Have we not found enough. Are we not worth saving. Is this where one path ends and another starts. I close my eyes and feel a change start shifting, I am complete and yet I am unfulfilled, the parts of me I know, knew, are fading before my eyes, I am being replaced with a newer I. I look to the future, yes, that brimful of asha, still smoking, still jivin' after all these years. I call up to San Juan, a tall mexican fella of 6 something-high, he looks down at me and gives a giant of a giant's smile, looking all stupid and sweet at the same time. He grabs me and puts me on his shoulders, from here I could see just about everything I couldn't see from below, my eye balls must be at 11ft, what a different it makes to be this high. All around us is a milk of fog, we were looking for Sandy, who had disappeared into the mountain the night before. She had gotten herself into climbing this mountain, alone, at dark, without a flashlight, and though I had complete confidence in her and her ability to navigate through the woods, and along the mountain path in all but moon light she had never gone away for this long. Maybe in all that panic and worry I also was selfish, feeling something missing before my very eyes, the world felt too quiet for too long.
For years I lived close-to-a-hermit, not in proximity, but in lifestyle. I worked in town for most of the week, I did all the photo transfers for the paper, it paid well, and I spent most of the day alone, in a room only I entered and worked in. When I finished work I'd occasional meet up with the guys, we'd hit up the peepshow, make a round of catcalls, then drive drunk home, which was one long stretch of nowhere going nowhere (not to sound poetic, it just was). I lived just outta of town, had the boons to myself, my place more cabin than house, full of hunting and fishing equipment, had a video camera on tripod in case I found myself a fancy. I got into making videos of the women of my life, nothing erotic, though the camera on tripod in the bedroom wasn't rare, it was the most intimate place in my cabin-house, where we'd laugh, re-enact our favorite movie scenes, and get drunk and kiss and all though things to follow. I wasn't much of a lover, just had love to give, but not a lot of those to give it to. Often called, AHARDMANTOUNDERSTAND. I didn't think so, my heart was either in it or it wasn't, I had no choice to spite the gal, how charming she was, or wasn't, no matter the beauty or the breasts, I worked in ways I didn't even understand. Anyhoot, about these videos, well I used to use a Hasselblad years ago, gave it to this young photographer starting at the paper, and never took a photo again, in video I was able to capture something closer to the real thing, there was life, there was honesty in motion. And though I couldn't stare at it for hours on end, and hold it in my hands, hide it in my wallet, I liked the fact that for a brief moment I saw a flicker that once happened, and then it ends, like a real good record you can't just have in the background while you iron your shirts or take a bath, no, you gotta give it your full attention because when it ends there's nothing but a world of static (reminding you it is over, for now, goodbye, until we meet again). Never got too big on re-watching 'em videos too much, only once in a while in a pit of loneliness. I didn't mind how quiet it was up there, nor did I mind being alone, it's just nowadays that I can't stand it. When something comes around and colors your life with something, something with all the poetry I read, wrote, and was planning on reading and writing, nothing could explain nor define what this something was. I guess I could just let myself be careless, wonder the world with a hand in my own, and be a teenager, be an adult, be whatever, whenever, disregarding any rules I made, any plans I had, and sometimes even friends, I call her my great distraction.
I hit the earth hard, San Juan asked if I was ok, I said yes, and I followed him as he cut down a path with his machete. If anyone knows this forest, or nature in general it was San Juan, who can man-track like no one else, he made for some of the best company camping, and he also knew the right drug to take depending on the location, the time of year, the weather, the energy that would resonate between us and nature, and something to do with the stars. He was a real mystic, claiming to be half Aztec-descent, with a bit of Spanish and Navajo, and he had some of the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen, they were deeper than any ocean, and upon a daze of mushrooms I made sure never to look into them, swearing to myself I'd lose my soul in there. A whack, a crack, and the sound of leaves being step on carried on for endless moments, time was slipping from my conscious with thoughts of where she was, what she was doing, and was she okay. In a chest of worry, I put my insecurities in there, hollow doubts and ponders of who I was, how important, and did I do something wrong, all into that chest. I buried it a few yards behind us, and carried on. It made me feel lighter.
We reached a clearing, where a crown of trees gathered. We were high enough for the clouds to hit these fields, and with them a deep fog covered the land. I remember this place too well. All night I had been slipping in the mud, but I had brought hiking boots, and it was dark and I was too distracted to see nor care about all the mud on my boots, pants, and ass. I remember the first time we came up here. I remember being alone, hiking, climbing altitude and finding my breath, but never once stopping the conversation I was having with her. We had all this around us, it was unbelievably surreal, and yet, disappointing if you were looking for a dream, some sort of escape because the very ground we stepped on was firm, hard, taking to your weight, and we were not floating, this was real, and in a way it only made it better (I was done with dreaming). I was a man before those moments, but I was still a boyish dreamer. I know the exact date I stopped being a dreamer.
In a waste on the side of the highway, Carla and I had been a sour mood all day, we fought the days before, I saw her cry too many times, and I remember the last time I saw her cry, and realized it no longer hurt me to see her cry, that I was too mad, too furious to feel that spark, and need or want to cry myself. We found ourselves a hotel for the night, on the second floor, and she wondered off in the middle of the night. She had gotten herself stuck on the roof of this building, and when I found myself in a frantic conversation with someone who lacked any rationality. She had gone over the edge, lost all sense of sensibility, and was a ruin up too far from my reach. All I had were my words, I called to her, to tell her to stay there, that she should not try to climb into the window (the window that was impossibly too far to reach). I told her to promise to me to stay there, to wait for me to return with a ladder. I had her promise on me, on all we had (a shitty El Camino, a few dollars, and some bruised hearts). When I returned with the ladder she was gone. I looked around, in fear of finding her body somewhere, all mangled and stock-shit-dropping-with-a-bottomless-pit-in-the-guts, but she was no where to be found. I looked up, called her name, nothing. A pair of hands covered my eyes, there was cheeriness to her voice when she said, "guess who". I peeled her hands from my eyes, put my hands into my pocket without ever looking back and proceeded to the hotel lobby. I checked out, then walked to the dinner across the street and sat there sipping coffee for oh-i-don't-know-how-long. There wasn't a thought in my mind other than what could happen any minute, Carla coming into through the door, saying something about being sorry, I had planned to give her the keys and say, "It's all yours". If I could I'd rip my heart out from my chest and hand it to her, but knew it would never be enough for a gal like that, never enough, chasing a dream. The word of the day was somewhere between Fuck and Idontcarenomo'. I was a stone. But to spite all those feelings stirring around, I felt relieved. Something had been lifted from my chest, I felt free, realizing I wasn't free for years prior. I believe they call those moments, moments of clarity, some call it Eureka, I call it being a moody blue rolling the stone don't the street, and I wasn't Flashy Jack-Jack-Jack, I was just outta of gas-gas-gas. I never looked back from that day. And since, I have become not necessarily stronger, but better, getting to know the self of me that was meant to be. I felt right.
Lost in the clouds, we helped each down the mountain, we were covered in mud, everything but my white shorts. It took Sandy and I almost twice as long as the climb, but I didn't mind, it was all worth it. In the end none of us fell, to spite all the slips and running mindlessly down hill, we got back to the car with something profound within each one of us. It was different for me as for her, and I knew that right then and there I could never fully realize what it was. Even to this day I still don't know, perhaps I will once I see Sandy again, wherever she was, lost on her merry way, she may not even be on this mountain, she could be far away, in her own corner of the world, alone and full, sleeping, talking, writing, and reading, learning, and losing, losing it big, and losing it small, gaining it all, all, all back, and over and over, someday we'll find you, I'll hunt you down, down, down.
San Juan takes a deep breath, this is the first time I hear him sigh.