I suppose that given my choice of title you are going to assume that this’ll be some sort of symbol-laden existential pontification.
Hate to disappoint but today’s story is short on that sort of trendy ennui.
The wall is not some hardly clever Floydian commentary on the barrier between the mundane and the divine.
The wall is eight feet high and composed of brick and concrete. It stands half the year baking in the Carolina sun and half the year waiting to bake in the Carolina sun with just a few temperate breezes between. There is nothing special about it.
Behind the prosaic wall, there is a prosaic neighborhood of neat brick houses that are just a touch posher than middle class. In front of this fence, there is a long gravel road. A road that is wooded where it isn’t fenced. With a clay field as the only boundary between its crunch and several miles of humid silence.
The wood was dotted here and there with tree stands. I knew this well. I knew this because I knew where every oak would make itself apparent among the swaying loblollies. Many childhood ventures both solitary and gregarious had found my sneakered feet alternating between the crunch of leaves and gravel.
Like all haunts, my old stomping ground always begged for another haunting.
I was straddling that awkward divide between my mid and late twenties. I wouldn’t describe myself as brawny but I was no longer the thin bespectacled kid with the bushy hair. Years of woodland wandering and other physical hobbies had broadened my shoulders and given fiercer sinews to my bones.
I was young strong and slightly inebriated. My buddy still resided in our childhood suburb the two or so miles from the fence. We were fond of passing balmy evenings plotting and commiserating on his family’s deck. On occasion, we’d drink to add edge to our acerbic banter.
I suppose it also helped one meld into the mellow tempo of southern life. Something that was at times difficult for somebody with a nervous disposition. It may just be my ego defending itself but I resent that. The idea that my disposition was nervous. I think it much more accurate to say that I had certain sensibilities that were a touch more keen. I was keener than Manning. Not better but keener. Which is why I always drank just a little bit more.
It was some time not long past midnight that we trooped back into the living room for a bit of fiddling on the guitar and piano. Finding that we weren’t able to lock into a groove the jam session was quickly abandoned.
Gwen was with us. It may have been her that suggested the outing but the cause was something beyond suggestion. It was an impulse that we had all felt. A certain wanderlust had blossomed in our collective subconscious. Perhaps fueled by the mixture of whiskey, coffee, and sweets. Or perhaps by the beckoning light of the spectral moon which hung so seductively visible. The round edge of its fullness teasing the corner of an open window.
Maybe tonight I’d finally be able to help my hussy. That’s the term of endearment that I’d come to ascribe wordlessly to Gwen. I’d gotten the idea from Jimmy Carr who used the word to shut down a female heckler whose romantic strategy was pretty akin to that of the dirty blonde taking a drag from her cigarette.
She was worse off than I in terms of chemistry. So I forgave her failure to acknowledge my status as her boyfriend. Verbal confirmation was desired but not demanded. After all physical confirmation wasn’t lacking. Though this left me in an odd sort of limbo I didn’t mind it most of the time. A more callous lad might suggest that I’d hit the jackpot with a girlfriend that didn’t demand commitment. But then I’m a tad romantic and besides. She did get jealous. In fact, I think her jealousy was one of the biggest sparks that had kindled the complex mess of our recent history.
Forests and the quiet magic they assume were one of my chief passions. And it was this spiritual lust rather than a pining for validation or nooky that excited me this evening. When the topic of an outing emerged I was all for it.
In fact, I likely was the author of the desire. It was I that had sustained the outings, that was ever the chief of the charge to the wood, the chairman of camping, never missing an opportunity for a ramble.
As I’ve said. I feel things a tad more keenly. I knew that the kindling was there. That the adventurous and slightly tomboyish girl that I’d known since high school was a soul as ready for salvation in the loving embrace of the great and ancient church of woodland worship as a zealot could wish.
There was something simultaneously pathetic and noble in her need to bury her keenness in the bottle and bowl. She once commented that she’d prefer to remember nothing at all. Maybe this was why we’d united. Because I wanted to remember everything. Even the most painful things and my pains far outweighed hers by an eastern bloc. I wanted to analyze and blaze and build. She was the blankness of yin and I the inky stain of yang. This notion was supported even by the color of our hair. My head was of a raven hue and hers of a vibrant reddish blonde.
It was so alchemically sound. But of course, all equations are a fiction.
But on that night I still held faith in magic. That the sight of a meadow at midnight as the quail made its quaint entreaty to the babbling brook was a prayer that would break even the strongest spell of that blasted hash strengthened nihilistic ambivalence.
As we rounded the end of the suburb, and went up the first real country road, and finally heard the rhythmic crunch of gravel beneath our feet a giddiness arose among us. All three of us were merry. Laughing amid the piney scents and pleasant breezes of an autumn night.
We danced, we sang, we praised, we blasphemed. Simultaneously wild and reverent we were feeling the vibe.
As we passed the fence and the wood to reach a truly lonesome stretch of country bordering the edge of a state park I grew happier and happier.
Yes, tonight. Tonight if on any night I’d have the neophytes affirm the faith. I could see the cascade of happiness that the union of man, earth, and soul would bring into the prematurely jaded lives of these disaffected natives of suburbia.
As night wore on and all that I could find was my clumsy tongue repeating the same caustic and acerbic jokes we’d been rehashing all evening… the chance for vespers was escaping and I grew desperate.
We were back on the gravel road. Taking the same path home as we’d taken to get to the leafy temple. The moon was so full and holy. Like a candle lit at mass.
Surely, I couldn’t let yet another night give way to a somnolent wine soaked morning.
I remarked on the balmy pleasure of the air and the merits of the moon. I remonstrated that we’d never really chewed long enough for the communion to be effective. But no, some odd collusion had risen up between them. Three is a crowd at times, it’s true.
She wanted breakfast and he wanted sleep. I desired neither. I wanted acolytes.
As I was on the verge of despair a thought flashed through my mind. Perhaps tonight was merely a preparation. One in which I could lead by example.
I affected my most stoic expression and went to sit with my back against the wall regarding the moon as a parishioner regards the upheld testament.
I told them to go on without me. That I would stay the rest of the night here to enjoy the moon and air.
They protested for a bit but upon seeing the resoluteness of the most pious gaze that I could muster left me with my God.
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