LordKyleOfEarth - Lost and Found It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most; she hadn't bothered to take my shirt off before she left. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. Up close, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Once at a distance, she melted into the drizzle. Then, I lost her altogether. And I knew she wasn't coming back. I walked back into our--- MY apartment and surveyed the damage. All her stuff was gone. The couch, the chairs, the bed. Even the major things like the 360, DVR, and the bong. All gone. It's in times of great loss that we appreciate the things that we have. Or, in this case, the things we HAD. I didn't bother looking in the fridge, it was empty last night, and I doubted she stocked it before she moved out. On the barren floor was a single note card amid the potato chip and pretzel debris. Most of the card was ad hominem attacks, but a single line stood out: “You are such a little boy. Grow the **** up.” I don't know why it resounded the way it did, but those words stuck in my consciousness. Grow up. I picked up my phone and checked the minute balance. 27 minutes left, good enough. I called Scott, who was my most reliable drinking companion. It rang six times before a groggy voice mumbled something on his end. It was only 1:45 in the afternoon, I had probably woken him up. No matter, this was important. “Am I a 27 year old child?” By 'I' I meant 'we'. We were inseparable, Scott and I, so if maturity had missed one of us it had skipped the other as well. I could hear him breathing as his mind attempted to decipher my message though a haze of Redbull and vodka. “Am I a 27 year old child?” I tossed the card away and lay down on the floor. “Sasha left. She called me a little boy and said to grow the **** up.” He coughed. “Told you she was gunna.” “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Am I a 27 year old little boy?” Scott seemed to think it over. “Are you in the same clothes you slept in?” “Maybe.” “Is there anything edible in the kitchen that doesn't contain pot or alcohol?” That question wasn't fair. It was the last Friday of the month and my Mom didn't worry that I was 'starving to death' until the first Wednesday. She'd drop food off next week. He knew that. “There may be some ketchup behind the sixer of Pabst...” “Have you spent more time online surfing porn, or working at a job this week?” “Okay Scott, I get your point.” I thought for a moment, “Let me call you back.” I WAS a 27 year old child. I thought back to the world lit class at Central Oregon community college; the one I had been too high or hungover to pay attention in. There had been something about Greeks or Spartans earning their manhood during rites of passage. I wasn't sure, so I decided to ask Google. I booted up my laptop and connected to the neighbor's wireless. According to Google, a rite of passage had three phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation. In separation you leave society as a child. During incorporation you return to society as a man. Liminality was the part where you became a man. Somehow. Scott came by around five with a pizza. We smoked a bowl and started to make a plan. We were going to have to leave civilization behind, maybe the national park. Oregon has plenty of them. Google said Crater Lake is nice this time of year. Wilderness meant no apartment, we'd live in a tent. No delivery or fast food, a man catches his own. Scott said that if we were near water we could even grow our own pot. And no women. Sasha got us into this mess, after all, and that guy in 'Fight Club' said something about women being the last thing we needed. ---------------------------------***--------------------------------- We borrowed a tent, sleeping bags, and other gear from Scott's little brother's scout troop. Loaded up some fishing gear, rolling papers, and beef jerky then hitchhiked a ride to Crater Lake. The rangers charge ten bucks a week to visit, so we decided to sneak in and camp in the woods. It was manlier that way, Scott pointed out. We stopped for a beer and jerky break, and I spotted a patch of wild shrooms. Scott said it was a good sign and that we should make camp. We made camp there, about a mile in from the road. After the tent was up, we killed another couple of beers, smoked a bowl or two, and then decided to wander down to the lake to fish for dinner. I sat on the shore of Crater lake for a good three hours. My line floated along, pushed by the wind, but the fish weren't biting. While there, my mind drifted to thoughts of Sasha. I missed her, but somehow this adventure, whatever it was, felt right. Scott was zonked out near by. He wasn't having much luck with the fish either, but he seemed to have lucked out with the shrooms. He wasn't much good for conversation, so I decided to take a walk. I stuck my rod in the shore near Scott and set out down the shore. I strolled along until I found my way to the park trading post. My stomach was rumbling, so I figured I'd swing in and buy something. I still had $14.37 left from selling plasma, so it wouldn't be cheating. I had earned that money; men go shopping, right? I thought I saw Sasha there too. She was mixed in to the crowd; hidden among the angles of the log cabin's architecture. I ran to the cabin, tears welling up in my eyes, before I realized it wasn't her. The disappointment killed my appetite, so I walked back to camp. The next couple of days passed uneventfully. We realized that neither of us were any good at fishing. As a result, we started to get pretty hungry. As I slept that night, I had an odd dream. Scott and I were on a raft floating down the river. It was a warm night and mosquitoes kept buzzing our ears. We came across a wrecked paddle boat and Scott wanted to stop and see what we could find inside. When we climbed aboard, all we found was a run away slave named Jim. He looked at the sky and pointed to a ring around the moon. “Troubles a commin boys. Jes you waitn see. Troubles a commin.” He started to laugh hysterically. I tried to run away but tripped and fell overboard. The river waters flowed over me and I began to drown. I awoke suddenly to the sound of drums and singing. I looked over and saw that Scott was gone from the tent. I pulled on a shirt and climbed out. There, in the middle of my wilderness, were four dancing women. Scott was in the middle of the circle and grinning ear to ear. “Come on man! These chicks are cool as hell.” He yelled. They all let out excited cries. Confused about who they were and where they came from, I motioned for Scott to come over. “Who the Hell are they?” I asked point blank. “Molly, Kristal, Beth, and Arlis.” I let my facial expression convey my disappointment at his answer. “Alright. I got up this morning and I was crazy hungry. I went down to the trading post to grab a bite and--” “You were buying food” I interrupted. “Well yeah, but just a burrito, you know. Since the fishing wasn't going so well.” “Dude. I thought were were being men. Not relying on civilization. NOT buying food from the rangers.” I realized at that moment that I had tried to do the same thing a few days ago, but shrugged it off. I was feeling big time betrayed. “Well you know man. I had rowdy munchies. Anyway, I ran into these chicks in an old VW bus. They're with Greenpeace and are here to save some trees and ****.” He waved to Kristal and she blew him a kiss. “Scott, what happened to no civilization, no buying food, and no goddamn women!” My empty stomach was giving me a pretty short fuse these days, but he totally brought this on himself. Did he ask if I wanted a bunch of hippies in my campsite? No. Did he bring me a burrito from the trading post? Hell no. “Calm down man.” He gave me the 'look'. “You're getting all crazy over nothing.” “**** you Scott. They need to leave. Now.” “No.” “Yes! This is my campsite. My journey into manhood. Not theirs. Mine!” in hind site, I probably shouldn't have given him that light shove when I said 'Mine'. “Well man, good luck to you then. Good luck because you're doing it alone.” He threw his hands into the air, “I'm out.” And with that, he and the girls were gone. He took the tent and sleeping bags too. It was Sasha all over again. “Whatever,” I yelled as they walked off, “a real man doesn't need any of that ****. A real man can survive anywhere -By himself- with only his bare hands!” In the distance a storm cloud rumbled. “Grow up man.” was all Scott said as he walked off, flipping me the bird. It was the way the early morning light caught him that intrigued me most. He hadn't bothered to put pants on before he left. I followed him a little further, shadows and glares playing tricks with my eyes. When he was finally at a distance, he melted into the forest. And I knew he wasn't coming back. ---------------------------------***--------------------------------- I walked back into the former campsite to survey the damage. All his stuff was gone. The tent, the sleeping bags, even the weed. Gone. In times of great loss, we appreciate what we really had. In this case, a tent, sleeping bag, and best friend. The wind began to pickup and the sky darkened. It was going to rain soon, and I needed to find shelter. We had found a small cave near by, and I figured that it was as good a place as any to ride out the storm. I got to the cave just as the sky opened up. It was cold and damp inside the cave, but I found some dry leaves that I piled up and sat on. After an hour or so of sitting there, I got bored and decided to explore the cave a bit. It was shallow and rocky, certainly no Mammoth. I did however, find some more mushrooms growing deep in the back of the cave. It was starting to get dark outside, and I was bored, so I ate a few of the shrooms and kicked back on my bed of leaves. The trip was unlike any I'd ever had. A vivid, dream like, hallucination. And it changed my life. I stood up in a cave of ice. I was alone except for a bunch of sixth graders and Sister Mary, who was my sixth grade social studies teacher at St. Anthony's. She motioned toward a frozen ice flow and said “Slide”. I jumped and slid down it until I eventually shot out of the ice tunnel and into my living room. Scott was there, and so was a large wild dog. The dog was pissed off and preparing to attack Scott. I wanted to help him but I didn't have anything. Suddenly, I realized that I owned NOTHING. What good was I to my friend? The dog stepped toward Scott and I panicked. “Hey dog! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?” Why I yelled that I'll never understand. It was a dream I guess, and they don't always make sense. Anyhow, the dog turned and came after me. I tired to run down the hallway, but the further I got the more tired and old I became. The dog jumped on my back, knocking me to the ground. It was all over. I knew I was dead. As I prepared for death's cold embrace, Sasha burst in the front door. She was holding a business suit and handed Scott a newspaper. The two of them ran over and attacked the dog. Sasha threw the suit over its head while Scott beat it with the rolled up paper. The dog growled angrily and then whimpered and rolled over. The dog stood up and sat obediently at her feet. “Fight the dog.” Sasha told me, “Fight until it's yours.” Then she handed me the suit. “Know yourself.” Scott told me, “You're a jack ass.” He smiled and bopped me on the head with the paper. I took it from him and it opened to the want ads. One listing was circled for 'Friend' another for 'Husband'. I looked at Scott in disbelief. “You want me to marry you?” Sasha rolled her eyes and kicked me in the shin. Then I woke up. The storm had passed and the early morning sun was rising. I was no longer in the cave. I was lying on the floor of the forest, naked and alone, about one hundred feet away from the entrance. I gathered my clothes and began the long walk back to the ranger station. I spent my last few dollars buying food and some water. Apparently, not eating for a week will make you pretty hungry. After I ate I walked up to the road and I hitchhiked back home. ---------------------------------***--------------------------------- Two weeks went by before I called Scott. I had been pretty busy with work, I had gotten a job as a mail clerk, and trying to get re-enrolled in school. To be honest, I just hadn't thought about him. Since that day in the woods. “Hey man.” I told him, “I'm sorry about yelling at you.” “It's nothing man.” he told me. “Lets grab a beer some time.” He and Kristal were in Portland at a protest, but he said he would be back in town by the end of the month. We agreed to meet then and get caught up. I started to dial Sasha but stopped. I wasn't ready to talk to her, not yet. Next week was her birthday. I figured I would call her then to wish her well and make sure she was doing okay. That night, I had another dream. In it, I was sitting in my living room dressed in a suit and ready to leave for work. A child rode in on a tricycle and smiled at me. I recognized him as a young version of myself. “Goodbye,” he told me, “its been fun.” Then he shot me with a nerf gun and rode out the front door. It was the way in which the light caught him in that dream which intrigued me most; he had my old pajamas on, the ones with the feet built in. I followed him a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. Up close, he fused with the rigid angles of the walls. Once at a distance, he melted into the hallway. Then, he disappeared altogether. And I knew he wasn't coming back. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Normal - Unavailable It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether as she passed through the wooden pillars that supported the boardwalk. My face is pressed against the glass of the van, my nose firmly against the window. Hot breath begins to obscure the view, my view of her. Firmly pressed against the window of the van, distorting my features to the outside I think I must look like some squished pervert, gawking at all the passer’s by. The moment is lost when someone finally breaks the silence. “What’d ya staring Kal?” I am indifferent as I glance back to answer. “Nothing” Simply stated, I don’t wish to share this moment, don’t want their perversions poking and prodding my newly discovered treasure. My closed answer finishes the inquiry. I press my face against the glass again, trying to discover her, searching for anything that can tell me about her, about her life. Is she married? Does she have a tattoo? I bet she listens to… My thoughts are interrupted by something, the stink of myself, I realize my hand is on the glass, people will tell you that glass doesn’t smell but I know it does. A mixture of dead bugs, carcinogens and window cleaner. When I was little I would do this exact same thing. Looking at the word from behind glass. Observing all but to afraid to touch it. Even the smell of dead bugs and glass cleaner doesn’t obscure my own stench. I suddenly realize my hand is next to my face. It disgusts me what it smells like. Feces. In my world, my new world terms like “catheter” and “digital stimulation” are common. I would have 2 hour long conversations about bowel routines, stool softeners and leg bags. I guess it’s not so bad, I can still move my arms even though they smell like feces. I guess maybe not so lucky in that case. Its no use, I’ve lost her, somewhere in the crowd, the reality of the situation sets in, strapped in and crowded with all the other cripples we wait for Marcus to fill up. Fill up and go. I can’t remember the outing now we are supposed to be attending. These activities are mandatory, we awkwardly roll, hobble, shuffle, stumble and stagger our way into sporting events, concerts and rockfests. I can only describe mandatory attendance at these events as soul-crushing. I think back to before my deployment, before the IED, back at that bass thumping bar. Picking up girls using “Hey I’m going away for some time”, heck I don’t even remember her name I think it was Sally. I bet I don’t look like much of a one night stand right now. I can almost see what it would be like to meet my one night affair. I can see the look of horror as she pauses and looks at each little piece attached to me, the leg bag maybe? Did I hide it? Her face says it all as she looks down at the mix of machine and man. My one last sexual experience was a bar fling, that I cant even remember her name. No chance for a real girlfriend now, but some of the guys were talking about some “”Devotee’s” into people in our situation. Girls into quadriplegic, paraplegic and all sorts I suppose. I was always told that life for me would change. Giving it some though makes me feel uneasy though. I scan for her, and as I press my face against the glass someone blurts out. “2 o’clock boys! White sundress walking north” “That the girl Kal was eying?“ My heart sinks a little, if I respond, I get ragged on and teased for the rest of the trip. Guess you can never hide that **** from Army guys. It feels like even any sort of sick fantasy I had was now ruined. They banter and “conversation” becomes background noise as I try to draw her back to me, where I was just watching her like a fawn lightly stepping through the forest. Delicately plodding along the boardwalk, free and careless. Tousled brunette hair tied with a bright red ribbon. Free and fun, young and vibrant I cant imagine a more perfect wife, partner, or mate. Someone to read with and play checkers with… ‘Surly she would never want to take part in a bowel movement schedule. ‘ Everywhere she goes would have to handicap access. Instead of the pretty fawn she would be known as the girl with the crippled husband, the crippled boyfriend. No one deserves that type of treatment. I hardly notice the frenzy perverse of conversations going on the background. I’m focused, trying to recreate clean and wonderful imagines, of her and me. Together. Finding each other and spending hours in a bed of warmth discovering each others bodies. I hardly notice Marcus gets back in, the residual smell of his fueling duties slowing fill the van. I don’t care, I NEED to see her one last time. I do everything to remember the details, the fall of her hair, the curvature of her calves, her stride, the way she pulls on her left bra strap. As the van slowly pulls away from the Husky she pops through again, smiling a radiant smile. Its like she knew what I needed, for one moment she manages to showcase all of her features I truly love. One dimple showing, She isn’t looking at me, or us even. Her glossy red lips part and I can see those white teeth just if I stare hard enough. My heart burrows further into my chest as I realize she is looking at what must be her boyfriend. A perfect match. They look complete. I slowly slide my eyes off the glass and look down at my thin, dead legs. I still new at self cathing and its not done right this time, as almost on queue, I start to leak urine a bit or. Humiliation sets in. I wonder if she ever thinks about people like us. Trash. Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way, I have to have hope. Hope I get better. Hope for a cure. Hope for good conversation.