As the road rises in elevation, the air grows cooler. I keep going until the river narrows with boulders. Sweat sticks to my skin as I slow and pull over on the side of the road. I stash the bike amongst some bushes and climb down the encampment to the water bed.
It’s pebbly down here with a surprisingly low tide considering the rain we’ve had. It smells like fresh water, the scent you get from tall mountain runoff. Clean and crisp. I love that smell, the chill of it.
I find a large boulder to sit on and take my shoes off, dabbling my feet in the water. I brought two vodka nips with me and take them out, look at them. They shimmer in the light. After a moment, I place them back inside my uniform pocket.
It’s still hot, even at a higher elevation.
The trees sway. The foliage is dense here at the S-curve of the river. The shoulders run tight. A few feet away, the current eddies in a shallow pool of slow moving water. I check around me, then start to strip.
Dad would never approve of this, but Mom and Meg would. The three of us used to swim everywhere. In lakes, rivers, the ocean. On one trip to Rodanthe, North Carolina, Mom forced my dad to stop on the side of the road so the three of us could get in the water. I was seven. Meg was fourteen.