I would really appreciate feedback. lots of it
I'd put it under a cut.. but the cut option is being unreasonably evil... so i shall just post it flat... sorry for the length...
"Ready to go, Runt?" I stretched out in the back of my cousin's Jeep, a boxy green thing with barely enough leg room for my 5'7" frame if I can spread out over two seats. The only redeeming feature about this particular gas consuming transportation device is the formerly yellow rubber duckie that holds a place of honor in the change dish set into the dashboard. The sunlight burning through the windshield has sunburned the duckie, but it still squeaks. My cousin, Keith, got out of the driver's seat; his best friend on the East Coast, Adam, got out of the passenger side and opened the back for me. I crawled out, ducking to avoid hitting my head.
"Which trail? Or are you going to get us lost again?" Keith punched me in the shoulder and smiled. His smiles are hard to see-- it took me years to realize that you don't look at his mouth when he smiles. You look at his eyes. Keith's eyes smile, and he really means it.
"I take no responsibility for that one, Runt," he said, tossing me our pack. I pulled the black straps over my shoulder, clipped the lock around my waist. The pack held our currently prized posessions: three jackets, a spare pair of gloves, three bottles of water, Keith's camera, and three King Sized Snickers bars.
If there's one thing in the world I will drop everything to do, it's go hiking with my cousin. He's never in town, so getting to spend time with him is a treat worthy of christmas morning status. He's more like the much-older brother you never fought with because he's got the old pictures of you in a bathtub and isn't afraid to use them. Keith arranges outings whenever he can. He says it's because if we don't push him, he'll get fat. We know this is Keith language for "I'd like to spend alone time with you but don't want you to get any ideas that I actually LIKE you or something".
We started on the trail, our positions on the trail shifting as we each found our rhythms. Adam and Keith talked; I listened. Their conversation ranged from Adam's current medical residency to Keith's looking for a job up in Toronto. My listening ranged from the shifting crunch of damp leaves under our feet and the slosh of water bottles at my back. Eventually, we fell into a conversationally quiet line. Adam took up the rear, jogging ahead occasionally. Keith and I walked together. I kept my pace slow, knowing he'd torn his hamstring hiking Machu Picchu that August.
"So, Runt, what's going on?" Keith speak for "update me on your life". I launched into a conversation on AP Physics and US History, offering some of the facts I thought he'd find vaguely interesting. The talk shifted from classes to college search to his girlfriend, Jen. When I asked about her, his eyes lit up. Few people can make my cousin glow the way she does. I refrained from mentioning that he was over his head with her.
One of the best things about my cousin is he listens and talks. Unlike a lot of 35 year olds who have 16 year old cousins, Keith never treats me like I know less than he does. Even when I do. Especially when I do. He says he's done enough stupid things that listening to a 16 year old's advice, even his Runty cousin's advice, can't be the worst of them. Keith would be a great tennis player: he has an amazing backhand.
We fell back into silence as I ran out of things to say that I think would be okay to talk about. Some things you just don't tell your cousin. Though I should. The silence stretched through two water breaks, broken up by Adam telling us about the bike ride through the boroughs he plans to do later this year. Keith started up a monologue about his hike through Machu Picchu, a story that carries us through August and the steeper part of our own hike.
When we reached the top, we all shut up and appreciate the view. Hiking has a distinct advantage over other forms of uphill cardiovascular activity: the view is always worth however agonizing the hike may have been. I never liked uphill jogging at gyms: tredmills make me feel like some sort of gerbil in a sadistic human experiment. I keep waiting for someone to put a bell in front of me and feed me when I learn how to ring it.
The Hudson River Valley spreads out in a flood of evergreen and mist. Looking to the left a bit, Bear Mountain sleeps over little grey and red towns. The Hudson river wanders like a slash through my vision. Adam went to inspect a dry bush out of our eyesight that was in desperate need of attention. Keith threw me a snickers bar and tossed back a gulp of water before taking out his camera. I was a quarter of the way through my bar when the silence had stretched too thin for my nerves.
"Keith." He turned, shut off his camera with an extraneous flick of his hand. Adam goes back to inspect another bush. Keith settled down on the flat rock next to me, legs propped on a conveniently placed fallen log. The silence stretched again. I stared at the view, unable to appreciate it again.
"Keith," I start, and hate my voice for cracking. I drink from my water bottle. "Keith, I'm bi." The silence thins, thickens, and my throat closes in a way that has nothing to do with caramel, peanuts, and chocolate.
"Well, Runt," Keith starts slowly, "I guess you lose points for being half fag." I listen to the way the word rolls off his tongue. Fag. it's the most insulting term I can think of offhand. But it didn't sound like an insult coming from him. Rather, just another word. Like muffin, or shoehorn. "Then again, Adam's brother's all fag, and he's a great guy. So maybe you'll make up for riding the bicycle." I can't help but laugh.