“Why would I ever want to go on a hiking trip with you again?” Jeff said when I called him last October to inform him of my plan.
“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” I said.
“You almost killed me in Colorado,” Jeff said. “You enjoyed watching me suffer.”
“I didn’t enjoy it,” I said. “I was just trying to get you to exceed your self-imposed limitations.”
“Bullshit,” Jeff said. He had always had a way with words. Maybe that explained the Pulitzers.
I tried a different tack.
“You’re the one in shape this time. I’m the fat hog.”
“That’s a good point,” Jeff said. “But I still don’t see why I would want to spend two nights lying on the ground next to you, and two days dying of thirst.” (I had dropped one of our two water bottles in a river on the way up the mountain on our last trip. And the water filter I had borrowed was broken and pumped only a liter every 30 minutes. And I had selected a campsite that was a 30-minute walk from the nearest water source, which sat in the middle of a thicket of vegetation that was home to the largest colony of mosquitoes west of the Mississippi. Also, I had forgotten insect repellent.)
“Do you want to get soft?” I asked. “Just because you’re married and won a few contests, you just want to slide into middle age?” (Jeff had just turned 51. I was 52.)
“I’m not sliding anywhere,” Jeff said. “And didn’t you just admit that you’re the hog?”
I told him that I’d been working out some personal demons 12 years ago, that I had changed, that I was sorry for making him walk after he puked. I promised I’d bring insect repellent.