The Circle of Hitchhikers

I almost missed them.  I nearly mistook them for a couple teenagers who were alternative enough to hang out in the sunshine next to a highway instead of on a beach.  Kids are weird sometimes.  It was the clothes that stopped me first.  The layers of dark colored clothing that might have been purchased that color, but were probably just really dirty.  I slowed and the snake bites, the disheveled hair most likely cut by razor blades, and the slightly excessive amount of bags piled around them told me all I needed to know.

I slammed on my brakes and scooted to the shoulder of the road.

“Where are you going?” I called through my window, which was still rolling down.
“White Bear, but every mile counts,” the young man answered, standing and coming closer to my vehicle.
“I’m only going up a couple exits.  I can’t take you far.”
“Every mile counts,” he repeated, smiling.

The phrase was familiar.  I smiled to myself and unlocked all my doors.

In 2009 I was the kid on the side of the road (that story told here) hoping for a ride instead of the adult with places to be who could spare a few minutes to load some stinky teenagers in and out of her car.  One of my rides was a young couple who picked me up in Idaho a few miles before the mountain ranges were going to begin.  The woman told me she was impressed that I traveled alone and I told both of them that people had only been nice so far, which didn’t seem to surprise them at all.  They spent the rest of our miles together reminiscing about when they had hitched and talking about how great it was to be on the other side of the equation now, paying back all the favors they had received in their youth.  When they got to their exit they gave me the remainder of a bottle of tequila from their trunk to “keep me warm”.

I opened the back of my car and shoved a few of my things out of the way to make room for their bags.

“Nice blades,” the young man nodded at my roller blades.  I smiled and thanked him in the faux Minnesotan accent I’ve picked up from my boyfriend and his friends, realizing at the last second that they wouldn’t realize it was fake.  I grinned and wondered what the two of them thought of me, the heavily accented woman in a shiny Prius with light blue roller blades in her trunk and a fancy cheese cake in her front seat. 

Hitchhiking gave me the opportunity to meet people I would never otherwise meet.  I met middle aged men who worried over their broken relationships or the monotony of their jobs.  I met a clean cut young man who had just found out that he and his wife were going to have a baby.  I met a woman who crossed the border from Canada to the United States whenever she was low on gas because it was so much cheaper on the other side.  I met a man who designed underpasses and bridges.  I met that young couple with the stories of their youth and the bottle of tequila.  I met a mom who was on her way back from a music festival.  I met a middle-aged woman who loaded her entire car with hitchhikers and their pets.  Some of them made more significant impressions than others.

Their tiny dog leapt into my lap, a surprise since I hadn’t noticed it on the side of the road.  

“He always wants to drive,” they said.
“My kind of dog.”

I looked over my shoulder once, quickly, and got the four of us on the highway.  It was my first time with more than one passenger in my car.  All three were strangers and one was a dog who wouldn’t stop switching seats.

When I returned to Minnesota after hitchhiking I tried to convince anyone who would listen that they should do the same thing.  I was always met with a rousing chorus of “Stranger Danger!”

Friends and family cited news stories or a recent episode of CSI where hitchhiking ended in a brutal murder or assault or rape or robbery or something.  I understood where they were coming from, but, like them, my fear of hitchhiking was attached to pieces of fiction or celebrity telling the story of how they stopped hitchhiking after years of happy, free travel.

It was only after I had been unplugged from the media for a few months that my social calibration readjusted to the point where I was comfortable hitching.  The media doesn’t have the power to make people do bad things, but it does have the power to make people fear bad things.  Without my crime shows and nightly news broadcasts I was able to see people as they tend to be (which is average) instead of fearing their most dramatic possibilities (as murderers and rapists).  And average is exactly what everyone tended to be.  I found that every person I met was boring, nice, mildly interesting, or mildly annoying.

The worst ride that I had was with a self-important liquor salesman who told me about the crazy parties that he hosts on his super fancy yacht.  I wasn’t impressed by him, nor did I really believe anything he told me.  My obvious boredom with his booze and money soaked stories ticked him off and our clashing of personalities culminated in the very dramatic conclusion of him dropping me off a couple dozen miles earlier than he had originally promised.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, all of us have met some version of that guy in the real world.  He sucks just as much when you’re trapped in a car with him.  He is no more dangerous in a car than he is in a club.

And most people didn’t suck.

Almost every person I rode with gave me something or offered me something on top of the ride.  Sometimes it was just privileged information, like with the heartbroken man who lived in the middle of nowhere or the man who told me about the baby he and his wife were expecting before any of his friends got to hear the news.  Others offered up a warm bed in their homes, access to a hot shower, warm meals, snacks, drugs, booze, money, admittance to the most happening party in town that night, business cards, lectures, stories or advice.  Everyone had something to give on top of the ride they were already giving.

I asked them questions about themselves and their travel plans.  

They were both in their early 20s.  The guy was from this area.  The lady was from Georgia.  They had met in Georgia and were on their way to the West coast, where the lady had never been before. 

I briefly mentioned my experience hitchhiking and felt their perception of me shift ever so slightly.  I think it mostly confused them.  I was a yoga pant wearing, blond lady with roller blades and an expensive cheesecake, goshdarnit.  Could I be their future?  

Our conversation fizzled.  They had been traveling long enough that all of their responses to my curious questions were worn thin.  They were still polite and friendly, but they weren’t bubbling with stories of their trip.

Remembering the exhaustion I sometimes felt in the middle of a series of short rides I turned the music I had been listening to before I picked them up back on.  It was folky and fast.  I felt their perspective shift again.  It was something they would listen to.  Something they might play around campfires.

I had been an iteration of them a few years ago.  There were remnants of it in the stories I told and the music I listened to.  

I could be their future.  

This, I think, is what I like most about hitching.

This, I think, is why I don’t want hitching to die out.

When hitchhiking is something that our culture does across generations, I think it helps us see older and younger generations just a little more clearly.

I like that the people who picked me up were often people who used to hitchhike.

I like that I can be five miles worth of proof in the “People are Good” column of a young adult’s formative experiences with the world.

I like to think that the people who I picked up yesterday will do the same thing some day.

And maybe they’ll be surprised.  Maybe they’ll be surprised by how normal and grown up they look in their shiny new car with the gym bag rolling around in the back.  Maybe they’ll be surprised by how bad these new kids smell.  And maybe they’ll be relieved that the music they were listening to or the brief story they tell might serve as a hint to who they used to be.  And maybe they’ll start to think about the chance that one day they’ll be the ride instead of the rider.

And maybe that cycle of giving and receiving will continue forever.

2009hitchhikereturn

Me with my niece at the tail end of my longest hitching trip.

I want my Daddy

I don’t have these days often anymore.

Even immediately after my father died, I didn’t feel as big of a gap in my day to day life as I expected.  Part of that was simply that I’d just started college, so I wasn’t around home to notice that he wasn’t.  I was in the middle of trying to spread my wings and find my place in the world, so I didn’t expect my Dad to be much more than a weekly(ish) phone call, an email here and there, and a part of my visits to Minnesota.

Of course, every once in a while I would have a question that I felt like only he could answer.  He, obviously, was not around, so I’d lose it.  I’d bury myself in painting or journals or blogs and I would stop fucking sleeping because there was only one voice that I needed and that voice was permanently unavailable.  I’d break down sobbing in a circle of friends, so lost in my own tears that I couldn’t even see the stutter of confusion flicker across their faces as they processed the suddenness of my outbreak. I would pick up and leave the place where I was, move to new cities or take trips to different countries with barely any notice.  I would walk the long sidewalks of Chicago in the comparative quiet of the night with my hood up and my earbuds in.  I would close doors both literal and figurative and shut my ears to every voice that breathed.  I could handle reading.  I could handle movies and television shows and podcasts.  I couldn’t handle the kind of people who stood, flesh and bone, in front of me, because they were never the right person.

And today, for the first time in at least a year, it hit me again.

Sitting behind the wheel of my big, clunky Buick, staring at a red light and trying to shape the thoughts in my mind into something cohesive, I realized who I needed to talk to.

Whose advice I needed.

Whose voice I needed to hear.

My throat constricted.  I bit the insides of my lower lip.  The insides of my torso pulled further inward.

Because that voice is permanently unavailable.

My Dad was one of those people who was uniquely capable of bridging viewpoints that are notoriously difficult to bridge.  He was balanced, level and incredibly gifted with perspective both nuanced and practical.  In addition to this he also had a very moral core from which he rarely, if ever, wavered.  He listened and spoke well.  He expressed his beliefs with gentleness and authority.

And that is exactly what I need right now.

Part of the struggle of growing up, the reason why you need to be surrounded by people who are intelligent and thoughtful, is because sometimes it is really hard to tell if the decisions you’re making are okay.

It’s really hard to tell if the compromises you choose to make err in unhealthy directions.  It’s really hard to tell if the moments in which you do choose to stand firm are moments of childish stubbornness, moral victory or some murky in-between.  It’s really hard to tell if you’re turning into an adult or if you’re just getting older and more authoritative.

Sometimes you need someone to tell you.

I have plenty of people around me who are incredibly intelligent and thoughtful who I could talk to about my struggle to grok adulthood.

But none of them are my Dad.

None of them have his nuanced world view, his way of very kindly telling me exactly why I’m wrong or why he’s proud of me, his moral compass or his warm hug at the end of a hard conversation.

That’s all I want.

And it is the one thing I cannot have.

Often life gets distracting and full and beautiful and I think it’s healthy that I don’t always realize how big of a hole you left when you died.

But then there are days like today and the hurt is just as powerful as it was when I first heard you were gone.

I miss you.

I wish we’d had more time.

I'd take another puzzle date with you and Matt any day.

I’d take another puzzle date with you and Matt any day.

2014/2015

So we’re a couple days into 2015 now.

Welcome to the New Year, errbody.

I haven’t made any resolutions yet, partially because of that Habit RPG thing I’ve been harping on about.  I’ve already put the things that would normally count as resolutions (start drinking more water!  floss your teeth!  don’t be a slobby slobster all the slobbing time!)  into Habit RPG, so I’m pretty set with the whole self-improvement thing, New Year notwithstanding.  The goals and the methodology for achieving the goals are in their very neat 8-bit place and at this point it’s just a matter of seeing which ones stick and which ones don’t and then deciding if the goals that weren’t so sticky deserve more attention or if they were kind of a waste of energy to begin with.

Like reading poetry, for instance.  Why exactly do I want to read poetry every day?  Is that really necessary?  Or is it just one of those things that sounds good for a minute and is actually kind of stupid?

Anways.

Something that I’ve been meaning to do is the Guillebeau Year End Review.  It’s a great way of looking back at the last year, evaluating what went well and what didn’t, and identifying the areas of your life that you want to put more (or less) energy into. It’s also great at distinguishing between goal setting as opposed to resolutions.

The thing is, though, that right now I’m just super content.

I mean 2014 was exhausting.

For a lot of reasons.

Part of that exhaustion was because of the good stuff.  I traveled to New York and Panama and experienced Chickentown (Sshhh) for the first time and saw some great concerts.  I went to a lot of plays and an opera, discovered some incredible albums and musicians, saw my nieces and nephews play sports and dance and sing.  I ate some really amazing food.  I met some really, really cool people.  I read some great books.  I did some really fun jobs, from managing a hostel to doing social media for a tiny publishing company and working some really fun promos.

Alternatively, I worked erratically and frequently was booked when my friends were getting together.  I lost a couple friends.  I had an ex who had a lot of trouble taking “leave me alone” at face value.  I sometimes had trouble balancing commitments, which made me alternatively feel like a bad aunt, sister, daughter, employee, friend, and girlfriend.

So it hasn’t been perfect.  And I obviously have goals and things that I’d like to be (or am) working towards right now, but life lately is very good.  I’ve been in Minnesota for a little over a year now.  I am surrounded by my family and am slowly by slowly rekindling relationships with old friends.  I’m able to spend time with my nieces and nephews and sisters and brother and mother with relative regularity.  I grab casual dinners with friends instead of catching up with months worth of material every time I swing through town.  I have a job that is very okay that pays better than okay.  I am half of an amazing couple and my partner is a person who I respect and love supermuch.  And the feeling is refreshingly mutual.  Lately I’ve been finding time to hole up in coffee shops and write.  I have started reading the stacks of books that I’ve accumulated over the years and I have the energy to read stuff that has actual content to it instead of the fluff that I’d started to read disproportionately.

2014 was, for lack of a less cliched cliche, a roller coaster.  And my head is kind of spinning and I’m a little out of breath, but I keep catching myself being straight. up. grateful. for where I am at this moment.

For now, instead of looking into 2015 for everything that it has to offer, I’d rather take a moment to appreciate the place that 2014 has deposited me.

Because it’s a good place to be.

Your Grandson

Hey Dad.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for me.  I miss you because I find something beautiful in a book that reminds me of you and I want your perspective on it.  I miss you because I haven’t gotten a Dad-hug in a long time.  I miss you because sometimes it feels like I don’t remember you enough and I want that impossible refresher.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for someone else.  I miss you because I have a conversation with a sibling and I know that you were far more equipped to listen to them than I could ever hope to be.  I miss you because I want you and Mom to be living together at 581,  joking ever more seriously about moving to Covenant Village.  I miss you because I know you influenced strangers, family and friends alike in powerful ways and I want the world to be one person better again.

And sometimes I miss you for you.  I miss you because there are things happening and people existing that you would love and I wish that you could experience all of those things and people.

I want to tell you about one of them.

This is Axel.

He is one of your grandchildren.  The only one (so far) that you didn’t get to meet.

There are a lot of things that make Axel special.  He is energetic.  He loves people.  He’s only three, but he splits his time between the kids and the adults during family gatherings because he enjoys both.  He loves to play sports and games.  He’s goofy and creative.

And one of the qualities that I think you would love the most: Axel has an ear and a love for stories.

Just like you did.

Your daughters were being put to bed after a long day of playing.  We took a bath together and you, Dad, you poured more than one cup of freezing cold water onto our heads from behind the shower curtain.  Your laughs and our squeals, which were half delighted and half indignant, echoed around the bathroom.  You pulled each of us out of the tub individually and wrapped us head to foot, in thick, soft towels, until we stopped shivering and put on our pajamas.

We congregated on the bed.  Some of us were tucked under thick blankets, others sat on top of the sheets, savoring every last moment of freedom until bed time actually required sleeping. 

“What story do you want tonight?”  

“The scary man who ate oranges whole!”
“The junkyard story!  Tell the junkyard story with the creepy spyglass!”
“The story about the pigs!  The runt and the corn cobs!”

You laughed as we barraged you with an indecipherable cacophony of favorite stories.  Our suggestions turned into an eager silence and we stared up at your bearded face, expectant and excited.

“Why don’t we make up a story together?” you suggested.

And we did.  We arranged ourselves in a circle and, one sentence at a time we told a story that had never been told before and would never be heard again.

Over Easter weekend I noticed that Axel was always looking for a story.  We dyed Easter eggs Saturday morning at Heather and Chad’s house.  After we had finished staining our fingers in every pastel imaginable, Axel crawled into my lap and we looked at the USA place mat in front of us.  First we looked at the blank side and tried to remember the names of each state and then I started telling a story about a trip I had taken.

The story was nothing more than a mosaic, a patchwork quilt.  I told snippets and vignettes from the roadtrip Evie and I took a few years back and bits and pieces of my hitchhiking trip.  Each tidbit was attached to the last by the thin, invisible line I drew with my finger from one dot on the map to the next.  Evie joined in the story telling as well and soon the whole table was involved in the story.  Axel, specifically, couldn’t get enough.  At the conclusion of each story he would look up to either me or Evie and ask for the next part.

Axel, Jacob and I eventually started making up stories of our own. We told each other about our births at the bottom of the ocean or Lake Superior, where we found ourselves stuck in bubbles that rose slowly to the surface.  We spared no detail in the arduous journey from seafloor to sunshine, and our histories after our bubbles popped on the cresting waves were filled with robots and monsters and cows…I’m sure you would have had something fun to add.  I can imagine the smile that would have been on your face and hear your chuckle as you added new, fantastic elements to our ridiculously fun stories.

On Easter night Kaijsa, Axel and I sat outside old 581 and stared at the stars.  I asked them what they saw.  Kaijsa found a question mark that was actually the Big Dipper, which I loved.  Fresh eyes find new stories in the skies.  The call to follow the big dipper north has faded and we are left with an ethereal question mark in the sky instead.

After they told me what they saw, I told them what I had learned.  I told them about the big dipper and how it had been utilized on ships and secret, trackless railroads.  Kaijsa went inside, but Axel couldn’t get enough.  I told him that there was a W in the sky that some people thought looked like a chair and that in that chair there sits a beautiful, starry woman named Cassiopeia who is made of light and if you get close enough to her your eyes will not be able to focus.  Not because of the light, though that is powerful, but because of her beauty.  We also established that even though she was gorgeous, she wasn’t very nice.  So she sits in the sky as punishment, halfway between punishment and glory.

I pointed out Orion, with his shining belt, and told them (Kaijsa rejoined the storytelling party eventually) a wildly inaccurate story about who Orion was and what he did to deserve a seat in the stars.  (I didn’t mean to be inaccurate.  I just forgot the story and mine was more heroic and fun to reenact than the original, anyways.)  The three of us ran around in the grass, pointing into the heavens and screeching truths and giggling lies and becoming a part of the story, of the constellation, that existed for thousands of years before us.

You would have loved it.

I wish you were still here so you could tell all of your grandchildren, especially Axel, stories of your childhood.  I wish you were still here so you could create new stories with the four of them (and me, if you’d allow another adult to join you  :D).

I wish this for them, in part, but mostly I wish it for you.  I wish it for you because stories were an important part of how you interacted with the world and I wish you could see that love of stories continued in the grandson you never got to meet.

Wandering Wednesday – Home

There are two things that I need to say to preface this entry:

1.  One of my resolutions this year is to blog three times weekly.  I figure that structure will encourage me not only to write consistantly, but also to write quality material instead of constantly copping out with bad poetry.  My plan is to write every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Mondays are my free days, so I’ll write about something I’m reading, watching, thinking or feeling…typical bloggy stuff.  Wednesdays I am alliterationally calling “Wandering Wednesdays” and will be about a new place that I have visited or explored.  Fridays are devoted to fiction.  This way I get to explore three specific parts of myself (the indecisive free spirit with too many interests, the traveler and the story teller) on a consistent basis and my readers (all zero of them) will know what to expect on a given day.  So if that’s something that matters to you, that’s a win.

2.  I have had a few conversations since I returned home that have shocked me.  Not necessarily because of their content but because of their implications.  I am very close to my family.  I like to think that I know them quite well.  I know that I don’t know any of them perfectly, especially now that we have started moving out of the house and creating new chapters in our lives that have less to do with the Petersons as a unit and more to do with us as individuals who care about each other.  However, I am realizing that there are important bits and pieces of my siblings and mother about which I know nothing.  I have had 23 years worth of time to ask these people questions and grow in my understanding of them and I am still learning “new”, important things about them today.  I love that I learn new things about the people that I love.  I hate that there have been and will continue to be things that I never think to find out about them.

Today is Wednesday.  According to point one that means that I am supposed to wander somewhere new and unpack the untold mysteries of a place I have never seen before.  Due to point two, however, I thought that it would be fun to explore the house that I grew up in with fresh eyes and see if there is a part of this place that I did not know before.

I present to you…mi casa:

 

From the outside a house is almost less than a house.  It fades into the scenery just as much as the leafless trees and bushes in front of it.   The redness of my house is something I remember being proud of as a kid.  I liked that it stood out of the monotonous drone of grays, browns and light blues that characterize most of my suburb.  A red house with white trim was unique without being an eyesore like the odd pastel yellow or pepto pink ones we drove past in Minneapolis.

Workshop

I remember seeing beams of light shining through the cracks around the door to my Dad’s workshop when I brought a basketball or a bucket of chalk back into the garage after a day of play.  I would peer inside and wave at the man with sawdust in his beard.  I would jealously stare at the saws and hammers and journal about my dream (although by the time I was old enough to use the machines I’d given up on the dream) of becoming a carpenter like the two most admirable people I could think of:  My Dad and Jesus.  In that order.

I thought that if I was looking for the secrets my house has been keeping from me I should start in a place that I never spent much time in.  I figured that the garage and my father’s attached workshop were the best place to start.  They are crowded with things that I’ve rarely glanced twice at, but the only thing that I found out was that nothing there deserved any more attention than it had already received.

I took pictures of whole rooms and trinkets.  I opened drawers and sought out things that I remembered from once upon a time but haven’t seen in ages.  I tried to get as much detail into every picture as was humanly possible and even as I tried to manipulate my house into telling the story that I wanted it to tell it fought back and reminded me exactly what I learned earlier this week.

The stories aren’t in the big picture.  They are in those insignificant, dusty details that remind us where we came from and edge us toward where we are going.  And no matter how hard we try to shape them it is always they that shape us.

 

 

My house is the mailbox I never adjusted to.  The boring, identical black box that never really replaced its mottled, rusty predecessor.  Reddish brown spots threatened to poke holes in the matte, white metal.  In retrospect it was kind of embarrassing that we didn’t get rid of the mailbox sooner, but in retrospect I still wish we hadn’t.

 

 

 

My house is the pair of rubbings that hang in our entry way.  As a young adult my mother went to cemeteries with a crayon (a fancy crayon, but I don’t know the actual terminology) and sheets of long black paper and find stones with beautiful etchings.  Then she would bring those beautiful etchings home on her long sheets of black paper.

 

My house is the broken, unused and unusable lanterns hanging in the workshop.  With one parent raised on a farm and the other in the back room of a tiny small-town store they whisper of a past that is only mine by association.  Forgotten and broken, they are a secret in their anonymity.  I love them for that in a kind of misplaced nostalgia that doesn’t even belong to me.

 

 

My house is the license plate frame we were never tacky enough to keep on a car, but with which we agreed enough that instead of throwing it away we hung it up in the garage.

 

 

 

 

My house is the bunch of dead roses hanging above a probably dried out package of shoe goo where nobody will ever see them.  A love for the beautiful combined with an aversion to throwing anything away leaves them tucked away where they are rarely appreciated, but never degraded to the level of trash.

 

 

 

My house is the wall of wedding photos and the last family picture we took before my Dad died.  It is the school photos that represent every member of my family, including my father and a silhouette of my mother and all the nieces and nephews.

 

 

My house is the dog tags hanging in the laundry room.  Not used since our dog was put to sleep when I was in elementary school, they remain a reminder of the dog I still remember chasing down the driveway in a panic. My father swept me into his arms before I reached the street.  I saw visions of my puppy getting lost or run over and never returning as it ran into oblivion, but he convinced me she would return the next morning, no worse off than she was at that moment as she faded into the distance.  He was right.

 

Final Summation:  My house isn’t made of secrets.  It’s made of memories.

Naknek Revisted

Do you remember knocking at my door the day before you left when night was just turning to morning?

My door shook slightly with every tap from your wrinkled fist.  Your voice rasped, abused by years of alcohol, cigarettes, stormy months at sea and sorrow.

“Holly.  Holly.  Holly.”

I pretended not to hear you even though I was sure that you knew I wasn’t sleeping.  I tried everything.  I pulled my blankets and pillow over my head.  I rolled from side to side.  I imagined that you were a hallucination and that I could not hear you.  I pretended it didn’t bother me that there was an old man knocking on my door in that one moment of Alaskan darkness that comes on summer evenings in the far north.

When it became clear that knocking wasn’t going to accomplish anything you turned the knob and pushed inward.  My door was locked, thank goodness, my door was locked.

“Holly.  Holly.  Holly.”

You weren’t going to leave.  I was ignoring you, you had no way into my room, and still you weren’t going to leave.

I pretended you weren’t there for another minute or two, blanket over my head and ears plugged halfheartedly and then I couldn’t take it any longer.  Frustrated, but more sympathetic than I should have been, I went to my door and I opened it.

I blinked in the dim light of the hallway, giving the worst No-really-I-just-woke-up performance I have ever given to date, but you were drunk and the door was finally open, so it didn’t matter that I was acting.  The only important thing was that the darkness from my room was spilling into the light of your hallway and there was a girl there who would listen to you right there, within your reach.

If you had told me any other story it probably wouldn’t have worked, but my dead father shared a disease in common with your dying wife and even though the smell of cigarettes and alcohol and sweat followed you into my room, your sorrow did, too, and sorrow offered me the same oblivion that alcohol offered you.

At a certain point in life all anyone wants anymore is oblivion.

All either of us wanted anymore was oblivion.

You leaned against the wall right inside my door and told me about your wife.  The two of you shared a beautiful, strained love that you valued more than she did.  Her sickness was awful, but it had saved your relationship, because now she needed you to take care of her.  You had felt awful coming up north to work this summer.  In fact, you had almost stayed in your cabin in Washington, but money was tight and in Alaska fish would turn into dollars easily for the next few months.  You had been here for a month and you couldn’t do it anymore.

Rumi walked by and saw an old man and a young woman talking in the dark.  She pursed her lips but didn’t stop to save either of us from the mistake she imagined us making.

I told you a story that was supposed to help.  I was a lonely college student with an ego and I had more experience with death and fear and cancer than most kids my age, so I thought that I knew things.  The story was very metaphorical and poignant and you missed the point.  You heard me preaching death when I was trying to preach hope.

Hope from the hopeless is never hopeful.  That’s something I’ve learned since that night passed.

We walked across the hall into the room near Shane’s and sat down in front of the computer.

Click, click, pick a date.  Click, click, credit card.  Click, click, confirm.  Click, click, print.

And you had it.

Home in your hands, you thanked me and I could see tears underneath the folds of gray skin that blinked over your eyes.

Your pockets were filled with crumpled, creased bills and you wanted me to have them.

I refused twice until the desperation in the way your hands shook and your lips tightened against your teeth was too much for me.  I made $100 for booking you a flight home and listening for an hour.

I went to bed.

Next I knew you were on a plane and I was back to being alone with authority figures who wanted me to make bad decisions, but only if I made them in their company.

You gave me your number, your address, your email, and told me to call, to visit, to stay in contact.

I never did.

I hope you’ve moved past needing oblivion.

Already feelin’ it.

 

Too bad I have books to read.

And I’ve no idea where my trustiest of trusty backpacks is currently located.

Probably in MN.