Friday, November 19, 2010

we will be victorious


I'm wedged between a bulkhead and a pile of backpacks. Under us, the makeshift bed in the back of this sketchy van conversion rattles between plastic panels.

We're careening through the mountains around the turns of a forest road. I'm alternately holding myself up with a seatbelt mooring and balancing my weight against your knee, depending on which side of the van we're being thrown towards. This has to be the most thrilling, nauseating way to see New Zealand's Coromandel.

As my shins smash against the doorjamb on a particularly sharp right-hander, I have to smile at my good luck.

The driver and passenger speak Israeli in low tones. They adjust the volume of the Muse album that rattles through the van's ancient speakers. The sound comes in waves.

This is the second time in our lives we've hitchhiked. The second time, as a matter of fact, we've hitchhiked this week.

The first time, I made it clear I wanted no part of it. I clearly understood the necessity--the bus had been missed, and our shoulders had been buried in bags and skydiving acoutrements. There were no more busses leaving that day. We had somewhere to be. A taxi was possible, but obscenely expensive. That left one thing on offer: the kindness of strangers. I hate being that vulnerable.

I watched your thumb make several tentative arcs against the horizon before I stretched mine out to join it. It wasn't long before we were loading our bags into a strange trunk, explaining ourselves to a strange couple, and feeling less and less strange about the enterprise.

Now, your hand knitted in mine, we're watching the landscape slide alongside. Focused on the foreground, the fern-dotted forest and rolling fields of grazing sheep become raking brushstrokes in varying shades of green.

In those first jaw-gritting moments, you told me we'd be glad we scored a ride; that we'd tell each other it was a win, after we'd mustered the courage to stick a thumb out and put it to the fates.

You were, of course, right.

You always are.

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