You saw the wolves first. You braked in the middle of the dirt road thawing in the mid-March sun and told me to look, they were right there. You told me this four times, your voice growing less gentle with each iteration until finally I found them, slender and angular, their coats a wash of brown and grey that matched the melting snow. I have a hard time finding hidden things, I said, and you shrugged, confident in your own clear vision.
We had spent the weekend driving: from home, east to Leadville, then south to Buena Vista and Salida, then south and west to Pagosa, then west through Durango and Silverton to Gunnison and then to Lake City, where you pulled onto an old mining road, spurred on by a “For Sale” sign. You insisted we eat only in diners and sleep only in cheap motels, the kind with names like Sleep Inn and Roadside Lodge, the kind owned by grizzled old men who spat tobacco into cans they didn’t conceal and covered the beds with scratchy woolen comforters. You said you were looking for the real Colorado. I said nothing, too happy to have been included, too happy to be able to sit beside you in an enclosed space for two and a half days to protest over stained carpets and greasy eggs.
The wolves made no move to run but watched us with wary curiosity, bodies tensed and ready. We stared at them, taking them in, aware how lucky we were, how few people ever encounter wolves. I thought they were a sign we would be joined like this mated pair. I would live with you in the house you spoke of building on one of these remote mountains, my snowshoes and cross country skis resting next to yours on the front porch. We would need only to go to town once a week for essentials. On those days we would shop at the Wal-Mart and treat ourselves to burgers at the local café before you drove us home, winding up the steep road with one hand on the pickup’s steering wheel, the other draped across my shoulders. I would roll down the window to let the mountain breeze blow into the cab and scoot closer to you.
The wolves turned away from us and loped up the mountain, the female glancing back at us once more before disappearing into the trees. You turned up the music and drove us the five hours home, where you deposited me at the end of my driveway, leaving the motor running while I collected my things. You had backed onto the road before I opened the door to my dark and cold apartment, before I switched on the lights and turned up the heat I had lowered while away.