a stop for directions. the inevitable inquisition. but this one leads to an invitation. accepted. a room of my own. conversations. sipping strong tea from a sterling silver straw. i learn a card game. i cut carrots, onions, garlic. a hot meal. a feast. mutual enjoyment. deep sleep. morning. incredibly windy, honestly unbelievable. the invitation is extended. with thanks, however, this one is rejected. the urge to go. to be on the road. i wave goodbye.
an all day wind with no apologies. none expected. i lean right to stay straight. off of one dirt road and on to another one. a smaller one. it looks more interesting. deep and up into the mountains. no cars. no houses. no bodies. the road narrows. i look ahead. it vanishes with a maze of curves into the mountains. steep. sandy. unrideable. i walk. i push. left hand on handlebars. right hand on back of seat. push. push. take a picture. push. the wind, god the wind. everywhere mountains. i check my map. is this right? i turn. this must be right. push. push. this can´t be right. i return. a compass and confusion. a single, solitary road on my map. many in reality. all seemingly impossibly possible.
i hear something. i hold my breath to hear it better. a truck? a truck. it stops. i ask. yes, this is the way. are you sure? the yes weakens and there is disagreement. the yes comes back. ok, ok. where are you heading?, i ask. back, the reply, we´re looking for a place to turn around. they find one. wave. and say good luck.
i go on. walking. pushing. tired. very. glad i found some extra water. climbing. many roads. no yellow bricks. compass is out. this one. ok, now that one. remembering it all. in case. onwards. as ever. hungry. need to stop. but it´s too windy. will never get tent up. onwards. onwards. must stop. stop. unpack. get tent out. all i want. to be inside my tent. but it proves impossible. i can´t do it. everything is blowing everywhere. i run to retrieve. i give up. not here. pack it all up. scream at the wind. it is deaf.
push again. bike submarining in sand. a sinking sun. onwards. hallucinations. ··a house.·· no, a rock. ··a person·· no, a stick. oh, this wind. in the distance, a cluster of thorny bushes. perhaps a windbreak. investigate. yes, yes. this will do. really, there is no choice. so this must do. it is dark. the wind continues. i am alpine. a struggle with the tent. come on. please. yes. it is up. secure, i hope. i jump inside. watch it sway. please hold tent. just don´t break tonight. i need you tonight. break in every tomorrow there is. because tomorrow is not now and now is everything.
the cold. clouds conglomerating. but i´m in the tent. i´m in. my 30 cubic feet of refuge. my world. it is all that matters. sleeping bag. warmth slowly creeping in. eating. sweet relief. the tent shakes. there are no stars. i long for that sterling silver straw. i want it in my lips. it was so smooth. i eat another cracker. a piece of chocolate. sleep comes. but fitfully.
a progression of 40 shades of gray. yet another morning. the sun rose without a rise. everywhere clouds. but no wind. god, thank you. no wind. back to the pushing. oh, to ride. i try. no. upwards still. no end in sight. beyond mountains, there are mountains. the first flake melts on my cheek. it excites me and fills me with energy. i am climbing. i am warm. everything is becoming pure. i am happy. it is beautiful. i rise. more flakes. another branching road. consultation of compass. both roads seem right. a coin flip. ok. everywhere white. just white. is that the road? no. here it is. i hope. am i on it? how much food do i have? pushing. i again try to ride. i slip. everything falls. fool. i walk. the bike slips. i slip. everything is horizontal. i get up. i struggle with my bike. ok. let´s move. it´s what we do. let us go. fool.
i step through a layer of ice into a shallow creek. the burn of cold. i analyze. ok, well, now i have a wet foot. and so? onwards. as ever. more roads. dutifully remembering every turn i take. the map, useless. bigger flakes now. on top of a road of ice. is this a road? surely...? ok, let´s think here. yes, yes. go. go. ok. wow, that foot is cold. really cold. keep moving. it will warm up. move. white. everything. it´s ok. let´s go, kid.
i sing a childhood song. i remember prom. my beard, heavy, is pulling at my chin. my cheeks sting. visibility is low. and getting lower. i see something? where did it go? and then, my road disappears. i am looking down into a bowl of deep powder. if i go down, the only way out is up. but which way? surely that...wait, over there, maybe. or perhaps. i look down. am i even on a road? where am i? i don´t really know. oh, how my lips long for that sterling silver straw. right now. where is it? and the answer pounds my chest like the thump of a cannon: it´s where people have keys and doorknobs. where blasts of warmth and hugs and smells of simmering dinners greet you as the door swings open. where there are couches and cushions and many other soft things. it´s where people have homes.
it´s where people have homes...
i drop the kickstand. fifteen feet of visibility. walls of white. fading into nothing, voids. pointing. turning. rotating. and with me, a dependent, my bike. i could walk my way out of this. but not with the bike. i sing that childhood song again. tears fill my eyes for it. it should be my mom´s voice. it should be my dad´s voice. it is my shaky voice. and here i am. where? why am i here? ··why·· am i even here? i look behind me. my tracks are filling in, fast. fool.
i am hungry. i cannot eat. to eat is to stop. to stop is to not move and to get cold. so i must move, must. i look at my bike. i take a step away and look at me. there is a road ahead. somewhere. i know this. i know it. give me a glimpse. a brief one. i pause for a glimpse. i get no glimpse. the cold sinks a level inward. i stand there. my hands on the handlebar. i am ready. but for what?
so i just stand there. as the world is blanketed around me. it really is a moment of beauty. and i am so sad for it. and the snow falls indifferent to it all. and more is coming. but i just stand there. i look for a friend. i yell for anything. there is nothing. except utter indifference. how long was i there? like this?
i am eight. it is dark. there are words on the bottom of our tv screen. they are moving from right to left. my sister and i stare at them. mesmerized. full of hope. please. please! come on. come on! and then, there it is. gwinnet county! yes! no school tomorrow! celebration! mom, dad, can we stay up a little later tonight? so much to do! ready the sleds. gloves, scarves, hats. yes! yes! run outside. it´s starting! flip on the floodlight, it looks more intense! time for bed!? aww, do we have to?! ok, ok. restless sleep, tossing, turning, wide awake and dreaming. morning comes. finally! nervous anxiety and anticipation to look outside. pull the shade, and...wow! yes! long johns on. run down stairs. eat some breakfast!, says mom. no time for that!, i think, but i do. and my dad is home. not at work. wow! this is great! this is perfect! layers and layers of clothing. ok mom, that´s enough! yes, dad, we´ll be careful. and it´s off to dunriver hill. sleds in hand. snowballs, look out! unrecognizable, bundled-up kids everywhere. i find my gang. sledding. snowball wars. everything! don´t stop! go! let´s build a jump! yes! yes! go! a friends mom, ¨ya´ll come in here for some hot choclate!¨ yes mam! a blast of heat and warmth. mugs piled high with marshmallows. his mom´s not looking. so my buddy and i sneak a double up on the choclate! yes! ¨looks like more snow tonight,¨ she says. yes! yes! no school ever again! just this! forever! i call home, yes, yes, i´m fine. i´m at danny´s. yes, i´m warm. ok, gotta go! we run back outside for more. we can´t waste this! snow forts! war! pee your name! yes! here come some girls....quiet now.....ok, NOW! get ´em! snow wrestling! yes! snow football! go! go! tackle! the feeling of snow on the back of your neck, creeping, melting down your back. ok man, i gotta go home! tomorrow! yes, tomorrow! all again, and more! much more! everything! i enter our basement. my parents have set up the wooden clothes drying rack next to a portable heater. i peel down to my long johns and run upstairs for a fresh set of warm dry clothes. to the kitchen for more hot choclate! and soup! mom, dad, you should have seen it! this! that! and then! wow! a fire in the fireplace. a rarity. already, i´m dreaming of tomorrow, captivated by the flames. it´s so warm. it´s so warm. it´s so nice. it´s so warm...
...it´s so cold. i kick the kickstand. and, again, i push. this time with resolve. an awkward and laborious ¨u¨ in the snow. i follow my own fading tracks. and i don´t care.
something catches my eye. a horse? i stop to confirm it´s something else. another rock, a stick. but no. it is a horse. all alone, lonelier than even me, maybe. who´s to say? we both freeze. two sad sad creatures eyeing each other. ¨where´s home, friend?,¨ i gently ask. the horse hooves the ground, lowers its head, and exhales two streams of steam from its nostrils. i slowly approach it. two animals. ¨now take it easy there fella,¨ i say, more to myself than to it. motionless, it stares at me. ¨easy now, easy.¨ but i take one step too many. an invisible threshold crossed. it sprints in the opposite direction, its wild mane flowing, until its tiny dark speck, too, becomes white; becomes nothing.
¨i hope you´re going home, old boy, i hope you´re going home.¨ i know it can´t hear me, nor could it understand even if it did. but..................................................................i can hear myself.
and i repeat it.