04 November 2018

Disappeared (Part 13)

Flashback. It is summer. My first one alone after twenty-plus years of being in a relationship. I am on a footbridge that crosses a stream adjacent to the apartment complex into which I had recently moved. Beside me is my daughter, who is gazing intently into the water below the bridge. Water bugs dimple a surface reminiscent of quicksilver where the argentine sky is reflected through gaps between the crowns of trees lining the banks. My progeny is casting twigs and leaves into the stream, playing a game of “Pooh Sticks” while we pass the time on a lazy day. The uncomplicated smile on her face engraves itself in my memory. It will come back to me years later as I stand on a different bridge, watching a faster current in a stolen moment between adult obligations. It will, in turn, make me smile.

Spending money I possessed momentarily for a shot at money I was currently without. Standing on the edge of the ledge, rappelling rope in hand, nothing but air below was what I dreamed. Flying into Baltimore was the reality, a blitz trip of a visit with less than two days on the ground. I ate well that night of my arrival, with good friends. A full belly does wonders for the outlook. Later that night, in the warm submarine light of a neighborhood bar, the bartender tempted me with the possibility of another fine drink. But recent history and prudence made the right decision. I contented myself with chewing a lonely ice cube sheathed in the memory of gin and lime. Clear head and a calm stomach for the morning, I said. There would be time for another drink later, whether in commiseration or celebration remained to be seen.

Good fortune was in the house. Rain dampened the day but the interview went well. It was shortly thereafter that I was offered the job. I nearly fainted with relief and gratitude. A sizable chunk of the future snapped into focus.

The river flowed on, a calm path into an arboreal canyon. This quicksilver thread stitched onward to the ocean, lit by the soft torch of promise. Sparks flew, carried far away to land among the sere undulations of the Sea of Grass. The terrain there had been sliding into aggressive desiccation for months. Lawns, trees, prairie grass had all assumed a cloak of dull brown that could not be unseen by my heart. There was rain, occasionally, that the ground seemed too weak to absorb. Perhaps spirits were at work, supernatural guides working overtime to convince my battered soul that to uproot was to return to life.

What is the proper name for the plate tectonics of one’s life? How to measure the drift of one’s continent of the soul? Can these things be quantified? I found myself lying awake in the small hours of the morning with those questions ringing in my head. The pent-up energies of frustration and helplessness slipping the leash as the possibility of positive, profound change materialized for me. I was nearly hollowed out by the breakneck rush of metaphorical air from my mental lungs, gasping with relief. It was clear that the ground was moving. With the ground on the move, at such pace, surely that meant the river would soon change its course.

I have often wondered if green, growing things worry about their roots. When the ground is drowning or it quakes in the grip of seismic nightmares, no tree can sleep easy in its bed. A loosening of the grip trembles its way from the tips to the crown, the heaviest of which is usually the first to fall. If my life had an advantage it was that it was not a tree. It was something smaller. Something closer to the ground. Any roots I had in the Sea of Grass were not thick and deep. These roots were sunk just enough to anchor me against the small floods and heavy winds of life. Thus, I kept on station just enough to buy some time. And now that time was in the bank.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...