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Harvesting Organs by Lamplight - 5 pages

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It was the perfect place to meet someone you never planned on meeting and never wanted to meet. The dispersed camping spaces just southwest of Leadville were far enough away from each other to give you the illusion of privacy, but only if the other people were pretending along with you, otherwise everything seemed too close. Out here in the pseudo-wilderness of Colorado, where the Jettas and Altimas disturbed the fantasy of seclusion, where the Bluetooth stereos pumped the music of the city into the forest, one had to have a good imagination, or else one would feel just as civilized as one did before coming out here.

It was the place where cultures collided, where the city-folk and flatlanders “got away” for the weekend in their RV’s, away from the hustle and bustle, into the fresh air of the mountains. It was the place where the trans-ecosystemists, those who were forced to live in the city for work but had the spirit of the mountains inside them, sought the voices of their gods, searched underr rocks and in the limbs of trees for a potential glimpse of nirvana, camped in tents and cooked meat over fire in hopes of reawakening something lost inside them. And in this liminal space, everything changed, while everything outside remained the same, the outside entirely unaware of this small occupied zone within the mountains. This was the space where things started.

The summer sun beat down through the aspens with more relentlessness than expected by the two weekend warriors.

“Shit. I thought it’d be cooler up here,” the man said, unzipping his winter coat and removing the beanie from his head. His brow was beaded with sweat, and his armpits were a moist patch of odor.

“That’s Colorado for ya,” said another man, this one wearing a sleeveless wolf t-shirt and a pair of cut-off jean shorts to match. “Never can make up its fucking mind.”

People said this when the weather patterns shifted for a day or when those people didn’t bother to read the weather reports. And it was true most of the time. It was also true anywhere else. But for some reason, Colorado turned it into fact in the minds of locals and tourists alike. Colorado weather, man. Crazy.

The conversation about the weather was taking place fifty yards away from another campsite, but the still air carried the words just as easily from that distance as it did from five feet.

“These dudes serious?” the man in the other campsite said aloud. His name was Quincy, a skinny, some would say wiry, man with a mop of unruly brown hair and a wardrobe that screamed Colorado— Merrell hiking boots and a Marmot flannel. He had a habit of talking to himself out loud. Maybe it was all the time he spent alone in the mountains, or the fact that he didn’t really like talking to other people because he didn’t like other people that much. Or maybe it was simply because he was the only one around most of the time because, as has been said, he liked to travel solo. That’s what he called it. Really, he said “flying solo” when he talked to other people about his propensity to set off alone. He didn’t like the term flying solo, but it came out so naturally, like his brain had been programmed to say it. He always regretted it after.

“Fucking dipshits can’t read a weather report?” he said aloud to himself.

“Hey, buddy,” wolf t-shirt said. “You say something?”

“What?” said Quincy, knowing very well he had said something. But like all humans, what we think about saying and what we actually say are, most of the time, two very different things, but when you have a long habit of talking to yourself, sometimes you forget what is in your head tends to come out of your mouth more often than most people who don’t talk to themselves. And sometimes you forget how loudly you’re saying those things you shouldn’t say.

“I said,” repeated the man in the wolf shirt, “did you say something?”

“No, man. Just enjoying this Colorado weather. Crazy, huh. Fucking weathermen never get it right. That’s Colorado.”

“We were just saying that,” said sweaty pits. “Fucking Colorado.”

Maybe this was the exact reason Colorado weather had turned into fact, to act as a detangler, a re-aligner, a way to get a nearly-derailed conversation back on the rails. The small talk that generally is weather, in Colorado, becomes a lifesaver. And Quincy had grabbed hold.

“Hey, buddy,” said wolf shirt. “You want a beer?”

“I’m good, man,” said Quincy. “Got myself some whiskey.”

“Hell, we’ll join you then.”

Two things Quincy hated above all others, or at least in this moment. At any given moment he could hate two different things above all other things or hate just one thing very acutely. But at this moment the two things he hated above all others were being called “buddy” and having two dudes he didn’t want to talk to invite themselves into his camp.

They came over with their collapsible chairs and cooler. Wolf shirt tossed sweaty pits a beer and they cracked cans with a loud ksshhh.

“Coors Light, amigo,” said pits. “Beer of beers.”

“I always thought it tasted like water,” said Quincy. “At least when I used to drink it.”

“Two things wrong with that sentence, compadre. First, your insult to the national beer of Colorado. And second, the fact that you said ‘used to.’ Fucking un-American.”

Two things Quincy hated above all others: when super white people called him amigo and compadre and when people told him something he did was un-American. He wasn’t quite sure even what that meant. He was sure plenty of un-American Americans didn’t drink Coors Light and that those people were perfectly non-un-American. Which means they were just American.

“I’m gluten free, comrade,” said Quincy. “I don’t drink beer anymore.”

Quincy always felt weird telling people about his gluten-freeness. He didn’t want to come off as being the vegan, holier-than-thou type, though sometimes he felt good about himself when he said it. He had no real reason for this. It wasn’t like he had given up meat to help save the planet. He loved meat. It wasn’t like he was making some great sacrifice in the name of some holy or unholy god. Or maybe he was and didn’t know. A god of the gluten free and intolerant. He just didn’t want to shit himself silly anymore.

“We got a goddamn communist on our hands, Carl,” said wolf shirt with a laugh. “No beer and no gluten. The two fucking staples of American fine dining.”

“Shit, man,” said Carl. “That sucks you can’t eat potatoes or nothing. I don’t know what I’d do without a good carton of fries every now and then.”

“No, potatoes are fine, its—”

“Oh, fries,” interrupted wolf shirt. “You got any fries over here, buddy?”

“No. What?”

“I didn’t think so. You said you had whiskey though. Mind sharing?”

Quincy did mind sharing, but he was in too deep now. Or at least in as deep as he could be without knowing the names of both of the people who were in his campsite. Carl, he was sweaty pits, but the other one? And they didn’t know Quincy’s name either, but they didn’t seem to mind. Buddy, compadre, and amigo were all suitable replacements for now. But would they be able to carry on the conversation like this? Would Quincy just need to pretend to know who they were even though it was impossible to know who they were because they had never met and there was no third party there to introduce them? Would it be wrong of him not to ask their names or awkward because he had waited too long to ask? Let it play out naturally. That would be best.

“No,” he said, passing them the whiskey bottle. “Help yourselves. So what are you two doing out here? Just camping?”

“No,” Carl said. “Carl and me are out here trout fishin’.”

Quincy was confused. He’d thought the other one’s name was Carl, but he guessed he could have been mistaken. Or maybe they were both Carl. How could two Carls be present in the same forest at the same campsite at the exact same time? Two things Quincy hated above all others were two Carls in his one campsite, not least of all because now it felt even more awkward knowing their names (or thinking he knew them) than it had when he had designated them names based on their perspiration and animal preference. And he hated them equally because he knew now without a doubt that the burden fell on him to introduce himself because these two clearly weren’t going to make a formal presentation of their identities. And he hated himself for not having someone with him to introduce him to them. It was all fucked. Or maybe it wasn’t.

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