I'm walking down toward the Colonial Theater which I went to as a child. There's Tammy Caplinger's house. Tammy was my first girlfriend. Okay, Brenda McMillan predated her, but I never kissed Brenda. Brenda kissed me, and I was tissue paper for aweek. All in one night she moved away. I looked for her for years anyway, even after I moved. And yes, I did find her. Years had gone by and she was on a blanket at a bluegrass festival, with a boy. We were barely in our teens, and although she didn't see me and my face, I stared too long. My mouth wouldn't say hello. The air was perfect. Light was falling through the trees onto the gentle slope of blankets and lovers. My words would not be better than this silent moment, where everybody's mouths were moving but only music was coming out.
Tammy is gone now. She's in Salinas, California. I called her a few times. The last time she said hello but I already heard good-bye in her voice. I moved my words thorugh several sentences, but I was reaching for the door handle without looking. Once it filled my hand, I ended the call with a parting that lasts for years, and sometimes forever.
Canaan is a ghost town for me. Lovers have lived here, friends have died on cars on these roads, and I still know the sounds of their voices. I think about going over the bridge where Linda O'Keefe died in her 4-runner. But I do not want to punch myself in the stomach, and then try to eat. Linda and I went to high school together, and then watched each other grow into people purposely different from our parents. In Vermont I called Linda on my walk, from my cell phone, while I stood in the snow in the doorway of my tent. I remember how thrilled she was, how thrilled I was. I decide to walk away from the bridge where the limestone truck going too fast for a turn tumbled over onto her.
At another pay phone again I try Alexcia. But this horse too is dead. There are patches of blue sky but it's mostly black gray. I think of buying food but I've already eqaten three apples that grew over the fence beside Route 7. They were the best apples I've had in years.
To leave a wife or a lover the court should make us walk apart for days with no companmy or distraction except for our pulse. Alexcia pulls gently in me and I can't bear to think of November 4th. Maybe it is surgery to remove something that no longer works, but it has had more love, heart, and consciousness than many of the parts that I keep.
People at the gas station/convenience store walk by and smile, or they don't see me at all. Sitting here I can look off into the hills that I've camped through the years. I hiked all these hills as a child and shared picnics there with faces I no longer see. I pain for these familiar streets to end so that I am no longer visited by all these ghosts wandering past. But soon I'll really be alone. The rivers will no longer tell about five-pound trout or 1976 on the Fourth of July, when I saw my first naked woman. She was walking across the water and I was floating on the tube right next to her, and I could not speak. I found my only two arrowheads here too, in that field, and buried my dog. But that was another language then, and another life.
I miss my friend. I am in Maine and I run up a hill from the cobblestone bridge to the parking lot. She is gone. Years have passed, and I have forgotten how that ache crippled me. We lived apart for these last two years, but she has remained within reach.
Pay phones have become demons that punch at your legs, and trying to do damage to the plastic receiver that cars should be built with is futile. I push in every combination imaginable at the next phone, but still no Alexcia.
Camp is made by the Housatonic River. I spend the last half hour of daylight trying to swear my food up into a tree and out of the reach of bears. I think I just provided a workout before a meal. It is forty degrees, and the new down bag feels like heaven. In my pack, beside my bedroll, is a card from Alexcia. I read it slowly, and it is a movie. I hear her voice moving over the words.
I do chores that are out of practice to my fingers, but really I am remembering. I find a forgotten piece of a garlic ciabatta bread smeared with garlic and brie, wrapped in foil and hidden in my pack by Alexcia.
The answer has finally come. Why have I scampered for mile after mile, searching for one pay phone after another. Now I get it. I understand the ache, the serious distraction for Alexcia even though we no longer share our lives together. When I began walking in September 0f 2002, Lex and I went cell phone shopping. The cell phone was to be a token rarely used. The token became the lifeline. I did not give it much regard in my journals, or even in my reflections, but the truth has found me years later in a tent, longing for my support network, i.e., Alexcia. Alexcia was the brushed voice that filed my edge. She talked me down while bears tore at cabin doors, she consoled me when I wasn't sure I was on the right road. Almost every night, tight against my head for half an hour of sanity, love, reassurance that everything would be okay, that I'd be okay, Alexcia spoke to me.
I don't think I'd ever told her, or anyone, least of all myself, that Alexcia had been holding me up in my dream. Now I began where I left off, but now there's a divorce on the way, and I carry an emergency track phone that has no way of being the bridge that was once there.
Coyotes cry mournfully a couple hundred feet from my tent. I am not afraid. I relate, and I want to join them. How perfectly ironic it is that Alexcia's phone should be dead just as I begin my walk again, and I habitually reach for her. It's a larger way of saying that she is no longer there, and in some parts of me this painful realization finally sinks in. Alexcia was a home, and that home will never be again. The line is cut.
Before we eloped in Arizona, the couple of weeks of our courtship was phone calls. A new walk has begun, and I am really alone.