Trumspringa, n. the temptation to step off your career track and become a shepherd in the mountains, just the kind of hypnotic diversion that allows your thoughts to make a break for it and wander back to their cubicles in the city.
—John Koenig, Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
We had picked Amos up at the Sunoco after getting gas—“I’m lost,” he sheepishly admitted, pawing through his satchel for nothing to be retrieved, and we offered to at least take care of him for a week while he could figure out what to do—and when we got to our campsite, we noticed him studying us. We traded our slacks for college-minted jeans and our white button-ups for baseball tees. He looked like he hadn’t changed in months; the suspenders worn at the belt, the shoes roughened by pebbles in this forest. And we spoke entirely differently. He asked where our buggy was. We pointed to our car.
“He’s so…exotic,” Indy whispers to Penelope.
Lucas sighs. “He looks nervous. Wouldn’t you be if four strangers offered to take you camping for a week?”
“Better than being stuck at a gas station with no money,” Jess considers.
He gasps after he swallows and slams the shot glass down. We tell him it’s tuaca. Much easier than tequila, and it gets the job done.
Amos wants more, but we tell him to slow down. He only just left his community, and we know it’s best to not black out right away. Could scare him off. But he’s an eager boy, on the cusp of nineteen, and he chose to venture into our world far later than the rest of his neighbors. We wonder why it took him so long.
“Guess I was nervous,” he says, picking at his patchy beard. He’s not attractive, but the way the sunburn delicately pinks his cheeks, how he laughs quietly while straightening out his suspender’s strap, he could be worth getting to know. Indy wants to, anyway. She’ll jump anyone’s bones.
The bonfire only makes his cheeks redder, and as he draws closer to Indy, we catch flashes of the city’s nightclubs lasering in and out—the obnoxious laughter of young businessmen and secretaries on retreat from the dot-com bubble, leaving behind clunky desktops and cramped cubicles to forget our fingers jamming into keyboards 9-5; the spilled liquor jumping into the flames flare up embers reminiscent of neon lights crosshatching through the dance floor; bodies touching and grazing and colliding on logs and in between drunken songs. We chose Pinchot State Forest because Penelope’s brother lives in Scranton and had camped here before and, because he’s fucking pretentious, says the place is “totally zen. You’ll really find yourself here.”
Jess and Penelope find this to be total bullshit.
“There’s no internet café anywhere around here,” Penelope had complained on the first day. “I feel so awkward without a computer in front of me.”
Amos’ arrival is an amusing distraction. An uncoordinated boy, so engrained in his world, desperately trying to fuse into ours. “I’ve never been abused or anything,” he had assured us. “I’ve just not done much.”
We didn’t think he was trying to escape some sort of hell. Just trying to experience a new kind of hell.
In the morning we find Amos and Indy in one sleeping bag.
Penelope shakes their shoulders, where a bra strap slides down one and a sleeve hangs off the other. “Helloooooo!”
Indy wakes and blearily glances at the boy, his mouth hinged open and his hand tucked beneath his chin. “Oh shit.” She scrambles out of the tent.
“I’m surprised he’s even alive. You’d think he’d be blue by now.”
“We didn’t even do anything,” Indy says. “You know I black out so quickly. I wouldn’t have initiated whatever you’re thinking of.”
“I don’t even remember him coming inside.”
Indy has a drinking problem, we all knew since the corporate party last Christmas. Either she has a talent for downing seven raspberry Collins in two hours without vomiting or she confuses alcohol with sparkling water. She turns into a total slut without committing the actual slutty acts. We enjoy watching her brazenly approach men double her age—all executives and Big Shot Players—and tease the fuck out of them, ticking each wide-eyed, lustful expression as a check in her collection of tantalizations. We joke that she’s the reason people stopped using the internet so often since everyone pays attention to her and not that godawful Jenna Jameson porn they jerked off to when their wives were off elsewhere.
Amos drags a hand over his forehead. “Is it like this every time?”
“You didn’t pace yourself,” Penelope explains. “Or stay hydrated. But it’s okay. You’ll be a New Yorker if you keep this up.”
“New York. All the cars, the food. Mam and Da always talked badly of it.”
“That’s because they’re scared of fun.”
He looks outside the unzipped tent and sees Indy squatting close to the morning fire. “This thing—” he points to the sleeping bag—“is nothing like bundling. I could feel her skin.” He shivers.
We smirk. Of course they did stuff. The innocence poured out with the tuaca.