“You boys like warm beer?” I asked. “Tastes like the mountains of Milwaukee in August.”
We’d made it back to the parking lot after an afternoon of sport climbing on the impeccable white limestone of Wild Iris.
We were different.
Rob was one of us. He was approaching thirty, if he hadn’t already passed that imaginary line in the sands of time, and had red hair to match his beard.
Robbie was one of us. He was presumably young, just finishing an undergraduate degree, in I didn’t ask what, from the University of Chicago. The flu, which he’d just gotten over, had stolen his strength but regenerated his stoke.
I, Peter, was one of us. I drove. Earlier, I’d jumped my truck for the first time since discovering that its battery had died two weeks ago. That done, I thought I’d celebrate my productivity by pulling on pockets and clipping bolts.
“No man, I’m good,” Robbie said, declining my offer.
“Um… I think… I’m ok,” Rob hesitantly also neglected, though in an English accent, to imbibe a liquid that won a blue ribbon in 1893.
“Know thy self,” I proclaimed, and popped the top to the effervescent amurican lager. I raised the can, which frothed at the mouth like a raccoon roaming a golf course in search of littered leftovers under the angry glare of the midday sun and in denial of its instincts due to a terminal viral infection akin to syphilis, rabies; I toasted, “To our mothers’ health!”
“Here, Here!” Rob saluted and quaffed tap water from his repurposed orange juice bottle.
“Amen,” Robbie reverently agreed with the stated sentiments, while immodestly changing out of grimy chalk caked jeans and into wrinkled purple nylon shorts.
“Fucking beautiful,” I exhaled after a solid swig and a scan of the horizon. “The light up here at this time of day is just stunning, crisp.”
“Yup,” Robbie affirmed.
“I’m famished,” Rob offered, a pertinent non sequitur.
“Down to tag-team a dinner?” I asked. Both my brothers of convenience reaffirmed their temporary allegiance and we headed to the closest corporate grocer intent on purchasing fixins for a good feed: one chicken, one onion, a bag of rice. I already had the requisite cerveza, rosemary, salt, butter, and garlic, not to mention charcoal and grill to make a succulent drunken hen. We all felt that we’d embodied Ayn Rand’s ideal, “In essence, the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute,” though in ways that that flea-bitten, tobacco-smoked, haggard hag had never predicted and never would have accepted as legitimate.
After dinner, we would wander away, never again to be a we, except in memory. So it goes.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.