Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Downsizing Part II: Potato Lake to Johnson Spring

     I woke up under a tarp in a meadow and sat up, spooking the herd of Elk grazing around me. I was surprised that neither Maya nor the Elk knew there were others so close. I could have spit on the Elk as they ran by.
     I gave Maya some kibble and split half of our remaining water with her. Pangs of worry assailed me. It had been another dry summer.
     I pulled the watch out of my pocket and checked the date; almost ten years. I didn’t ever wear a watch anymore, not since the cops stole the nice one Gay Ann gave me. Ten years. I chucked the watch into the Forest; wouldn’t need that anymore.
     Suddenly I flashed to sitting back in D Block, wondering where I’d be in ten years. I never would have guessed, couldn’t have really. This realization notwithstanding, I tried to pry open the future and see where I’d be in another ten. No bueno. I couldn’t see past the lack of groceries in my pack. Once again, my own mortality was apparent. I didn’t know if I would survive the summer, or even the month.
     How would it all end? When the cancer finally took Maya, would I despondently hurl myself from the cliffs? How would I continue without the motivation to take care of her? So many times I had wanted to chuck it all and surrender, but I couldn’t leave her behind. She was my sole reason for survival. When I couldn’t bear to do for myself, I was always able to find the energy to do for her.
     I might die here. Nobody for a thousand miles knew who I really was. I’d felt that way once before, at three a.m., in an alley in a Mexican border town (I’ll tell you that story some day). Nobody had known me since I had thrown Tory out five or six years previously. The last five years seemed like decades of horrible loneliness. I’d been surrounded by millions of other people entrenched in the fetid metropolis where I’d been hiding, and I felt like the loneliest man in the world. I was reminded of the Grateful Dead lyrics: “In the heat of the sun a man died of cold”.
     Three more miles should bring me to Johnson Spring and fresh water. That meant nine miles actual hiking. My gear was too heavy and my pack was broken and lying along the trail. I had to hike half my gear ahead, stashing the rest, and return-leapfrogging my way into an uncertain future. I shouldered my load (both figuraitvely and literally) and continued onward.

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