Dawn and dusk are so regular near the equator, and you get used to setting your internal clock by it. We were all shuffling and sagging by the time the sun set, even though we were informed that the hut/station was about an hour away.
We found a way to kill time, namely me telling Graham how wrong he is about certain musical choices.
Cohen sucks, is what I told him, after we had started saying what we missed about back home. Yes, I said it. Leonard Cohen is godamn boring and outdated and can’t sing for shit. Should have stuck to being a halfway decent poet.
You know what your problem is? Said Graham, now that we were almost side-by-side (Três and Lena had paired up as well, keeping formation). You think you know so much, but you’re kind of an idiot when it comes to taste. It’s okay, because you’re still young. That’s a common thing, I’ve found.
He hadn’t even started to breathe as hard as the rest of us. He had cool, clear river water in his voice. I just had to goad him.
I believe we met over talking about the jazz greats, so I do know what’s up, I said. And for taste, my favourite old raconteur is Tom Waits, anyway (he really is). Whatever shit Leonard whined about those long nights while my mum graded papers can’t compare to that kind of swaggery, traveling dude songwriting.
Who is that? Graham asked, but carried on as he bumped up against Lena’s pack. He was scanning the dark ahead of our flashlights hard. The drifter-bum with the voice like hammered shit that could kind of be an artist if he wasn’t so hung up looking like a hobo?
We went back and forth like this.
While he maintained that Cohen did not, in fact, sound like a warbling, baritone version of a gothy hack, I tried to assert that Waits is a musical genius that is always exploring new things and new selves, and makes it sound unique and with flair.
About this time, Heléne spoke up from the front, saying why we didn’t even mention the greatest Canadian music-man, Neil Young.
We stopped at a giant root draping across the trail and tiredly stepped over. Graham grumbled that of course Neil is good, but he’s hardly a Canuck. And agreeing, I believe I said that Neil ‘owns bones’, which of course he does.
Três, showing the first sign of annoyance since, well, ever, turned back to us and said, if you like their music, fine, but I can’t see what’s worth arguing so much over so many old, fat gringo men.
We barked out laughs, surprised and in my case, a bit embarrassed.
Well who do you like from this great country? I asked.
She wiped at her brow and thought for a bit and gave the universal, non-committal, I don’t know. There’s some greats, but I don’t listen to much music lately.
Lena stopped us as evening birds dropped and thrashed overhead. I thought of bats and the swarms of them I had seen in nature documentaries. She motioned at us, but Graham was already stepping ahead, hand to his hip holster, peering out.
Did you hear some – I started, but he motioned for quiet. Through the trees we could see lights bobbing back and forth, and then soft, sinking, heavy footsteps.
Making an annoyed sound with her tongue, Lena pushed at Graham’s arm (almost gingerly) and said, Those are his lamps, the stairs up should be just around the bend. Allons-y.
Graham made a half-hearted attempt to take point, but followed in behind. We followed.