Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

For me personally this has been a busy and confusing time; I don't know how Donovan feels about it. I miss my handy dandy fork lift. I also miss electric lights, central heat, and non-stick skillets but since I’m unlikely to see any of that stuff for a long time if ever I suppose I should just get over it. Easier said than done; this little camping trip isn’t near as much fun as all of those apocalyptic novels made it seem like it would be. In some ways I even miss being what Donovan likes to call when he gets preachy a “sheeple.” That is a not very nice term for a person who just acquiesces to authority without putting a lot of thought into the why of things. I was never a total sheeple, too much independence for that, but it was nice when I didn’t have to think about every stinking little detail in order to survive.

Another thing that is hard to understand is how I got volunteered to be “the little woman.” On second thought yeah I do. I can’t chop wood and Donovan can’t cook. At all. As in the process of boiling water escapes him. He thinks those self heat meals are haute cuisine. The other day for lunch he tried to “help” by heating soup so I could finish hanging the last of that disgusting bedding outside until we can figure out how to clean them (or simply dispose of them). I was having fits trying to hang the nasty things over tree limbs and keep them there. That’s not as easy as it sounds given the cold wind that has started blowing around during the day time hours.

So, I’m outside dealing with stuff and getting very irritated as I chase down about half of what I hang up because it is blowing away. I guess he was trying to be nice, or maybe he was born without taste buds, I don’t know which. As I got the last blanket finally hung so that it would stay I turned and noticed some smoke coming out of the cave entrance. I was already out of breath from cold and work but the adrenaline kicked in and I ran over only to bounce off of his chest at the cave entrance. He was bringing me a mug of “soup.”

All he had to do was add water to the dry mix and simmer and stir occasionally for fifteen minutes until it thickened. That’s it. Rocket science it was not. Instead he thought it would be quicker if he boiled it for ten minutes but he said that for some reason it stuck to the bottom of the pot and tasted a little bland. Bland?! The pot is still so black on the bottom I’m unable to use it for anything but waste disposal. Then he decided to doctor it up to “fix” it. Oh … my … goodness. The first bite nearly turned my lungs inside out and my eyes watered so bad it looked like I was crying. He thought I was being mushy about him making me soup … and he blushed. I mean he really blushed. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was just about to upchuck on his boots if I didn’t get out of the cave and get some fresh frozen oxygen to purge my sinuses.

What amazed me even more is that I sat there and watched him eat his share and mine too without a single twitch after I told him I couldn’t eat because my nerves were a little fried. The man amazes me with his can-do and make-do ingenuity but I’ll be drawn and quartered before I let him anywhere near what I plan on eating again. As far as his stomach goes he has got to be a mutant, that’s all there is to it.

I’m a little anxious about our progress. Originally I planned on it only taking one day of cleaning and then we’d move in but it took three and the only reason we are all the way in today is because another bad snow storm has us boxed in and we were both concerned that all of our gear would be in the half-track and we wouldn’t be able to get to it if we needed it. We’ve been out of the bunker for a over a month now and I thought I was used to the snow but it is coming down so much that I’m a little worried that we are going to get blocked into the cave completely for who knows how long.

I’m glad we managed to at least clean the worst of the mess up before we had to hole up. The depth of filth that was in the various cave areas cannot possibly have come from the couple of months that the kids lived here. Donovan, or the resident cave specialist as I call him when I want to be irritating, thinks the cave has been in use a very long time. He found some cave paintings down in the spring cavern and he found some old reflective mirrors, the kind that used to be used by miners to bring light into tunnels and caves several generations back.

In addition to the blankets the fireplace was an awful mess. The “chimney” was built around a natural crevice that went up and out to the surface. We found the opening when we lit a fire only to be driven outside by the smoke. A couple of hours later when Donovan was tramping around looking for wood he saw the soot encrusted snow around the opening. Donovan has cleaned it out as good as he can for now by dropping a weighted bag up and down the crevice (on a long rope) until most of the dirt and debris fell through. My job was to sweep it up and carry it out. He spent half a day fabricating a chimney cap for where the smoke comes out to try and keep ice and snow from clogging the opening. We’ll have to check it on a regular basis but it is doing its job as I write this. Tree debris (and animals?) will also be a potential problem as the opening is under a couple of good sized evergreens but at least it is somewhat hidden.

During the chimney cleaning process we both wore bandanas over our faces and goggles over our eyes but it didn’t help much; man what a mess. If I was desperate for a bath before I’m just about crying for one in my sleep now. My hair is disgusting and I have to keep it wrapped up to keep bits and pieces of stuff from getting into everything I try and do, especially while I’m cooking. My pillow is just plain nasty. The whole situation is so gross there are few words that are graphic enough.

Dirt and filth in general is a problem. We’ve designated the smaller cave opening as a kind of “mud room.” We’ll store wood in there and stomp off in there to prevent tracking snow and dirt into the main living area. The fireplace room is where we’ll cook, sleep, and whatever else. We’re sleeping in front of the fire but Donovan plans on making two bed frames soon to get us up off the ground. The floor is really cold even with cedar boughs for cushion.

We set up a temporary outhouse around the corner from the cave entrance but we’ve also been forced due to weather to keep a bucket of sawdust handy. The sawdust isn’t exactly saw dust but some type of animal bedding. Or that is what Donovan called it … it looks like hamster bedding to me but he said you sometimes find it in horse stalls. Whatever. It absorbs what it needs to absorb and that is good enough for me. It is much better than traipsing out to the outhouse where it feels like something vital is freezing off every time you go.

For my part I’m looking through all of the stuff in the big cavern trying to find what is in there and organize it. What a bunch of junk; formica counters, old metal bits of cars or tractors especially axles, ball bearings, old furniture and other house furnishings. It looks a lot like the thrift stores that one of my roommates like to frequent for “vintage” stuff. Maybe I should have such a bad attitude; actually I know I shouldn’t. I don’t have any business complaining. This really is bounty and beggars can’t be choosers. I’m just not sleeping very well and I’m getting cranky. I’m cold and every little noise wakes me up. I’ve got a lot on my mind. And worst of all and abysmally stupid is that I’m lonely.

Despite myself I got used to the almost claustrophobic closeness between people in the bunker. It eased up some as the convoys headed out but mostly because everyone was beginning to emotionally distance themselves from people they might never see again. I wasn’t close with too many people so it wasn’t as bad for me as it was for some but I do still wonder if they ever made it where they were going and know it is doubtful that I’ll ever know. But then there was Donovan. We got real close, close enough to regularly get on each other’s nerves and then I thought we were getting to be really good friends.

I think I might have hurt his feelings a little yesterday. I didn’t mean to, he just kind of threw me off. I was trying to clean up where I had made rice griddle cakes for lunch. The griddle cakes are easy, basically just a regular pancake batter that you add cooked rice to to make it go further. But as I’m standing there trying to figure out the best way to clean a cast iron skillet if you can’t wash it he gets all up in my personal space and startles me.

“What are you doing?!”

He kind of looks at me and then explains, “I was trying to make a pass.”

That was not only the last thing I would have thought of it scared me a little because I’ll be honest and say that I’ve been thinking warm thoughts about Donovan and feeling pretty embarrassed about it. “Why?”

I guess my question threw him off because he sighed, leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms and told me, “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time but you aren’t making it easy.”

And then for some totally unknown reason I had to mess it up by replying, “Well, I’m not an easy type of girl.”

He just kind of looked at me real hard like he was seriously thinking over what I’d said and then he told me, “No. No you’re not are you.” And then he just walked away. Just like that I managed to put a big dent in what could have been the beginning of something maybe nice. Same way I’ve always managed to run the guys off. Laura used to tell me I was too “alpha” for even the most alpha male in the highschool and that I made them fell small or inadequate because I didn’t play up to them. I just never have been able to go all breathy and say, “Ooooo, you are just so strong and …” whatever else you are supposed to say to guys to make them feel good about themselves. I don’t have any problem saying thank you, good job, or that kind of stuff but I guess that isn’t exactly what guys are looking for. I don’t even know why I’m bothering to worry this to death now; Donovan has been keeping his distance again.

It’s not that before Donovan I never seriously thought about making the time for that type of thing; I did feel young and pretty once upon a time though it feels like maybe that was a millions years ago and a completely different person. But still, if Donovan and I are going to be the only two people for a long, long time maybe we could have seen if our friendship would have supported the other type of relationship as well. I don’t want to say that he’s pulled a Moshe on me because that isn’t it at all. I think I just projected some of my needs onto him and … he was basically just being nice because we were in tight quarters for a while and because we really do need each other.

I’d already noticed that now that we have some space to move he’s taking advantage of it. I don’t see him much during the day unless we are working on a project together (like cleaning the chimney) and he was the one that set up the separate beds on either side of the fire place. Yeah, I'm embarrassed to say I wouldn't have complained if he hadn't even if it would be asking for trouble I'm not sure I'm ready for. I mean, that whole sleeping together does make me seem like I’m an “easy” girl but like he put it, it was all about survival. Only maybe I got it into my head there was another component to it. Well, now I need to get that out of my head.

I don’t see as I have much choice but there is a part of me that wonders where all of this could have lead. Donovan and I are friends. But on the other hand I realized last night that I don’t even know what his first name is. How’s that for a little weirdness? I’ve known the man nearly two year and he’s used my first name since the beginning but all I’ve ever called him was Donovan. That’s all I heard anyone call him. I kept trying to get up the nerve to ask him what his first name was but for some reason I couldn’t. He’ll probably want to know why I’m asking after all this time and I just don’t have a good enough reason to be prying into stuff like that if he hasn’t volunteered it before now.

I almost got up the nerve over a hot drink after we had been dragging up more of our supplies from the half-track. I fixed an old timey recipe that Mrs. Epstein said her grandmother used to make. You mix equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar (both things I found in the boxes back in the big cavern) and then use a little bit of that in water to drink. I tried it in hot water and it was really good and kicked the sore throat that Donovan and I both had from all the dry air. I opened my mouth on the question only he took off real fast after he was done.

I could swear Donovan is acting skittish for some reason, like he doesn’t want to be around me. And I don’t really think I’m imagining it and it hurts my feelings some. Maybe I’ve been in his space too much, or he needed a break from being “nice” to me. I’ve just always had one or two good friends that I could talk to and the last year or so has been hard for me in that respect. I miss Laura - and Moshe despite what happened - and I think I was trying to replace them with Donovan.

Laura and I continued text each other a couple of times a day even if we didn’t always get to see each other. Moshe was kind of like a big brother by default and we would sometimes get into three-way text sessons when we were goofing around missing each other's company. I didn’t have anyone specific in the bunker but Chandler and I developed a rapport and Laine was a pretty good friend there at the end but it still wasn't quite the same. Donovan and I had a good working relationship and I thought he was a friend, he even said he was a friend, but maybe friend is too strong a word for it and now he’s feeling crimped or lonely for like guy-company or something. I know he doesn’t have real high an opinion of females on occasion. Certainly the thing I did with "the pass" he said he was making must have thrown a monkey wrench into the works.

On the other hand maybe there was something because he'd go all cross-eyed if he didn’t know where I was at. For instance, I had been working in the big cavern trying to make some headway on getting organized but all of a sudden I just got a craving for some outside-ness. The big cavern sometimes reminds me too much of Level 5 and I just have to get out and breathe. I decided to walk down to the half-track and bring a couple of tools back so that I could dismantle something into small enough pieces that I could. I just sat on the bumper for a few minutes and it turned into a few minutes more than I had expected it to take to get back to the cave.

By the time I got back Donovan looked fit to be tied and spoiling for a fight. I nearly gave him one too but then decided it wasted less energy to apologize and go back to doing what I was doing. I still don’t get what happened, it’s not like he reports all of his movements to me before (or after) he does them. That was before “the pass” and he hasn’t said boo to me about not giving him a heads up where I’m going to be. He hasn’t come looking for me either. I’m so confused and this is so stupid. You’d think I was a little girl dealing with my first crush. Why do I have to make everything so hard and complicated?

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