Flies and mosquitoes. An eagle flies above the trees, above the lake, above the sandy road, above the tent.
I zip up the little window. The tent is hot and humid. My right hand is swollen.
It’s 3 PM by Sucshahaungxuiamaulta lake. The wind is going to blow tonight.
We have already burnt all the wood and all the marshmallows. But it doesn’t matter since tonight it’s going to be too hot for sitting around a fire.
“Too hot,” I say. “I’m dying.”
“Wait till the night,” Q says.
“It’s gonna be too late,” I say. “Who’s going to find us? Nobody can even pronounce this place’s name.”
“You’re ridiculous,” he says. “Look at all the other people here. Everybody’s having fun except you.”
I unzip the window to look at those who’re having fun.
The campground seems empty.
“Where did they go?” I ask.
“They’ve gone swimming, or fishing,” he says. “Or maybe sleeping in there.”
“Too quiet,” I say. “We should call someone. I’m dying of solitude.”
Q frowns. His face is sweaty. “I’m going swimming,” he says. “Come with me.”
“I can’t,” I say glancing at baby. She’s still sleeping.
He shrugs and then shrugs again, sighing deeply.
“What?” I ask.
“Nothing,” he says, breathing even deeper.
“Go, go swimming,” I say. “Don’t feel bad.” I smile.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“Sure! I’m gonna read a book,” I say. I’ve always known he’s a coward.
“Cool,” he whispers shyly and the excitement like electricity brightens up his eyes.
A noise. A moving bump appears at the side of tent where the baby is sleeping.
I look outside.
“Oh, the raccoon’s back,” I say. “My hand’s killing me. Why on earth did I forget my allergy pills?”
Our raccoon’s playing its favorite game. A fly has managed to enter the tent. Where’s that hole, I wonder.
The phone rings, sounding like the trumpets of heaven.
Q picks up the phone. “Hi CJ,” he says.
I grab the baby with care. She’s pink and warm. Her mouth, wide open. She’s snoring. Her toes, unforgettable.
The nasty fly sits on her cheek. I blow softly on her face. The fly doesn’t give up. I place the baby on my sleeping bag. I follow the fly.
It’s a war.
“Great view. Great lake,” Q says. “It’s so cool in here.”
It’s so hot in here, I think.
“Yeah, we all need to connect to nature,” he’s mumbling stuff and I realize that the fly has already won the battle. Nature always wins. Laws of nature or wilderness? I wonder. I wonder as if I don’t want to be part of this nature anymore. I wonder as if I’ve never been part of its wilderness.
A woman screams outside. It’s coming from the neighboring tent. The dark blue tent with no window, an old model. I can’t leave the baby to sneak outside. To see what’s going on. To possibly help a person in need. She screams over and over.
“I’m dying,” she says.
I’m dying too, I think.
I pinch Q’s arm. He shakes his head, whispering: ”Don’t go. Domestic affair. None of our business.”
She keeps screaming and Q keeps nodding his head to the indistinguishable noise on the phone.
I don’t want to know. None of my business.
Our baby has stopped snoring. The fly has found the jar of honey.
“We went swimming and we ate marshmallows,” Q continues. “Huh? No. No bear in sight.” Then he laughs inconsolably. I look at him, wondering, knowing he would never share the source of this strange kind of joy.
I wait. I want to sleep.
The woman with domestic affair is silent. Baby’s awake. The raccoon is still outside. The fly still in. The eagle long gone and the camp slowly fills up with noise of those who had disappeared in a blissful day. Those who have already missed on saving a soul.
“Why wouldn’t you join us?” Q asks CJ. “I promise. We gonna have fun.”
Baby’s hungry. CJ and his wife don’t have kids. My right hand’s almost senseless and red. I scratch it, feel nothing.
Q hangs up.
“Are they coming?” I ask.
He rolls his eyes. “Who know,” he whispers. “They always promise. They never come.”
“I wish they come this time,” I say, shaking the bottle. “I’m tired of being alone. It’s hard to be so lonely in here.”
He chuckles. “You’d always be lonely in your miseries.”
I nod as he drags himself outside of the tent. He hasn’t noticed what I wished to say. The raccoon doesn’t move as Q gets farther and farther. Q doesn’t turn to look at us. Baby doesn’t cry when we leave, zipping up the tent, following the flies and mosquitoes, the eagle, crossing the blue tent, roads, bushes, jumping into the green polluted water of historical lake with thousands years of ineffable algaes wrapping around my hands, my neck, around her toes.
The lake is cold, cold, cold.
Times have changed.
These days raccoons of Sucshahaungxuiamaulta lake are not scared of humans.