never eat dairy queen in life.

i said that i wanted to hike up granite mountain. gen was a hiker, so she said okay, let's do it. but that wasn't good enough for me. see, i've lived in this city long enough to know that if you don't actually name a date and time, it ain't gonna happen. like how i was supposed to go fishing with my other coworker over a year ago. gen suggested a sunday. i said that was fine. so, we had plans to hike up granite mountain, and that was that.

the day before the big hike, i ate horribly. i had a taco salad from a food court, and then an oreo/m&m blizzard from dairy queen for dessert. it wasn't my usual diet, but i was in the suburbs, and i thought, what the hell, when will i be in the suburbs again? afterward, i spent most of the night in the bathroom. i couldn't believe what i had done to myself before venturing on an eight mile roundtrip hike. when the alarm clock rang for 8 a.m. on sunday, i kicked myself for what i had gotten myself into. but i couldn't flake on her. she was all set to go! suck it up, i told myself. for once in your life, be a goddamn man.

gen drove us out there, and it was a bit cloudy. we talked about our families and podcasts and work. there were no awkward pauses or anything. we got along fine. we got to the trailhead, and started our sunday morning adventure. she kept a brisk pace, and i was having a hard time catching up. she didn't even sound like she was out of breath. gen just kept talking about work and other stuff, and i was trying for dear life to keep up with her. i thought about the oreo/m&m blizzard. i could see it in my mind. all those sugars and chemicals slowing me down, making me feel faint. i felt bad, but i had to speak up. i asked if we could stop for a bit.

she didn't seem the least bit annoyed. she just sat there while i unzipped my backpack and ate an orange. i thought of the scene in 28 days later when the two characters are heading up the stairs and the main guy can't keep up. he has to sit down and drink a pepsi. that was me. i was crashing. if zombies were after us, i'd be eaten alive. i confessed the shit food i ate the day before, and she laughed at me. she said i should never eat dairy queen in life. she said that sometimes you just need a partner to tell you to keep going. i thought then about how it would've been nice to have had an older sibling, someone like her, to tell me to suck it up every now and then.

once i had regained my senses and was good to go, she said that it might be best if i led the way. which i did, at a snail's pace. going up granite, i kept finding other reasons to stop. i wanted to look at the view, i lied. i wanted to take a picture. there was a pebble in my shoe and it was making the walk uncomfortable. at some point, she told me that maybe we would see a bear. i said that i would like to see a bear, but i wasn't sure why. i just wanted to see something, anything. there's so much i haven't seen in real life.

we got up to the clouds, and a huge meadow opened up. everything was red and green and fog. she pointed out blackberries, and told me that's what the bears eat. i wanted to ask if we could eat them, too, but i didn't want to sound too ignorant. she regained the lead, but i must have gotten my second wind from the orange because i was keeping up. the cool mist on me helped, too, and i knew that i could summit the mountain, no problem.

all of a sudden, she became quiet, and she stopped so suddenly in the middle of the trail that i almost bumped into her. i turned to my right, and about twenty or thirty yards away, there was a giant black bear looking right at us. the bear looked to her right, and there were two small cubs eating berries. the bear looked at us again, and this time, she got up on her hind legs. gen said that we should probably turn around. i did as i was told. i calmly turned, remembering that any sudden movements might freak the bear out. my natural instinct was to run away, run the fuck away, fast and far, but somehow i knew the bear would just leave us alone.

we walked far enough back down the trail, and we bumped into two young women. gen told them about the bear sighting, and they decided to turn around. gen reasoned that it would probably be okay, that they would most likely retreat at the sound of our voices, but the fact that the bear got on her hind legs really threw her off. the four of us agreed that it would probably be okay, so we continued up the trail. we saw the cubs again in the distance, and we decided that it would probably be a better idea to just turn around. this was their home, after all, and we were intruding.

on the hike back down the mountain, gen told me that i was pretty calm for what had just happened. i told her that i didn't have time to really process the encounter. but what i really thought was: if the bear killed us, then it killed us. what else could we have done?

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