Part Thirty-Eight, Chapter Eighteen: Fuck This Chapter in the Ear
I can't even bring myself to tell you the title of this chapter right now because just the thought of it makes me want to punch every fucking thing I see-- walls, television, floor, the street outside and so on-- but I sorta need my hands to be functional in order to keep writing this, which means that I can't realistically do thaOH MY GOD I SHOULD PUNCH EVERYTHING I SEE.
Chapter Eighteen starts with Cheryl describing something that she finally understands: rain. She uses the word "rain" four times in the first paragraph and immediately illustrates her knowledge of rain by starting the second paragraph with,
"Water fell from the sky and dripped from the branches..."
RAIN IS WHAT AND COMES FROM WHERE?!!?!
Whoa, whoa, things are getting a little too technical-- let's Cheryl everything down:
"Wet and miserable as it was, the forest was magical-- Gothic in its green grandiosity, both luminous and dark, so lavish in its fecundity that it looked surreal, as if I were walking through a fairy tale rather than the actual world."
I literally just wailed aloud. For real. I think I scared the dog. Goddamnit. Something can be luminous in the dark, but nothing can be "both luminous and dark" because that doesn't make any sense. Nope.
Hey, look at that.
Fuck this book. How many three-dollar words can she cram into one sentence? And what would her writing look like without the aid of a thesaurus?
"The trees were super green and it was wet and stuff. Also, leprechauns."
This is my guess.
Her thesaurus, overwhelmed with guilt about being an accessory to this crime of literature, apparently self-destructed after all that nonsense because she starts the third paragraph with,
"It rained and rained and rained,"
and someone fucking kill me. I'm not even kidding anymore. If some psycho killer broke through the door right now, I would laugh, clap my hands in glee, give him a big hug and start playing the "I'm not touching you" game until he murdered me. He'd be the most confused murderer ever.
Please kill me.
Cheryl reaches the Olallie Lake Resort and,
"Until I'd hiked through Oregon, I'd had a profoundly different idea of what the word resort might suggest."
What does that even mean.
She makes camp nearby and hey, did she mention that it's raining? Because it is. That means her clothes are damp. And there are raindrops! She's got this rain thing down.
She can't read any of her amazing books because the batteries in her headlamp are dead, so she spends the evening having thoughts. She thinks about the resupply box that's waiting for her and of all the magical things that will be in it: fresh batteries, chocolate, bags of nuts and seeds. She mentions the rain again because she's a pro when it comes to rain. She thinks about how she'll be finished with the trail in about a week and fantasizes about how awesome everything will be.
"I'd be in Portland, living like a normal person again. I'd get a job waiting tables in the evenings and I'd write during the day."
"I'd spent hours imagining how it would feel to be back in the world where food and music, wine and coffee could be had."
Shut the fuck up, Cheryl. With the exception of coffee, you've had all of those things on the trail, and you're about to have some coffee on the next page. She thinks some more:
"Of course, heroin could be had there, too, I thought. But the thing was, I didn't want it. Maybe I never really had. I'd finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in. I was there now. Or close."
Just...whatever. I can't do this anymore.
It's the next morning now and,
"'I've got a box,' I called to the ranger the next morning, chasing him as he began to drive away in his truck.
"He stopped and rolled down his window. 'You Cheryl?'
"I nodded. 'I have a box,' I repeated, still buried inside my putrid rain gear."
We're all aware of your box.
The ranger hands her three letters and a box.
"It was still raining and wretched outside, so I walked to the little store, where I bought a cup of coffee from the old man who worked the cash register on the promise I'd pay for it once I opened my box."
Are you fucking kidding me? She just promised to pay for something even though she might not have any money. There was no money in the last box; what if she fucked up again and there's no money in this box, either? How are you gonna pay for that, Cheryl? God, she's such an asshole. She sits there drinking her coffee and reading her letters and I can't even bother with the letters because I'm too preoccupied with the fact that she has not paid for her coffee and has not checked her box for money.
She finally opens her stupid box and we can all breathe a sigh of relief because not only is her twenty dollars in there, the other twenty dollars from the last box is in there, too.
"I was now rich with forty dollars and two cents."
She pays for her coffee and a "packaged cookie" and is sad to find out that there are no showers available. I start to question what I foolishly thought was her firm understanding of rain:
"...there was a driving, drizzling rain, and it was something like 55 degrees out."
A "driving, drizzling rain," you say? Let me think about that for a second.
Right. So, it's violently drizzling. Got it. Wait. What?
She has another cup of coffee and debates over whether she should do any hiking today.
"There wasn't much reason to stay, and yet going back out to walk in the woods with all my wet things was not only dispiriting but possibly dangerous-- the inescapable wet chill put me at risk for hypothermia... much as I looked forward to reaching the Bridge of the Gods, I wasn't in any hurry."
I don't understand why a little ol' thing like hypothermia is of any concern for Cheryl. This is a woman who has repeatedly hitchhiked with strangers, smoked weed with a man named Paco, enjoyed chewable opium with a man who lived in a milk truck, banged a random guy, lost eight thousand toenails and walked until her feet exploded, and she managed to do all of this without getting raped and murdered, raped and murdered again, and then again, and again, and then some more, and somehow avoided even a hint of infection from all of her profoundly horrifying wounds... she's clearly either magic or the new Jesus or both (I don't understand how Jesus works). Hypothermia, shmypothermia, that's what I say. Keep on truckin', Cheryl!
The old man who works the cash register comes over and invites her to a five o'clock dinner with the staff of the resort because no he doesn't, but that's how it plays out in Cheryl's fantasy.
"'Dinner?' My decision to stay was made."
She goes back to camp and tries to dry out her things "in between rain showers." She boils some water so she can nakedly bathe and then she fixes her water purifier all by herself and pffffffft, sure she does. Just as she's about to leave to go to dinner,
"...the Three Young Bucks appeared, soaking wet and dreamier than ever."
Don't make me post the dancing TYB gif again (you're thinking about it right now, admit it).
Ugh. She tells them that she's gonna go have dinner and she'll see if they can come, too, but "the woman in charge" was all go-fuck-yourself so instead of going back to tell the TYB that they weren't invited, she just sits her big ass down and inhales her plate of food "in about five bites" and then waits for it to be Cake Time. She shoves the whole piece of "yellow cake with white frosting" into her maw and then "
She walks back to the campground, saying that she was "holding the cake very carefully inside my coat," and is this the same "putrid rain gear" from earlier? Gross. Suddenly the ranger appears and he's all sorts of a big mess.
"He was blotting his lips with a dish towel. 'I'm talking funny,' he slurred as I approached him. 'I had some surgery on my mouth today.'"
I don't even wanna know. Cheryl says that "he seemed slightly drunk in addition to having the troubles with his mouth," and omg, what's gonna happen next? The ranger invites her over to his place for a drink because of course he does. She hesitantly declines and goes off to daydreamland to envision what the TYB might be doing while the ranger stands there drooling, but then she has an idea.
"...how if the men went with me to drink with the ranger I could use them to help me dodge whatever else he had in mind."
That's amazing, Cheryl. You're managing to use four people for your own selfish benefit all in one sentence-- the ranger for booze and a warm room inside and the TYB for protection so you can enjoy your booze and warm room. Real nice, asshole. She changes her mind about declining.
"'But maybe,' I wavered, as the ranger drooled and then blotted his mouth. 'I mean, as long as it's okay to bring my friends.'"
She skips back to camp to deliver the stolen Putrid Rain Cake to the TYB and as they eat it, Cheryl has an epiphany usually reserved for very young children:
"They were still the Three Young Bucks to me, but they'd also begun to differentiate in my mind."
This prompted to me destroy the margin of that page with, "CHERYL DISCOVERS THIS THING CALLED 'OTHER PEOPLE.'" Most humans realize that other people are real, unique living beings with their own personalities by the age of four, but 26-year-old Cheryl has just come to this realization. She spends three whole sentences describing how the TYB are different from one another-- one short, stupid sentence for each Buck-- and then spends the rest of the paragraph talking about how she has crushes on all three of them but that she like-likes Rick and omg she thinks he might like-like her, too.
"I couldn't deny that to an increasing degree I got a little fluttery feeling inside me every time Rick's eyes met mine, and I also couldn't deny that I could see in his eyes that he got a little fluttery feeling too."
She tells the TYB about the ranger, how he has booze and a fireplace, and how she wants them to come with her to enjoy said booze and fireplace. Since the TYB don't know what a selfish cunt Cheryl is, they jump at the chance to go with her to the ranger's place, unaware of the fact that they're not actually welcome there.
They all show up at the ranger's door and while the ranger is sorta happy to see her, he's clearly not thrilled about the TYB. This is when Cheryl admits that she didn't actually get his permission to "bring her friends."
"It wasn't true he'd been entirely agreeable about my bringing them along. He'd only barely consented when I'd said it was all of us or none."
Go fuck yourself, Cheryl.
The ranger, whose name is Guy, says,
"'You want a drink, good-looking?"
And so this begins. Guy tells her that he's "making something special" for her and even though Cheryl loudly asks the TYB if they want something to drink, Guy only pours one glass of "various kinds of liquor" and tops the glass off with "fruit punch from a can he took from the fridge" because he's classy and knows his drinks.
Cheryl compares the drink with the kind of crap she used to drink in college and I'm confused because she claimed that she'd never had a whole beer until Jimmy Carter gave her one, so I guess she only used to drink insane mixtures of hard alcohol back in the day...? I CALL BULLSHIT but who even fucking cares anymore.
"'It's like a suicide,' I said when he handed it to me. 'That's what we used to call this kind of drink when I was in college, where you put all different kinds of liquor in it."
Whatever. Over it. She takes a sip and says that "it tasted like hell, but in a nice way," and you really don't understand how anything works, do you. She loudly suggests to Guy that the TYB would also enjoy a glass of suicide, but Guy is pretending like they don't exist because that's how real people act and he doesn't pour a drink for anyone but Cheryl.
Since Guy refuses to acknowledge the TYB's presence, Cheryl hands Rick the glass of barf and then wedges herself beside him on the couch. She gets all fluttery about being so close to him.
Guy, oblivious to everything, only remembers that Cheryl had used the word "suicide" and decides to go with this.
"'You want to talk about suicide, darling, I'll tell you about suicide,' Guy said."
Cheryl and the TYB take turns drinking out of the one glass Guy gave her while Guy babbles on about people committing suicide. The four of them pass the drink around and Cheryl describes it as, "like we were smoking a gigantic liquid joint," and I don't even have to say anything, do I. Guy is still rambling on, describing a man who had shot himself in a Port-a-Potty and hoping this is turning Cheryl on because what lady wouldn't want to hear all this.
"'I mean just absolutely brains fucking everywhere,' he said through the towel. 'More than you'd imagine. Think of the most disgusting thing that you can even picture, Cheryl, and then picture that.' He stood staring only at me, as if the Three Young Bucks weren't even in the room. 'Not just brains. But blood too and pieces of his skull and flesh. Just all over. Splattered all over the walls inside of the thing.'"
At this point, normal people would be excusing themselves and leaving in a hurry, but Cheryl is all yeah, that sounds neat-o, gimme another drink, dick.
"I shook the ice in my tumbler. The Bucks had left me with sole custody of it now that it was empty."
Guy catches her subtle hint and asks, "You want another one, hot stuff?" As Guy goes to refill her glass, she and the TYB all "looked at one another with meaningful expressions and then burst out laughing" as quietly as they could while "basking in the glow of the fire," and what a bunch of assholes.
Guy brings (only) her another drink and starts talking about some kind of homicide that involved "BUCKETS of blood." Cheryl describes the evening as such:
"And so it went, all through the evening."
I'm assuming we're supposed to interpret that as, "I took advantage of this messed-up man by letting him feed me free alcohol all night while enjoying his warm fireplace and whenever he would leave to go get me another drink, I would openly laugh at him."
Blah, blah, blah, they all get wasted and head back to camp and thank god this night is over.
The next morning, Josh of the TYB makes an announcement.
"'So we came up with a trail name for you,' said Josh.
Cheryl, having previously been nicknamed "The Hapless Hiker," reluctantly asks what it is.
"The Queen of the PCT," said Richie.
NO, NO, NO, WRONG, FALSE, NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, FUCK ALL THIS.
"'Because people always want to give you things and do things for you,' added Rick. 'They never give us anything. They don't do a damn thing for us, in fact.'"
You know what, fuck that. First of all, I don't believe for a second that no one has ever helped or given anything to the TYB on the trail. Trail angels don't work like that. Second, if I'm being forced to believe that no one ever, ever helped them in any way, I'd have to surmise it's because they look like strong, capable hikers instead of clueless fucking jackasses. Decent people have an almost uncontrollable urge to assist the helpless and THIS is why people have assisted Cheryl along the way, NOT because she's a goddamn fucking queen like she's been wanting to be for several chapters now.
So, yeah. The Queen of the PCT. Now you know what Chapter 18 is called.
Lisa, Cheryl's friend and future roommate from Portland, shows up out of the goddamned blue, saying that she knew Cheryl would be here right about now and bullfuckingshit, how could she know that Cheryl would be right there at that exact moment. What a load of crap.
Anyway, sure, Lisa and her boyfriend, Jason, show up and isn't this all very convenient. Lisa, Jason, Cheryl and the TYB all pile into Jason's truck and drive to Bagby Hot Springs to go get naked in the water. Cheryl can't even help herself and watches the TYB get naked because of course she does. They soak in the water and that's that and I'm so glad this was included in the book, it adds so much to the story.
As they get ready to leave, this happens:
"I'd ridden up front with Lisa and Jason on the drive to Bagby, but on the return trip to Olallie Lake, I climbed in back with the Three Young Bucks, feeling clean and warm and blissed out as I clambered onto the futon that covered the truck's bed.
"'That futon is yours, by the way,' said Lisa, before she closed the camper hatch behind us. 'I took it out of your truck and put it in here in case we decided to spend the night.'"
"'Welcome to my bed, boys,' I said in a mockingly lascivious tone to cover for the dislocation I felt at the prospect that this really was my bed--"
and then she goes Full Cheryl while talking about the fact that she used to share this futon with Paul and while I could detail the whole meltdown, you know what?
Cheryl and the TYB are all "wedged in" on the futon and Cheryl is next to Rick, so this is a big deal. She vomits out a big paragraph of bullshit I can't even deal with anymore, something about how she totally wants to bang him but she's not going to and I guess this is supposed to be the "Found" part of the title of this disaster of a book. She manages not to bang Rick. FOUND.
"It wasn't just because he was younger than me or because two of his friends were in bed with us..."
Really, that's not what's stopping you? There's something else? If there weren't something else, you'd be totally cool with banging Rick while his two friends share the bed with you? Wtf. I can't even figure out what's actually stopping her. I guess she's it's because she's found now. I can't even bother.
"'I'm really glad I met you,' I said.
"'Me, too,' Rick said. 'Who wouldn't be glad to meet the Queen of the PCT?'"
She ends the chapter with this disaster:
"'Very nice,' said Rick after a while. 'Very nice,' he repeated, with more emphasis the second time.
"'What is?' I asked, turning to him, though I knew.
"'Everything,' he said.
"And it was true."
One more chapter. One more chapter of this bullshit and I'm finished.