I couldn’t figure out how to pump water to wash the dishes. Thomas thought I was being difficult and screamed at me. The depth of his rage and the nearness of hunting rifles frightened me. It also pissed me off. I hadn’t agreed to spend the night on a pot farm with a family of survivalist loons. I excused myself to use the toilet but couldn’t bring myself to climb the platform. I could still hear Thomas complaining about my idiocy.
I had no idea where I was and no clue how to find civilization. I wandered past the fenced garden, mulling my options. After a while Thomas came out of the wickiup, cursing and howling at me to get my ass into the house. I pulled my sleeping bag and a blanket out of the mess in Thomas’s truck and hiked to a ridge. From my hiding place, I heard Thomas slam the doors on his truck, wrestle with his tent, and curse my existence. I decided I had a better chance with the coyotes than with Thomas while he was mad.
I picked a flat spot under a thicket of bushes to spend the night. He’d be calm in the morning and forget that he’d acted like a lunatic. I wouldn’t, though. What was I thinking? Never go camping with a crazy person — that’s my advice to you. I spent a cold, miserable night but was unharmed by any four-legged creatures. I did, however, manage to set up camp in a patch of poison ivy.
I joined my fellow freaks for breakfast, all of us pretending nothing out of the ordinary had happened the night before. To my relief, Thomas announced that it was time to head back to the city. After a few days I had welts all over my hands, arms, thighs, and butt (should have used the platform toilet) from the poison ivy, which lasted for six weeks.
I told Thomas that I never wanted to see him again. He heard, “I want to marry you and spend the rest of our lives together.” He even went so far as to barter his possessions for an antique diamond ring. I don’t remember how he proposed to me, but I do remember that we were on the corner of Haight and Masonic and that he threw the ring at me when I told him “no.”
His behavior became more irrational and bizarre. He showed up at the college where I worked and threatened to kill my boss, the president, the receptionist, and himself. The president, who knew Thomas, told him that he’d be arrested if he again set foot on the property. I wore hats, wigs, and thrift-store costumes to work. I moved to another apartment. Then I moved to another city.
I’ve since learned to heed the signs of mental illness. I never go anywhere without perusing a map. I admire nature from a distance. I do not own a sleeping bag. But I still own a beaded turquoise barrette that Thomas bought from the crazy one-sixteenth Blackfoot Indian lady.
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