Alice and I go to the civil war wagon trail ravine. She has never been there so I drive, straining to widen my peripheral vision so I can see more of her. Every time I change lanes I get to look over my shoulder and catch her profile in my sweep of vision. I feel consciously dumb doing this but it has been a long time since I got to be in a car with her. I am making it count. This is still odd, we have not spent much time together since we stopped being Aliceandme. It was her idea to go today and I have been trying to stomp the life out of false hope ever since she called. Lets go somewhere today she said. You pick where.
When we get there Alice points out that every parking lot in the whole world has somewhere in it a trodden defeated taco bell hotsauce packet. It's true.
We walk along the edge of the lake and admire the weird beach made out of wood. It doesn't make any sense but the whole length of the shore, from the water to the woods, about 20 feet, is mostly wood. Not planks and not trees embedded in sand, and not petrified wood - but wood - jagged but cohesive, not wood chips - is this shale? We've heard of shale but we don't know what it is. Anyway it is weird and we don't know how we will describe it later to ask people what it is and how it got there.
We walk down and down along the wagon trail, each of us in a wheel-rut until I point out what a shitty metaphor that is and we walk on the high ground instead. We see three toads and a crow which I know Alice interprets as a lucky sign but she does not say it out loud. I hope it's true. We always do this, we are the silliest of college educated booklearners.
There are trees leaning over us from both sides so it's shady but still very hot and we do not talk much. Her hair is stuck to her neck in little wisps where her ponytail is coming loose. It's just the sun I tell myself, but I remember when it was me who made her skin flush and her neck damp enough for hair to stick to. That used to be me. I walk a little bit ahead so that knowledge isn't right in my line of vision, and also because I have a trick for Alice. She doesn't notice I'm walking a half step ahead until she pulls in front of me a bit, and I push her back with my arm. What are you doing? she says. I don't say anything until it happens, and it does, and then I am pulling terrible sticky fibers off my face and I say Alice I would take a spiderweb for you.
By now we are down deep in the ravine. The walls rise steep around us and we are down in the deep-cut channel inside the earth. The walls are plates that slid there, all the strata are diagonal, cut on the bias. Rocks and dirt and roots and ferns, all crooked, sliding. It is Alice's idea to spin. We find a flat spot and stand apart and spin, I have my eyes shut but Look up she says. I look up and the walls are circling around me and if I go fast enough they form a solid circle around the bright leaf-crossed center of sky. We are at the bottom of a pit, an elevator shaft made of rock and dirt. The world is dirt and leaf smells and birdcalls and breezy whirling heat and the sound of our faster faster dizzy footsteps and her hand that knocks against mine, she was closer than I thought. We spin until we can't stand it and give up and flop down on the ground panting and laughing like we're six, laughing at how easy it is to amuse our bodies.
Alice leads the way up the steep sidetrail up to the top edge of the ravine. We throw stuff off and watch it flutter or plummet. There are memorial markers up there for a fort where a lot of soldiers froze in wintertime. Alice reads the signs aloud in her best somber civil wo-ah debutante voice. I am very good about not noticing the sweatcircles under her arms that darken her shirt dangerously near her breasts.
There is nothing else cool up here so we are going back down the sidetrail to the bottom of the ravine. Let's run I say. She says Are you crazy I'll break a leg. Alice if you break your leg I will personally carry you back to the car, I say, and I believe I could. She smiles. We run.