The rest of Crater Lake is a blur — whereas pain makes strong impressions on the mind joy often does not. Blame it on exhaustion, blame it on love, blame it on the mosquitoes; whatever the verdict, I have only bits of neglected audiolog to go by. First, and most importantly, here is what had happened to #6, as retold by me, the next day, after I had slept few hours and had a moment to reflect the utter hilarity of the universe.
DAMON: June 2nd, 3:30 in the afternoon, I am sitting under 40,000 square feet of bug netting that #6 brought. I’m happier than I’ve ever been at this campsite, currently. I’m also in the shade because I hung a tarp. Ben’s taking a picture to make sure it is all documented appropriately. #6 is sleeping in the car because she got in at 4 o’clock this morning — let me explain briefly why that happened. Apparently there are two Crater Lakes in the great state of Oregon; they happen to be at opposite corners of the state, diagonal from one another.
BEN: And why is it the great state of Oregon?
DAMON: And why is it such a great state? Because it is enormous, therefore, #6, who left perfectly on time, arrived at Crater Lake #1 in who-knows-where Northeast Oregon. And happened to find that there was a four mile hike just to get to the lake — there wasn’t even a campsite — was slightly perplexed. Later found that it was not, actually, the Crater Lake that Ben and I were at, where we were anxiously awaiting her arrival. So then, after a seven hour drive, she drove an additional seven hours. Let’s just get that straight, that’s fourteen hours. That’s from Concord, NH to North Carolina, that she drove, yesterday afternoon, just to come camping. Seven hundred and twenty-one miles, she drove. That’s a distance greater than I have ever traveled in a single day and she did it by herself, in her car, for really no reason other than MapQuest — which was tedious and wrong, just so wrong, that it hurts me to think about it. But: she’s here now and said she had an awesome day and that it was worth the drive. So I guess that’s something. Because if anything can be worth that drive then it must be pretty good.
Ben and I went to the same school, for only three years, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. And we only became good friends in the sixth grade when all of our other peers had left and we were the only two remaining in the graduating class. Perhaps ours has always been a friendship of necessity. After we left the Montessori school, we went our separate ways in academia for a time. He skipped ahead a few grades, I dropped out of school altogether for a while, but we always met up in the middle of the year: summertime. We were best of friends then and are still now.
I was looking through my catalogue of memories just now attempting to find a good example of a situation in which I treated Ben exceptionally well under questionable circumstances. The only thing I can come up with is a time in our sad teenage years during which he set me up on a blind date for some sort of semi-formal at his high school with a girl I didn’t know (hence the blind-date bit). We ate at a steakhouse. Ben claims to not even remember the entire debacle and I wish I didn’t. There was no kissing and hardly any talking. It was not my finest moment and I recall sitting across the table from him thinking: what are we doing here? shouldn’t we be at the park playing basketball or soccer or riding our bikes in the dark? why am I wearing a suit and why do you claim to have condoms when they look nothing like large green erasers? He probably was thinking the same thing, although his purposes at dinner were in direct correlation with his purposes for after the semi-formal, which I am sure involved kissing. Mine were not. Needless to say, I think I behaved well, given the circumstances.
But this is nothing, trivial, commonplace. What I want is a shining silver gem of behavior exhibited on my part in order to justify why it was Ben treated me so well on this trip. But I can’t find any. I don’t know that I have ever really been that nice to him — but, then again, I have never been cruel — and I have certainly embarrassed him on more than one occasion in front of family, friends, and women. Though I have, come to think of it, put up with his own form of nonsense so I guess that counts for something. And, as a general rule, Ben has a big heart, although he may pretend otherwise. When he and his three brothers and mother moved into a new house he gracefully accepted the smallest bedroom that one could only enter by either walking through a bathroom or one of his brother’s rooms. I remember thinking how I would never have taken such a fate lying down and that I would have complained and whined for ages but there was Ben: willing to suffer so that everyone else was happy. I admired him for that even then and hoped he would never expect the same from me.
But still: my point is that Ben had no reason to be as cordial as he was on this trip in regards to myself and #6 and it matters not that I might have done the same thing. We were on a “guy trip” doing “man things” and supposedly having “male bonding” time. #6 was worried about intruding on our friendship and our journey but I could have cared less if Ben hated me for it and never spoke to me again — I was having her up, like it or not, deal with it how you must. Yet he was happier than a pig in poop to let #6 and me go our merry ways over the Fourth of July weekend; he was not hurt, bothered, or even peeved; he did not mind being left in silence for a time; he enjoyed both her company and mine, together and apart, without coveting either one of us.
While Ben does have a big heart, the cynic in me finds it hard to believe that he is really that nice, despite all the contrary evidence, and holds fast to the belief that there must be a greater purpose behind his actions. I can conjure two objectives that Ben was seeking to satisfy: either he understood how important a few hours of time alone between newly met lovers was, or he was just sick to death of my whining and blathering on about my ankle and Issaquah.
While Ben is a good man, a gentleman even, I think he would be the first to agree that it was probably the latter that motivated him so.