A steady breeze rustles the trees, creating a soft percussion as we hike up the hill. We press on, calves burning, to explore the area we will call home for the next few days.
At the bend in the trail we stop and discuss whether we keep hiking around or turn back and make dinner at camp.
I’m mid-sentence when Tory urgently whispers, “Stop and listen for a sec.”
I look up at Tory. His eyes are darting frantically between the trees behind me. Body motionless. Face serious as he concentrates.
Following his directions, I turn around and listen.
Bugs are clicking. Trees still rustle in the wind. A bird chirps in the distance.
What did Tory hear?
Tory would not usually be described as serious. He’s much more light-hearted, finding a way to slip in a pun or a joke into serious conversations.
If we get separated in a story and I try to find him, nine times out of ten he is lurking down an aisle, trying to sneak up and surprise me.
So I wasn’t sure what to think when Tory stared intently into the woods, listening.
Did Tory actually hear something? Or is he trying to mess with me, waiting until I’m focused on the sounds of the forest before he tries to scare me?
“Ha ha. Come on Tory,” I say timidly as I jokingly hit his arm.
Is he serious? Is he joking around?
“No, listen. Did you hear that?”
His face remains serious. His concern could be real. Or is he acting?
Even though we’ve been together almost eight years, Tory still laughs at the same jokes.
It’s not in an obnoxious way. More an infectious way. He truly still finds some old jokes funny, telling them and laughing at them with such joy that you can’t help but laugh with him again and again.
His jokes can build up to punchlines or just be one liners. They can be retellings of funny memories or just small ways to mess with you. They can be pretend put downs to get a reaction or clever ways to say something sweet. Whatever it may be, he doesn’t tire of them.
I know and love this about my husband, but that just makes it harder to know when he’s being serious or just setting you up.
“I heard something,” he says, still squinting through the trees behind me. “It sounded like a growl.”
My heart starts beating faster as I spin around.
I strain my ears, trying to hear if we’re in danger.
Adrenaline makes me paranoid of every sound. My eyes start darting around while my ears attempt to decipher between sounds of friend or foe.
Yet, despite it all one part of my brain allows a suspicious thought to float up: with my back turned away and with how focused I am, this would be the perfect time for Tory to jump and scare me.
I glance back at Tory. “I don’t hear anything.”
“You sure? It sounded like maybe a mountain lion.”
If he’s lying for some big joke I’m going to be pissed.
“Are you serious?” I ask, not fully successful at keeping the slight panic out of my voice.
His concern and uncertainty is more pronounced.
“You sure it wasn’t the sound of a car engine starting in the distance?”
“I don’t know. But I’d rather not find out.”
As he turns to head back down the hill, I finally know for certain. He’d been serious.
We trek back down towards camp, careful to keep a calm pace – we don’t want to run and appear like prey to a mountain lion.
Bantering down the hill, looking over our shoulders from time to time, I tell Tory why I didn’t fully believe him before.
Tory smiles mischievously to himself.
“You know, I was serious about hearing a growl,” he chuckles. “But, I did think about scaring you right before we turned back. It was the perfect opportunity.”
And this is why I have trust issues.