His name was Orange. This moniker fit the fat man better than most clothes, but not better than his current attire and namesake: a bright orange T shirt, stained dark around the neck and underarm. Like most dedicated, long distance hikers, Orange was a sweaty one. The wetness matted his already untouchable, stringy hair onto his crown and pasted the rest to the back of his neck. His smell did not inspire desire, nor did my nose register any pheromones underneath the stench.
What did not offend, however, was his talking. His voice was mellow and smooth, pleasurable even. We talked about this and about that, occasionally feeling close and comfortable enough to jeer at one another without offense. Similar to hair pulling by young boys turning into proper courtship, our rude remarks evolved into flirtatious banter. Apparently desensitized to his odor and unruly appearance, I became susceptible to these flirtations.
On a break in a shelter, singing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, I watched as Orange took his toilet paper roll down the trail to the privy. I was barely 18 at the time and flooded with hormones. I wondered about his past girlfriends and first experiences. It crossed my mind to be cruel, like a cat toying with a not dead yet mouse. I thought to ask if he ever made it with a teenager. Deciding I had no intention, I knew I must stop being coquettish with him. As Orange rolled back down the trail and settled himself next to me, I broke the silence.
“Orange ya glad to see me?” I asked.
“Yeah. After the shit I’ve just been through, though, I’m just glad to be here.” He laughed to himself, proud of his bathroom humor. The stars in my eyes began to blink out as he continued a detailed account of the privy’s conditions and his personal difficulties.
During the following silence, his smell rose up between us. I stifled a gag. Embarrassed to admit I considered this person a possible mate, I began to solidify my exit strategy. I had no way of out pacing this man and it would be suspicious to insist he hike on after days of using him for company. I knew I must tolerate my new friend until it was polite not to do so.
“You know what really gets my juices flowing?” Orange asked suddenly.
Shaking the fog out of my head, I asked uninterested, “What?”
Thinking on this a moment, I realized I had armpit hair after living, uncivilized, in the woods for several months. I did not want to encourage the guy, but what lonely person’s ears don’t prick when flattered? Whose heart does not soar when their insecurities are loved by another? I lifted an arm to expose myself and raised an eyebrow to ask if he liked it.
Nodding, Orange’s voice grew gruff. “Oh, yeah. Just like that. I can’t get enough of it!”
The flattery had sunk in and my smile was hard to hide. I put the other arm in the air and gave myself a mock stroke. “What about this?” I asked, wondering what exactly a sexy armpit dance would look like.
With no warning, Orange’s face dropped and his tone became serious. “ No. What are you doing? Who likes armpit hair? I was joking. Please, put those things away before you hurt someone.”
It became glaringly obvious that Orange was not, in fact, glad to see me.