I notice it, though I am not looking. Not trying to see. Noticing what can not be noticed. Collections of cells en masse, laboring through the grueling, slaughterhouse routine of the airport. Individuals, like their atomic make up, gather as one and become the current of the stream that flows through a mountain pass, slowly eroding the rocky earth, slowly heading to the end of its destination. I try to turn the other way, but I am caught in the net, the current too strong.
After all, I guess I am just like the others. We all want to be different, and many think they are, but this is matter-of-factly trivial and those who bare this worry only dissipate and wither on their deathbed, finally realizing and adopting the truth with mere raspy breaths to go, much too late, like ducks on the rise after falling for the decoys.
A highball of wine at my computer and I can only tell about it. I wear jeans and boots, never thinking twice about it until the reflective surface of glass panes shows just another body, another mouth to feed, another taxpayer (most years), another oxygen-consuming, carbon-dioxide-emitting engine fueled only by the conspiracy that we are here and then we are not. But where do we go? Where did we come from?
Now, it’s another Christmas, another holiday. Eat, drink, and be merry. We are all headed in that direction. For me, at least, the hunting should be good. Perhaps that’s my edge. Perhaps that is the edge we all share—the brother- and sisterhood that makes up the outdoors community. We who brave the darkening cold and wind when sitting in front of the TV seems much more appealing.
I am hungry so I avoid the crowded FOX Sports bar and the fancy microwave do-it-yourself sample fare and instead settle for Starbucks, where I stand in line and order a regular coffee—which the barista did not understand.
“You mean you wan da tall?” I made a connection in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What would Jim Harrison or Papa Hemingway do right now, given my current situation? They are and were different, respectively. They, somehow, by deflecting the arrows of conformity and kicking stones turned and unturned, found the secret to individualism.
I fear the world and the way it fervently changes with inconspicuous audacity. I lack the enthusiasm, the grit, the gut, the courage to haul ass and say fuck it, I’m on my own now. I want to swim around in the deep end, push my face against the bottom and see how much farther it will give. I want to wander the West, the East, the North, the cities, the avenues, the alleyways, and the subway systems. I want to fish mountain streams, survive Alaskan cold, push my muscles to the verge of tear and collapse on a tuna six times my size, and then douse his ass in soy sauce and say thanks. I want to hear the lion’s cough send the hyenas into shrill screams of terrible joy over the carcass of a hapless elephant calf that had wondered through camp at twilight—I had taken some beautiful photographs of the young bulk in the fading, soft light until its mother’s fury sent me cursing her soul, back in to camp. Now, she is cursed. Now, I am heartbroken.
I didn’t notice burning my tongue on the tall coffee and frankly don’t care that the banana walnut bread is stale and tasteless. The man beside me, travelling with his wife, seems to resent my stare as he wolfs greasy French fries down his dark throat. His last look says everything has been registered and filed inconclusively in his clumsy, half-witted brain as I walk past, heading to the bathroom one last time before boarding.
For tomorrow’s day will find me in the woods of Tennessee. All hapless measures forgotten like a single cup of water in a swift-flowing river. My mind, tiredly, would only rely upon my eyes and ears in the dull yet wonderful euphoria of merely sitting and waiting. I would not care for a trophy, but a sunset wouldn’t hurt. Maybe some wood ducks buzzing overhead and at least a noisy squirrel to elevate my heart rate and remind me that this is living.
But for now I sit, like all the others, in my designated seating area, once again in the hands of others. Like a farm animal, I behave cordially. And in this conventional way I stare out the portside window. The moon shining fluorescent and bright on the reflective clouds as if the world is upside down. I stare hard, looking for the movement of a big fish to ripple the surface in the dark water of an unknown ocean. Then the Tennessee River’s graceful emergence, with its tributaries like longing and prodding fingers, reunites me with reality…and home. Merry Christmas to all.