Thanks to the unhappy marriage of a course of antibiotics and a week in the Utah sun, I am now reluctant host to a full-body rash, most of which* is invisible but has left my skin sandpapery and feeling like I am being pricked all over by needles and occasionally assaulted by millions of invisible mosquitoes. I’m in a great mood!
(* the part which is not invisible is on the backs of my knees and looks like my skin has actually been removed by sandpaper, which is grotesque, and renders any kind of skirt/shorts-wearing exquisitely painful, and did you know that bandages will not stay on the backs of your knees? I have tried to keep them there, but all the bending and flexing that I apparently do all day long makes them drop right off; I’ve tried to remain still but they won’t stick on for more than a few minutes, so anyone who ever walks behind me gets an eyeful of my awful knee-back situation.)
We were in Utah for a few days to visit my brother-in-law and family, who, inexplicably, live in Utah, even though they swear they’re not Mormon. The kooks. It’s unnerving that they have chosen to live in the middle of the country —I always believed that only zombies would live somewhere that didn’t abut an ocean—but they seem to like it. And my niece and nephew never tried to eat my brains. Maybe they were being polite.
And we went camping! I have never been camping before**, and my brother-in-law Gregg and his wife Carolyn invited us to camp with them, because camping is among their favorite activities, right up there with nude-wrestling bears (probably) and mouth-fishing (after they’re done with the bears).
(**I said this to my mom and she murmured, “Not that you remember.” I’m going to assume she meant I was too little to recall the last time I camped. I think that’s for the best, if I go ahead and assume that. We can’t afford any more therapy for me.)
I was really excited to camp, as I have always wanted to. Camp. For years I've been telling Scott that we should go camping, but he insisted that I would hate it. “You would hate it,” he said. He wouldn’t even bother telling me why. When I asked him to list the possible reasons I would hate camping, he just stared at me, like it was so obvious, it was all over my damned face. Was he focused on the fake eyelashes I need to apply each morning? The exquisitely hot-rollered hairdo? The floor-length satin house-robe I was wearing, as I do each day in the early hours—from 1 pm, when I arise, until sundown—at which point I change into my evening silk pajamas?
“Now, dear,” I said, “I love nature, and nature loves me, and I know deep in my heart that I will enjoy this ‘camping’ I’ve heard tell of.” And then I flounced about comically and powder-puffed my décolletage.
We were supposed to go camping for two nights, which didn't seem like nearly enough time, to me. Why not longer? But then after the first night I had to tell Gregg and Carolyn, with great regret, that if we stayed there for one more night I was going to cram my pockets with stones and throw myself in the river. (We were right next to a river.) (Maybe it was a stream. I think technically it was a stream.)
They took it well.
I actually did enjoy camping, during the daylight. I did! We were in this beautiful campground, and there was even a bathroom, and I am a fan of bathrooms. We relaxed and wandered and ate dinner, and I like all of those things. Henry was having fun checking out nature, and I felt like we were good parents for once, giving him this well-rounded experience. The country! UTAH!
Then it came time to sleep, and so we all bundled up, as it was getting cold, and Scott and Henry and I smushed our bodies into our sleeping bags, and zipped up our tent. So we could go to sleep.
It then occurred to me, as I tried to sleep, why camping is a bad idea. First of all it is uncomfortable. You are sleeping on the ground. Why would you do that? Secondly, if you can’t sleep, what do you do all night? All you can do is lie there. You lie there, and you think. Mostly you think about how the only thing keeping you from being murdered is someone else’s decision not to murder you. At any point during the night someone could drive through the campground—a murderer, say—and that person could think, “Say, what if I murdered these people, all defenseless in their thin, easily knifed-through tent?” And they could then murder you, and there would be very little you could do to stop them. So really all you can do is hope the murderer then thinks, “Nah,” and drives on. Or, “Maybe another day,” or, “Wouldn’t want to ruin that nice tent,” or “I’ve already done enough murdering this week.” (Do murderers ever decide they’ve done enough murdering? I’m not so sure. I’ve never asked a murderer, nor do I ever intend to. And imagining that some traveling murderer has already reached his murder-quota is not enough to help me drift into unconsciousness.)
So then you realized that you’ve thought the word “murder” enough that you will never sleep, and you’re stuck in this tent and there’s nothing to do because 1) it’s dark and 2) it’s cold, and that’s when your child sleep-stumbles around the tent and lies back down the entirely wrong way, which is across all three pillows. And you fight with him about how he has to get back in his sleeping bag, only you can’t fight with a sleeping child, who is crying that you don’t understand and the armor doesn’t work the other way when the raccoons broke the barber shop, lettuce zephyr quantum noodles, and finally you heave him back into his sleeping bag and he sobs once and then is instantly snoring peacefully but now you’re really awake, as is your husband, who every time you stir at all says, “You still up?!” like maybe you two can have a party, but you can’t have a party; all you can do is try and sleep, so you don’t want to talk or look at his wide-awake eyes looking back at you, so you squeeze your eyes shut, at which point you realize you have to use the bathroom.
Which means you have to 1) find the flashlight, 2) put shoes on, 3) not get murdered. And then you think that if you were home, or in a hotel like a sane person, you would not have to do any of these things, and that is why one night of camping is more than enough.
But if we could find a murder-proof tent, and I'm sure you can buy one of those, I think I would enjoy camping very much. So there, SCOTT.