Mara’s new bike is pink, with ridiculous streamers that tickle her arms when she goes fast enough to let them.
When she brought the used bicycle back from the store, Garrett was cleaning the car. She shouted his name until he turned the vacuum off. He walked over to where she was straddling her purchase at the end of the driveway.
“Does it have good brakes?” He held the small vacuum with one hand, and with his other hand he scratched the back of his head in the way he scratches when he’s criticizing something.
“Garr—it has fucking streamers.”
At the bike store, when they asked her what kind of bike she wanted, she told them “something for people who don’t like bikes.”
Now, they are ten days into their road trip. Ten days of baked beans and tents and everything Garrett loves.
Tonight, in the sleeping bag, Mara takes off all her clothes. And that’s it: she takes off all of her clothes.
“What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” She rests her head, the one attached to her naked body, on his shoulder.
He’s reading one of his guides to e-commerce. She’s fascinated by his ability to read the same information, packaged differently, over and over again.
He runs the fingers of his right hand between her legs. “How’s your crotch feeling?” The fingers on his left hand hold his book, his flashlight propped in the crook of his neck.
“Fine,” she lies. The pink seat that’s been jammed between her thighs for days was designed for the crotch of a twelve-year-old girl whose biking needs involve riding down the block to sleepover parties in style.
“You can borrow a pair of my shorts, you know.”
Before they left, he’d tried to get her to buy those heinous
shorts with the padding. I’ll be fine, she told him.
I don’t have balls. Remember? And she wanted to add,
How much biking are we really going to do, anyhow? She
actually thought he realized, after eight months of dating, that
she wasn’t the biking type.
“Thanks, but I have my own shorts.”
“I’m just saying—if your crotch is sore.”
She rolls onto her stomach, displacing his hand to her ass. “I need a fucking shower. My armpits reek.”
“Take one in the morning.”
Earlier she peeked in at the campsite showers and gagged. “People have died from diseases picked up in those showers,” she said. “I’m sure of it.”
When they first started going out, Mara breathed through her mouth to keep from gagging while she held Garrett’s pet ferret. Garrett-with-the-ferret, her mother called him, always.
“Well,” he says. “Be warned. You are lying here naked with a man carrying a potentially fatal shower fungus.”
That day she met his ferrets she exaggerated plenty. I’m not, like Crunchy Nature Girl, she told him, but sure—I like hiking and stuff. There were things in that apartment she found repulsive: mainly, the ferrets. But then there was him. Within hours of their first kiss, she decided she would have his babies someday. The lifespan of ferrets would put his little JoJo in the grave soon enough—according to her online research.
She slides down in the sleeping bag. “You didn’t even wear flip-flops.”
“Those showers are perfectly fine,” he says.
Garrett has washed in gross showers his whole life. His parents hiked with Garrett strapped to their back from the time he was big enough to hold his head up. Mara knows this. She’s seen the photos.
“No. The showers are the opposite of fine.”
Garrett turns the flashlight off, kisses her back and falls asleep.
Mara, nowhere near sleep, thinks about Thanksgiving at Garrett’s house months ago. Over dessert his father talked about his seven toes, how he wouldn’t trade the three glacier expeditions where he lost his toes for anything.
After dinner and the toe stories and the photo albums with more pictures of mountains than people, Mara confided in his mother. She told her, while they were rinsing dishes, I guess I’m not really an outdoorsy person. His mother paused, dishcloth to plate, and smiled. Oh, Mara. There is a whole world out there you have yet to discover.
Later, Mara talked to Garrett about her parents. She told him she didn’t think—outside of nuclear war—she could pay her mother or father to even piss in the woods. And then he told her about his mother’s amazing ability to piss standing up.
Amazing. Garrett used that word. She never has to squat.
Tomorrow, Mara will insist on a hotel with a clean bath. She will soak her aching crotch. She will watch bad television. Then, she will leave the bike outside the lobby, just in case some girl who happens to need one is passing through.