out and get away! It seems too perfect!
"Deal," Aaron answers. He puts his brush down and gives me two quick swipes of his thumb underneath each eye. I can feel and smell the acrylic paint he just applied.
"Brat," I playfully shout and push him. He just goes on smiling that winning smile before he turns back to the picture.
"What do you think," he asks. I get a chance to study it for a few moments before he looks back at me, waiting for my evaluation. He always says I'm his harshest critic.
"Is that us?" The picture is of a young man and woman, who look very similar to us, except their bodies and poses are a little more exaggerated. The scene looks like some of the fantasy and sci-fi art that he admired. We looked almost surreal. "Yep. What do you think?"
"I'm not sure. My boobs are too big and I look way too helpless crouched behind you like that. And I'm not sure that I like seeing my brother in a loincloth," I giggle.
He's obviously defending me from some drooling beast. In the foreground a black swathe of paint outlines the silhouette of the creature. Its drooling and has sharp fangs. The sky is an abstract blur of colors while the ground seems to be artificially detailed. Even the dirt is distinctively marked. I'd seen stuff like this before. It was drawn by Frank somebody or other.
"It's just the style. Besides you really shouldn't be focusing so much on my loincloth," he said with a chuckle.
"It's a little tacky with all the symbolism you're aiming for." It was obviously a thinly veiled reference to his role as my comforter and protector since the separation.
"I know. That's what I like about it," he replies. "It's the silliness of the drama. It's not supposed to be serious."
I give him a grin and spin from the room. I hear him sigh before I depart. Smiling to myself I head back to my room. The sun is starting to really rise above the horizon now, and my room was aglow. It matches my mood. I knew Aaron would cheer me up.
The two days could not pass fast enough. I was nearly mad by the time it finally did arrive. I had spent another four hundred dollars just trying to wile away the time. I had brand new socks, thermal underwear (in case it got cold), compact rain gear, new framed pack, hat, gloves, coat, shorts, pants, mosquito repellent, first aid kit, purifying canteen, matches, etc. There was very few things that I had not bought! But in the end it was all worth it I was sure. A two week long trip with my brother up into the mountains! An escape from all the terrors and depressing reminders of mundane life! It was everything I was looking for and it was all Aaron's idea. What a perfect brother.
Aaron and I had packed up his Golf and were eagerly chatting away the two hour drive to what would be our base camp over the next several days. We had separated out all our gear into two sets. Food and clothing for the first week, and food and clothing for the second week. It was well planned, well organized, and well scheduled. That tended to be my thing- administrative work. I am a much more structured person then my brother. He was just the creative one. He probably would have just stashed everything in one bag and drug it through the woods for two weeks. But our powers combined, we were a perfect pair.
When my feet hit the gravelly ground of the parking lot where we would leave our car, I couldn't take a breath deep enough to really savor the air.
"It's just so perfect! The air, it's so clean! God it's wonderful up here," I cried twisting towards Aaron. He had a big lopsided grin on his face- the one that told me I was being overly dramatic.
"Yeah, it's perfect, sis."
I just kept right on smiling. Even acting a little childish wasn't going to slow me down. Once I had my pack on my shoulders and Aaron had gotten his much larger and heavier one on his, we started what would be the journey of a lifetime.
I had a sharp admiration for Aaron. He was carrying most of our foot and all of his extra art supplies for the first week. His pack probably weighed close to one hundred and fifty pounds, but he marched along as if it were nothing. His days as a high school running back had made him excellent at carrying dead weight. I smiled fondly, remembering the times I would be on the sidelines cheering for him as he broke a tackle for a touchdown. It somehow seemed a long time ago.
"Where's our first stop?"
"The first part of the trip we'll go uphill for most of it. Today's the tough day. Once we get up, it's a little hilly, but much easier then this climb. We'll stop tonight at a little plateau on one of these foothills. Then tomorrow afternoon we'll stop a bit earlier at a glacial lake. I want to do some painting and take some pictures while we're there."
"Sounds like a plan!" I wouldn't get the opportunity to talk much beyond that. Aaron was right about the uphill climb being a bit tougher. Despite all my exercise and daily routines, I was exhausted by the time we finally reached his plateau. It really wasn't much more then a twenty foot by twenty foot slope that was a little less steep then the others around it. But the view was breathtaking. We had already gone up slope enough to be higher then most of the other foothills to our south and west. Aaron dropped his pack the moment we were up there and pulled his camera up from around his neck. I went and sat on a rock and watched him work.
It was about six in the evening and the sun would not go down for another two hours. Aaron was a blur of motion despite the long hike. The scenery and the beauty of our environment just seemed to give him a whole new wind. He would be standing at full height one moment and then the next he would be down on his knees in the grass. Always his hands were moving. It didn't seem that he would ever get tired of taking pictures.
I had to laugh to myself as I took a few snapshots of him. I had a much less expensive and much more consumer grade digital camera that I had received as a graduation present from my grandmother. But it did the job and I was glad I would have some pictures to remember this by.
Aaron was built for this type of terrain. He was tall and strong, with broad shoulders and chest. His hair hung loosely and its wild texture seemed to blend right into the uncut grass that surrounded him. His shirt clung to him, emphasizing the strength and hidden power that he carried. The ripples of his muscles matched up to the rippling motion of the hills that he sought to capture on film.
By the time he turned around to put away his camera, I was crying a little. It was just one of those silly girl things and I didn't want him to notice but he could always tell. He came and sat next to me, his arm pulling me in closer.
"What's up sis?"
I tried to sniffle it back a bit, but I just loved him too much. "Promise me we'll do this even when we move away. Promise that I won't have to be by myself."
With all sincerity and honesty, he promised me that he would always be my other half. He'd be strong for me, he'd be weak for me, but he would always be there for me.
I believed him. Aaron always got this look in his eyes when he was dead set on something and that was one of those times. He would keep that promise, I knew.
Feeling somewhat ashamed for being a damper on our first evening I tried to kick him into action.
I gave him a simple thanks, then set out to make some dinner. The area we camped in didn't allow fires so we ate some dried vegetables, jerky, and fruit before calling it a night.
The warm eighty degree weather of the summer day plummeted the moment the sun went down and I curled up in my sleeping bag listening to Aaron's breathing beside me. Outside it was probably forty degrees and threatened to get cooler when I finally went to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I just lay inside my sleeping bag listening to the birds chirping for a few moments. The subtle scratch of a pencil on paper alerted me to the fact that Aaron was already up.
I rolled over in my sleeping bag and gave him my best good morning expression.
"Hold still, you brat, hold still. I've been working on this for the last forty five minutes and if you mess it up now by moving, I'll have to push you back down the hill."
I stuck my tongue out at him and tried to repose myself as best I could. After another five minutes I heard utensil hit paper and heard him announce his completion.
"Can I see it?"
"Not till tomorrow. I want to try and paint it with water colors, but won't have the chance until tomorrow. Now settle down and let's get packed up."
I rolled out of my sleeping bag and stepped into the morning air. It was a little cooler outside then inside the tent. Our combined hot air had kept it rather warm for my tastes. The sweatshirt I had removed during the night suddenly sounded a little better.
Gooseflesh reared up all over, especially on my exposed calves and arms. I had slept in a pair of cotton athletic shorts and a t-shirt (once the sweater had been bagged). I did a little dance from foot to foot as I acclimated to the cold dewy grass and the fresh air. The moment Aaron popped out of the tent, I became a little self-conscious of my chest. My nipples were rock hard from the air and were obviously poking through the thin t-shirt.
My nipples had always been a bit of an embarrassment for me. They'd perk up at the most awkward times, and even though they weren't very large, they seemed to find a way to stand out in any circumstance. There are a whole lot of stories on my cheer squad about my troublesome nipples, but those are for another day.
Aaron gave me a big grin and shook his head as if to say good morning. It was, of course his way of perfecting his hair. Once it was shaken out, it hung loosely around his face and framed the strong clean lines that our genes had graced him with. My arms still crossed, he boosted me in the air and gave me a big bear hug until I nearly died from laughing.
We ate a quick breakfast and then packed. I had worn a heavier pair of shorts and a long sleeve shirt the day before, but had quickly gotten tired of the materials and the heat. So, I opted to stay dressed in my bed time clothes. The cotton shorts allowed quite a bit of movement and felt light enough for the strength of the sun's rays.
Once more, I trudge up hill after my brother. I was delighted to find that we ended the next portion of our journey just after one in the afternoon.
It had gone quickly by, after the aches and pains of the previous days work had faded. Aaron was as pleased as I was to be at the next campground and eagerly went around taking pictures once more.
I didn't bother with my camera. I figured I would go for a swim!
The afternoon temperatures were reaching eighty once more, even at our altitude, and I was beginning to feel it. I knew the tent would be no relief from it, so the calm blue waters of the glacial lake seemed like the perfect option. I grabbed my bikini from my bag and snuck down the trail a little ways to change.
I afforded myself a momentary spin once I was naked. There was something rebellious and instinctive to being naked in the great outdoors. I felt a little primal and wild, but the crunching of a branch startled me and I hurriedly dressed. The bikini felt great as an alternative to even my shorts and tee (which were soaked with sweat) and I was eager to jump in.
When I came bouncing back up the pathway towards the camp site, Aaron was already set up, his easel, canvas, and palette already out. If he had a little beret, he could be the quintessential artiste. My cheery greeting to him caused him to look up with a smile.
For the benefit of his audience (me) he let loose a few cat calls and whistles as I bounded to the water's edge and splashed in.
He laughed at me as I shot to the surface a second later, my eyes wide from the freezing temperatures of the lake.
After I got to swimming a bit, I found it to be quite refreshing, especially as the temperatures started to rise in the heat of the afternoon.
Aaron was completely unaware of the warmth, as always, and just energetically painted. He looked up momentarily to suggest that I either swim elsewhere or strike a pose someplace so that he could paint me into the scene.
Trying to be a bit helpful, and a little coy, I decided that the latter option was the better. Sitting still in the water was not good so I pulled myself up onto a large granite rock that had been worn smooth by years of glacial run off. It was hot to the touch, the sun having beat down on for nearly eight hours already.