Outcasting the Outcast

December 2, 2008
You have thoroughly out-done yourself this time. Your exaggeration, nosiness, and obsession with our group were all qualities that we could escape, but now you are officially infringing on our ability to safely enjoy our backpacking trip. This five day hike along the Appalachian Trail is an honor rewarded only to the oldest and most readily equipped individuals, and the group bonding opportunities are magically binding. As the unspoken leader of the first wave of hikers, it is your job to keep us at a good pace and warn us of untamed roots, eroded dirt, or any sort of creatures (alive or dead) obstructing our booted feet from getting to everyone’s final goal: the shelter for the night. Since you feel the need to show off by creating massive and inconsistent gaps between you and your “beloved” group mates, we have come to a conclusion: it is time for a coup.

Well, this coup was not my idea, but I wasn’t going to be the one to say no. In fact, when my peers nudged at my pack and whispered words of inspiration, I was surprisingly willing to save the day. But Eric was my social project. If I caved into my friends’ pressure, if I got angry now and showed my frustration, I would contradict everything I had done to make him a trail leader—or at least a hiker who did not ignore the rules. On the other hand, I didn’t really give a rat’s a** now. So the decision was made: I would quickly hike into the leading position without a word and just continue the hike how it started, how it was meant to be.

My opportunity came sooner than I expected. The path opened up to an uncharacteristic part of the trail, a wide clearing coated in moderately sized rocks to contain erosion. It gave me the perfect space to launch myself forward—I would “use the hill” and “dig deep,” ultimately putting me at the head of the group. Unfortunately, Eric was thinking (and hiking) on his toes, and he recognized the attack on his throne. Kicking it into high gear, we both started trucking up the hill like mountain goats. Of course he would pick up the pace: everything was a competition to him and I had just given him someone to fight. Then, it was a good idea for me to give him the rope to hang himself.

As I pulled into the lead, his huffing and puffing distracted me for just a moment, and there it was: a rock, split perfectly down the middle as if by the devil himself. As the rock held my ankle, my body and my ego came to a crashing halt, and I buckled over. Eric took this opportunity and pulled up the hill, his blatant disregard for my injury. I propped myself up using my three uninjured limbs and stampeded up the rest of the hill like an angry mother wildebeest. With an adrenaline rush and sheer determination propelling me, I made it to the top before him.

From my perspective, I was a bestial juggernaut clawing up this mountain. From the rest of the group’s perspective, I was a pathetic and feeble sloth, slow-motion lurching up this hill in a manner so unnatural that I did not fit with the endless forest surrounding me. The trip leaders quickly surrounded me with their bright red first aid bag while Eric quietly trudged up the last rocky mound to the shelter.

When I overheard Eric parading his accomplishment to the rest of the group my gut filled with a hatred that could be comparable to the scorched heat of getting branded. Worst of all I had turned into the most glaring cliché of all time: I didn’t know who I hated more, him or myself. My knee was potentially ruined because of a temporary frustration. I had crippled myself in an unholy triumvirate: ligament, muscle, and cartilage tears lent my knee into a blotted bubbling cauldron of swelling caught underneath my skin.

Two years, one surgery, and three long bouts of physical therapy later, you still don’t know of my immature, one sided detestation of you, and probably never will. You will probably never know how to love hiking the way I had hoped you could. You will probably never know how much I hate you for ruining this and every other sport I will ever try. You will probably never know how difficult it will be to even contemplate forgiving you in the next decade. And most definitely Eric, you will never know how much I hate myself for deciding that I was going to run up that hill and show you “who’s boss.”

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

krazykoolkatie13 said...
Nov. 7, 2009 at 11:57 am
This essay caught my attention. The way you started it, the POV being second person is an eye catcher. Well written. =)
becca said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm
amazingly written.
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