Late into the evenings I would pull on dry jeans and a damp t-shirt over a still-soaked bathing suit and comb my fingers through my wet, tangled hair. I would fetch the stick I had leaning up against a tree, tied with a frayed piece of pink yarn so that none of the boys would steal it and I would seek out Lochlan, throwing myself down beside him at the campfire. He would pass me a hot dog and I would roast it slowly while I listened. That was my space. As the evening grew late I would get tired and rest my head on his shoulder. When he got tired of that he would shrug violently until I woke up and sat up straight, and sometimes he would find a hoodie and wrap it around me and put his arm around my shoulders and hold me close while he nursed a single beer for hours and smile quietly at nothing in particular. Those were some of the best sleeps I ever had. He lives at one hundred and forty degrees.
Like everything with Lochlan, it depended on his mood. Something that hasn't changed much since he was fourteen. Sometimes I think those were the very best days of my life and other times I see how little I have changed, and how I grew to crave that physical intimacy of touch beyond anything else I will ever need. How he will sit back and wait for me but never come to meet me halfway. On anything.
He is still like that. Hot and cold. In the mood or not. You can ask him what's wrong and he'll look at you like you have suddenly sprouted an extra nose or a third arm, or he'll mutter something about being tired to blow you off. The cues leading to that question would be the same. Maddening. So like Lochlan.
Yes, for the past thirty years, he has been the same.
Hey Bridget, here's your hot dog.
What's on it?
Dried mackerel flakes. Just try it, you'll love it.
Trust me, I know you, princess.
And he smiles at nothing. I still don't understand him at all.