It was still early morning when I stopped to take her photograph just above the tree line, twelve thousand feet. Glory was sitting upright on the metal guardrail, her back to a high wall of rock and little aprons of old melting snow. Wind lifted the ends of her pale butter-colored hair, and on her face, one of those white ten-thousand-dollar smiles she wears—as if the universe were a fundamentally welcoming and benevolent place, as if all the inventory of the world were secretly mirroring back her same smile, all its eyeteeth clear and empty and good.
She’ll write our names on the back of the picture—Glory and Scott, Resurrection Pass, Summer 2010. Someday she’ll show her kids and say: me when I was twenty. Her husband will be washing the dishes in the kitchen. This husband of hers will be in a collared shirt, his tie over the back of his dinner chair, the first two buttons of his shirt undone. He’ll be as tall as I am, but vaguely stupid. Their children—two girls, one boy—will be on the couch with their mother, flipping through the old photographs. Your hair was so long! one of her girls will say. Look at those clothes! They’ll laugh. Then the boy—the quiet kid at the end of the couch with eyes like her eyes and hair like her hair—he’ll look up from his picture book and say: who took that picture? Her husband—call him Michael—will carefully set the last glass dish on the drying rack and cross the kitchen in his loafers to join them on the couch. Yeah, Glory. Who took that picture?
So I have to be careful with her. I knew what she was thinking, hopping down from the guard rail and skipping across the bare highway, the hem of her T-shirt flipping up in the chilly wind, flashing the white meat of her belly. She was thinking we were embarking on some big adventure. She was thinking I was bringing her to my hometown because we were in love like no two human beings have ever loved. She wrapped her arms up around my neck and kissed my jaw. She was even thinking that I would be the man in the kitchen.
“Watch the camera,” I said.
I circled slowly back to the driver’s side door and she leapt in after, climbing over me like it was a game, like she’d never been in love before, like she didn’t know how these things end. I started the car and she immediately started in with the AM talk stations. “Uh-oh,” she said, taking her hand off the dial. “It’s that extraterrestrial show.” My little Honda whirred and clicked—not the right car for a pass like that one. I always kept it to the right, as a courtesy to other drivers. We drove with the trailers and the RVs and the trucks. There was nothing fast or brave about the way Glory and I traveled. She liked to pretend there was. She liked to pretend the mountains and the trees and the bodies with which we witnessed them had only just now—and now, and now, and now—been born. Everything was new for her, everything easy and startling and wonderful. She gripped my arm, grinning and watching my face for a reaction to the radio. I turned it off.
“You’ll have nightmares. You don’t want nightmares out on the river. I don’t want you panting and climbing all over me like some scared little kid.”
“I won’t have nightmares.”
“There won’t be any lights out on the river.”
“Tell me how it will be.”
“It’ll be quiet.”
“No, tell me what it will look like.”
“It’ll be dark.”
“Well, I don’t know, Glory. I haven’t been there since I was fifteen.”
“Do rivers change that much?”
“Rivers do what they have to.”
“They do. They meander and cut out islands and change the landscape completely. Didn’t you ever take a geology class?” I don’t know why I’d invited her along in the first place.
“Have your parents been back?”
“I love it that you’re taking me.”
“Sometimes a trip to a river is just a trip to a river.”
“Not this trip. Not this river.”
“Let’s just listen to the quiet.” We rolled down our windows, and the roar of wind and fresh balsam filled the car. Glory pulled her fleece up under her chin and leaned back in her seat, took my wrist in her hand and shut her eyes. She said something then, but I couldn’t hear her for all the noise rushing in through the windows.