As the car comes to a stop with a subtle jolt, I grunt: having half-fallen asleep, it bothers me to have to face the reality of being out here, in the literal backwoods with no sign of civilisation around us if we are to exclude ourselves and the piece of machinery which brought us here. At times I think my sister’s idea of “trying to help” is but to make things harder for me; yes, I am tired and all, my second-tier type of job in the finance industry is not pleasant in the least, but the idea of going to the middle of nowhere, and prop up a tent to relax seems totally idiotic to me.
I simply loiter around as she unpacks the trunk of the vehicle, ignoring her voice as she asks me to help in what I can only decipher as a friendly yet teasing way; my sister would never force me to do something, no: she’d only try to subtly coerce me into doing so, like all females like to do.
As the sun shines among the trees, I am glad that, at the very least, she chose a place with some shades: I leave her to her tasks, as I sit under a large oak and simply observe the place, hoping I will not die of boredom in this place; something is nagging me, though: this area, have I been here before?
I shrug: does it really matters? There are hundreds of camping areas like this, where one can pretend to be in the wilderness, and cook faux German wursts on a store-bought “fireplace”, and then go on spouting empty platitudes about the beauty of going out of the city, and experience the harsh yet rewarding pleasures of a night in the woods, and blah blah blah.
Resting with my back against an old tree, my fingers slip into my pockets as they reach for the cigarettes and lighter I usually take out when trying to relax, then, my eyes catch it: a glimpse of a memory stuck in the moment, like a kite trapped in long branches: that oak with that peculiar profile over there, and the shape of those shrubs…they have grown, but I recognise them, yes! It’s the same place where my father and us…the breath I’ve been holding for those brief seconds suddenly escapes my lungs with what must have sounded like a younger me when we first came to this place. Yes, I recall! I do recall these trees, this opening among them, the area…
I turn to look at my sister, and she catches the glimpse of surprise and joy which, like a fish beneath the slick surface of a pond when coming out to eat a fly, must have surfaced onto my face; she says nothing, and I too am unable to utter a word: of all the surprises, this was the last one I expected, the last one I could have thought of. That Summer of what must have been almost twenty years ago, when my father was still a healthy man, and he had driven us far from the city, taking a handful of his few days of rest to show us how to prop up a tent and simply to let us enjoy the environ around us: we’re back here.
Finally words come to me: “This is the place…” “Mhm” my sister replies, nodding knowingly: she is done for now with the preparation, and comes to sit next to me, nudging me as she takes her place under this tree where, once, we rested after swimming with our old man in the river not far from here, all the locations around our camping site flooding back into my mind “I believed it was time for you to enjoy a good rest, and since you are too stubborn to admit the need of your body for some ‘good old vibes’, the old camping site seemed like the most logical place to make you unwind a bit.”
“I must admit…” I can sense my voice breaking a bit “it feels good to be here, but I also have this sort of painful sensation in my guts.”
“You missed this place, and never had the courage to come back here: I know you.”; indeed, my sister knows me to an almost scary degree! I lost so many friends because I feared getting back in touch with them when I deemed it ‘too little too late’; but she tricked me for my own good, and now I almost am living those moments once again…the trees, the bushes, the firepit we shall set up tonight again like we used to: my heart hurts with joy, for once not just with the dull routine of life.
The day passes quickly, as we catch up with how our lives are going: it comes so easy to open up now, the crackling of the fire in the circle of stones, the strong shadows which are cast all around us making the contrast of our words and thoughts even stronger but never harsh; it is indeed good to tell my sister how things have been going, after I secluded myself from these earnest and fulfilling moments of peace; life seems so long and empty when one exists only to go on another day, and this short escape is the greatest gift she could give to me: I owe her big time.
As we prepare to go to sleep in our tent, I give one last long glance at the camping lot, the sun now almost completely gone from the horizon, its light the same deep dark red as the ambers of the burnt branches left in the fire pit: as the breeze of the evening rises and touches my face, it feels almost as if my father is caressing me now, telling me not to forget these moments, the past ones and the present ones, as life is not just my commitment to a workplace. I barely hold back a tear and smile, waiting a bit longer before returning for the night; this place, far from the city, holds so much now, as it held so much then. This place, I shall have to visit it again, for it is far from forlorn.