We were lounging on the deck in our bathing suits, drinking shandies and dipping our feet into the lake, when the fellow who’d disappeared hallucinating into the woods returned to the cabin.
“Hey dude. How’s your trip going?”
“Pretty . . . good, I guess.”
“How long do you think you’ve been gone?”
“I don’t know . . . like, an hour?”
We tittered delightedly, taking joy in our superior knowledge of reality: the only thing to do when you’re tipsy on lemonade-diluted Magic Hats and your friend has been rediscovering God or whatever. “Dude you’ve been wandering around for like three hours.”
“Oh. Well, okay then.” He shrugged us off, letting his backpack shuffle down his shoulder and down to the deck floor. He stared for a moment into the water and then began rummaging through his things, looking pretty with it. We’d almost given up on him entirely as a source of entertainment, and had returned to our former conversation — until he yelped.
“Oh man! There’s . . . something . . . nasty . . . on my shirt!”
“My t-shirt! There’s some kind of . . . weird, brownish yellow stain on it . . . and it smells super gross . . .”
He held it up for us to see. Indeed there was a large stain on the shirt. But what are you going to do: crazy things happen to t-shirts in the woods. I laid back down on the deck to listen to the waves lapping the old boards.
“It’s the craziest thing, because . . . I was wearing this shirt earlier, right . . . and this stain wasn’t on it . . . and then I guess I took it off, at some point . . . and now it’s got this shit on it! What the hell is it?”
“I don’t know, dude, what does it smell like?”
“It smells disgusting!”
“Yeah, like . . . rotting . . . or, humans . . . or . . . God, I don’t know. What the hell happened to it?”
Christ, this guy is far gone, I thought, watching an ant disappear through the cracks of the dock and presumably to his watery doom. I wondered if our friend had talked to anyone while he was out there. It’s not like Vermont is barren of people, this time of year.
“Look,” someone said, “I’ll smell it and tell you what it is. Hand it over.”
The shirt was transferred. There was a deep inhalation, all of us watching nervously from the rickety old dock. For a moment, there was no sound but the waves against wooden planks.
“Dude, it’s urine!”
“That’s human piss on your shirt. How did piss get on your shirt?”
We all burst into long guffaws, screams of horror.
“Geez . . .” he said. “I . . . I don’t know. I guess . . . maybe I peed on it?”
That could be the punch line, but it actually isn’t, regardless of how hilarious we found it at the time. We envisioned how messed up you’d have to be to take your shirt off, pee on it, stick it in your backpack and then incredulously demand of your peers and the universe what happened to it. “Maybe he was trying to protect his &%$# from the sun,” someone hypothesized. “Like, he thought it would burn instantly, and he thought, this will protect it.” “Maybe he didn’t want to disrespect a tree or shrub or whatever.” “The few times I’ve hallucinated, I always thought peeing was really weird. I probably would have done something like that.” “Christ, how did he do it?”
No, instead, infatuated with nature and horrified with loud and obnoxious neighbors, our friend had seen a disgusting old Miller Lite can laying near the side of the road that day: he’d picked it up and put it into his backpack for later recycling.
And earlier that day, that week, that month, years ago, some other dude had come to the desperate realization that there are absolutely no rest stops for miles in this part of the country.