Memorial Daze, Lander, Wy
Two days ago I called my ex-wife Alexcia, touched her world superficially with kid gloves shaped into words. She is moving faster and faster toward becoming a stranger that she blames on her busy bundle of life as if once she ties it up with stronger string; ties tighter, and tighter still, she will then find the perfect hour and seven minutes to place to me a post that will smell of used to be's , and a strong wind of still caring. Her boat has sailing away and I am waving as if she is still watching. I ask about her engagement, her life with him and his two kids in Minnesota, and then I glaze over as she answers. My mind is only hearing fluctuations in her voice, old notes of pleasure and thought, still, in my mind, we are dancing on the kitchen floor in stocking feet as if our faces will be smile tight forever, though now the image is seen through gause. Forever is spinning down fast. I miss the sisterhood of my wife, sharing with my friend. Living is missing rooms left behind, and the perpetual closing of doors on still more rooms abandoned. This I know. And still, as fall becomes the winter, and spring asks everyone to forgive and forget into summer, I wonder about this road on Memorial Day weekend, and remember the staggering march that brought me here. In an hour I'll begin walking toward Cody. In a hour I will be under a fresh sweat and forget this field of red and white checkered picnic blankets, knowing that someday I will be on my own boat no longer looking back to see who is still waving, or not-- though it is a pathetic art lost on me...this pretending to be eating well while inside I am starving to death on shore.
We were a marvelous group of western travelers for two days, bookended by two chilly nights. We sat on the rubberized metal planks of the picnic table, talking until we were too cold to sit and talk any longer in the black that follows day, most of our good stories used up, and we were too lazy to reach inside ourselves and unpack more. Ted and Dan rode in on bikes just as the day surrendered under the slant of evening Friday night.
"I wouldn't set camp by that dirt road," I warned as Dan walked his bike under a roadside tree. " It's almost graduation and these teenster's think this strip is a proving ground. They'll run up and down this road in their mazdas and pickup trucks until road dust is on everything you own, and maybe toss an empty bottle at your tent just for good measure. Last night a man jumped on my tent under some kind of stimulant and began to scream and beat my tent with a big stick. It was about 2am. My head is tuned for bear so I was outside still wailing some battle call at the top of my lungs, a yell I carried out of a dream, past two zippers I don't remember opening, and ready to war. The man panicked at my rage and ran into a tree just behind him before I was awake enough to call off the killing of him, and some of the want. I was awake for hours after that. Yep, better to camp up by the treeline," I trailed off.
Dan walked his touring bike up the plush lawn to me, we shook hello, and the anvil of being alone way to long fell off my head. Steve joined us later, another bikerider touring America with a heart intent on living. We set our three tents in formation ready for a scuffle that never came, and began to open each other's life with camp spoons, lives we had been blessed to share for a night, and maybe into the next day.
I was sad to see Steve leave for Muddy Gap in the morning, sadder still when Dan and Ted left today, but thankful that I am no longer starving for companionship, being well fed with great company. I was given wonderful men to share stories of the road with, dog teeth barely escaped, kindnesses from little ol' ladies that cameoed their faces, and generosity on our hearts forever, and the lift that comes with being outside the system. I was given friends that understood the weight of constantly leaving..at least its flavor, it's sound for the road is still rather new to them.
Walking off into the same direction this morning, at least until that far away signal light,I watch Ted and Dan's sun brown backs become silver, then a white you could read by, and finally red. Their bikes went from silent width to a line, and then they were sitting on saddles of air soundlessly leaving, a turn, then they were gone.
Good things move away fast; fantastic things are a breath, a gust of wind we try to hold in our mouths, minds determined to never breathe again for fear of the loss of it...and then it is gone. The breath is exhaled and for lack of anything else to do, we sigh. Eventually, if we are lucky, and if we are easy in this life, we smile, turn, adjust our hats, and step toward the next breath, hoping.
The soft scuff of my new brass bells move under my holstered leather gloves. I cannot camp here tonight. The house is always sold when the baby dies. Nothing is as lonely as a picnic table after everyone has gone home but you...knowing they will never come back again. Trodding into a too hot morning I am glad I have no appetite to be in a camp with my friends gone. Just now, just for this moment I taste the good-byes, sweat in the mouth before the rise of vomit, or the thick bile of being alone is swollowed, and I hope not to taste it. I held their forearms with my left hand as we shook out out separations into instant memories, and we locked eyes one last time in sincerity. Two more pictures and then they are crushing stones under sharp tires as I walk slowly, too slowly behind. Tonight they too, like Steve's last night after a lone day of pedalling, will arrive in Muddy Gap to camp in a town of absence before moving on. They will be my index finger's length on a map from here by evening. I will have walked a thumbnail past being lonely. A thumbnail toward Cody.
We sat in the same smoke for two nights, cans of beer we made empty, and the relish of meals made like art we ate hearing our eyes roll up into our heads like window shades misbehaving, and then we smiled with mouths full of cheesecake and fresh cherries knowing we would never be on this same raft, in this field of sweet grass eating cherry cheesecake again hearing only the sun.