You Don’t Leave Your Friends on the Parkway

 

If you ever go trail hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway, there is a cardinal rule never to leave someone behind. Never leave someone, never get left behind, never separate from your group. I learned this from a girlfriend, a lifelong Ashevillian who I spent many afternoons driving up and down the parkway with. We often spent afternoons looking for hiking spots she remembered by their mile markers. It’s a rule I won’t soon forget after that fateful day she chanted it roughly 400 times. One afternoon, the sacred rule was broken and we spent the whole afternoon in hell regretting it.

We were taking a nice afternoon drive up the parkway in Asheville, NC circa 2007 with our then-boyfriends. By definition, a “nice afternoon” at this time meant they blasted deathrock as they drove 25 miles over the speed limit on windy, federal parkway turns. Oh they were having a grand old time scream-singing and blowing cigarette smoke out the front window only to re-enter the car through the back window directly into our faces while they held us hostage in that wheeled metal cage.  Good times.

We plotted in the back seat to proverbially beat the shit out of them when the car stopped but these numb nuts were smart enough to sense we were pissed off. The moment we pulled over at the mile marker, they bolted into the woods to escape the wrath of two teenage girls.

We could have chased after them. No doubt it was course of action they were anticipating. But instead we opted to head back to the car, and PRETEND to leave them at the mile marker where they ran like baby lions back into the wild. I had the spare key to the car, and drove only far enough around an S curve to be out of sight and earshot, where we promptly smoked some herb about it cus that had been very stressful indeed. If selfies had existed at this time, I’m sure we would have been doing that too. In fact social media could have prevented this entire incident.

“I saw your post about running into the woods as a joke!”

“I saw you post the details of your plan to trick us!”

“Ah well glad that’s over. Let’s go home now!”

If only that were the case.

Our plan was never to actually leave these guys on the parkway, merely to have them THINK we did. We were only gone around 10 minutes, but by the time we came back, something was wrong. They were gone. Not hiding gone, just not there.

It was clear to me pretty quickly: they had broken the cardinal rule. My girlfriend, thoroughly convinced of a noble truth that couldn’t have been more untrue. Everyone knows you never leave your people on the parkway.

To be fair the rule should be amended to say something like “Never leave your group on the parkway, not even as a joke first.” Which was the rule we broke first, but I digress.

She was resolute. Where else could they be, after all? We were only gone 10 minutes! They were still there and we became a 2 man search party. We looked for the boys in that wooded trail for a long time. She believed wholeheartedly if we couldn’t find them, if they weren’t answering our savage calls for them, our sexy calls, our angry calls and our primal calls, the only other option was dead in a ditch and we would find them.

At some point I wished they were unconsciousin a ditch somewhere. That would at least end the mystery, but I knew the truth was coming. Clearly, they were fucking with us. BUT NO, ol’ girl insisted they were unconscious, knocked out by each other, or some rocks I could only hope, and it was up to us to save them from these evil woods.

I knew this would turn into an instant classic. I couldn’t leave her, she couldn’t leave them, and it was my job to convince her they had ALREADY left us. We weren’t even seeing other cars on the road, just a bicycle rider going up and down this stretch training for a tour de parkway all afternoon.

I lost track of how long we stayed at this mile marker with their car and spare keys screaming into the woods for them. It must have been a while because the sun set. In darkness I was finally able to convince her if they were out here dead or dying, we weren’t going to be able to see them without light. As we drove back to town and cell reception crept back into our toolbag, a voicemail popped up from her boyfriend’s mother which made our stomachs turn.

“Hey Becca, I’m looking for (dickhead), he was supposed to be home for dinner a few hours ago…Getting a little worried. Let me know if……”

Are you kidding me?!?!??! I was on the side of reason until this message, but this got me good. We abandoned our new plan of gathering a ‘never-leave-your-friends-on-the-parkway search party’ and opted to stop by their house.

I mean what kind of people would break the cardinal rule, leave their girlfriends on the parkway to freak out for hours. What kind of people would let their girlfriends think they were dead or dying, just to hitchhike back into town, go find their mother, get her to lie for you, and then have her take them shopping for santa hats and beef jerky. What kind of people would then have their mom drop them off at home just in time to find one girlfriend in hysterics and another sitting very still and quiet.

These guys. These industrious boys that we chose for our young lives would do that. Oh and did I mention they paid that biker 50$ to keep checking on us to make sure we were still looking for them? Yeah they did that too.  I hope he got a bonus for not helping.

I had to admit getting a mother to leave that message really hammers this thing home. They must have known I was not going to fall for the deception as it stood, or maybe they really just liked to watch the world burn. Like villains that batman fight.

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