This all started when some friends of mine convinced me to apply for an “Envision Montana: Under 35 Summer Colloquium,” which really seemed like a good idea months in advance, but later seemed less like a good idea when I remembered that I have never camped more than one night and definitely never been on a river in a raft for more than, like, 4 hours.
And the last time I was on a river in a raft for 4 hours, I ended up under the raft at one point and experienced the whole life-flashing-before-your-eyes thing that people talk about but hope never to experience.
Therefore, I felt nervous. In fact, I felt so nervous that the day before the trip was to begin, I started telling people I know that I might be going to die and that they should worry about me because that would make me feel better and more loved. In the meantime, I realized I own nothing that is “dry-fast” and everything that is “cotton” and I also realized that I had no biodegradable soap.
To make matters worse, one of the friends who convinced me to apply for this insane and life-threatening trip is actually a nice boy I am dating named Zack, who is also a river guide. In the moments pre-trip I began to imagine all of the most embarrassing things I know about myself:
1.) I have very nervous bowels.
2.) I have never set up a tent.
3.) Swimming? More like flailing.
And I began to question whether I can actually call myself a Montanan if I don’t know how to bathe in a river.
Which is a big deal because I really like calling myself a Montanan.
Despite my extreme anxiety, I did actually get into a car with other members of our group traveling together to Darby, MT, and only talked somewhat excessively on the ride. When I was not talking excessively, I thought very hard about tequila and grapefruit juice and whether they might solve my problems.
I should note: I am not really much of a drinker, but I have heard that alcohol can help relieve stress, which was seeming like an awesome potentiality.
But when all 21 of us arrived that evening in Darby to eat food and pack up, there was no tequila and I settled for one beer from a keg with a lot of foam. We were staying at Zack’s parents house, which was gorgeous and also a good place to practice sleeping in a tent for the first time since I was three. My extreme anxiety was somewhat calmed when Zack told me he would do any necessary tent setting up.
In the morning, I had a very serious conversation with Zack:
Me (upon waking up, I consider the dew): Why do people get obsessed with sleeping in tents?
Zack (sleepily): What?
Me: I mean, I don’t get it. This is nice, I guess, but it just seems like a really flimsy house.
Zack (still not understanding, but wanting to participate in the conversation): A deer peed on the tent last night.
Me (with a lot of excitement): See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about!
Me: Well, you know, there are those people who really need to leave their houses and sleep outside at regular intervals — you know, like most of the people on this trip — and I don’t get it.
Me (practically yelling now): It’s not that I have a problem or anything, you know, with sleeping in a tent. But I don’t get the obsession.
(sometimes when I talk in the morning I say “you know” a lot. I find it reassuring that I’m talking to someone else and just want to affirm that.)
(Zack starts laughing.)
(I laugh, too, thinking that he understands why this seems ridiculous.)
(I think we’ve covered the bases on this even though he hasn’t answered my question.)
(Then I panic a little.)
Me: Wait, are you obsessed with sleeping in tents?