I liked to watch Annie when she didn’t know I was there. We had hiked all morning, finally stopping for water and fruit along a rock strewn break in the tree cover. I had wandered off, finally coming back to her from behind her right shoulder.
Her University of Michigan baseball cap was tilted back, her face, red with exertion, now blanketed by the spring sun. I could see the sweat on her back where her dark braid hung down. Her legs were open, her long cotton skirt forming a canopy over her hiking boots and thick socks. She was taking enormous bites of one of the huge pears we had brought, wiping her face with her forearm like a teenager, sitting on a flat rock, looking at the sky.
She was consuming. It was exhausting and futile to try and keep up with her. She was smarter than anyone I had ever met, stronger, emotionally tougher, and could beat me in one on one. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to be with her anymore, it was more that I couldn’t measure up. She wanted a partner, and I knew, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t man enough- at the center of me, there was nothing left.
She turned when she heard me approach.
“You ready to go on?,” she said with pear stained lips.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said.