Twenty Eight : A Title That Shall Be Avoided

It’s been a busy month; work, Squid, drinking (socially, not alone) – the month slipped quickly by me. Somewhere in the blur of the last two weeks I wrote this… Eventually I’ll get caught up with myself.


Get out of my fucking head. Post haste. I demand it.

It’s been over a solid month since I thought or uttered sentences structured around you and the lack of you in my life. But today I stumbled.

I stumbled and I must have been jumped by the thought of you, shoving a knife in my face – your wallet, give me your fucking wallet, man.

But I have faith in my ability to shut you back out. This is not the first time I’ve relapsed into love with you. You are not the first woman, neh, girl – for if you were a real woman, you would have stuck around to make a man out of me – to leave, to jump, to take my wallet and step back into the dark. You will not be the last, I can only assume, but thus far you have hurt the most.

Congratulations on that.

I still have your box of abandoned things. I refer to it as “the box of Grace’s shit” – mostly to give the impression that I am no longer sad about our sudden dissolution . The contents of your box of shit is something I can scarcely recall, fearing that cataloging its insides, studying it’s liver and kidney and heart, would somehow open a Pandora’s box of loneliness and despair. The sight of the thing makes my flesh cold and my hair stand on end. I’ve been tempted to burn it for it’s crimes of black magic against my soul, or toss it into a large body of water and watch it sink, irretrievable by someone like me. Someone who can’t swim. Though on the other hand, part of me holds out for hope, that I should keep the box in case we ever do cross paths again in some way, or if all else fails, hand it off to Cook or some other mutual friend/acquaintance, wipe my hands of it and say “this concerns me no longer”. I believe in the end I’ll settle on that idea.

This is good, this is helping. I’m easing back into a soft lull, the panic no longer building in my chest as my skull fragments and breaks apart, my head expanding like a balloon, cherry Koolaid water pouring from my eyes, nose, and ears, mouth agape as I gasp for air. Breath in, breath out – my chest loosens, no longer feeling like my skin was shrinking, forcing my ribs to close in around my lungs.

Either way, I’ll admit it one more time, just to get it out of my system.

I miss you Grace.

I can spend all day talking about the things about you that drove me out of my mind, but I have to be honest – I could have lived with those things forever, they were endearing, personal. They made you seem as human and flawed as I am.

I hope you’re doing well though, happy and fortunate and lucky.

All my love.

Twenty Seven : Second Thought Sunday

Something has to change. I remember these words as I wake from my greedy slumber, the dream forgotten but the meaning fresh as the words repeat again in my mind. Something has to change. I sit up and adjust my boxers with one hand while I pull Squid parallel to me under the blanket, on her back, and scratch her chest and belly. I reach for my cell phone and stop half an extended arm short, the second thought hitting me. It’s Sunday, do I really need to look at the time? Second thought Sunday. It’s seven thirty in the morning.

Squid crawls over the top of me and oozes from under the ocean of blankets onto the floor into a stretch, her back paws hooked onto the bed, the rest of her extended as far as she can possibly make herself go. I imitate the motion and my back pops from brain to ass and I collapse onto the floor, giggling like a child. Crawling to my feet I realize I’m still smiling and can’t figure out why for the life of me as I slide yesterdays pants back on and throw on a fresh shirt.

I fly down the stairs in my usual edge of the step on tip toes way and stop two steps from the first floor, my toes dug into carpet, balancing on the edge, and let Squid scream past me and slide through the turn toward the kitchen on the wood floor to stop abruptly between the sliding glass door and the large turkey frier pot that serves as her food bowl.

With Squid fed I turn my attention to setting water to boil and rolling a cigarette, which happens just in time to spin around and walk outside, Squid squeezing between my leg and the frame of the sliding glass door. She does her business and I let her back in, choosing to stay outside. I look above the roof and power line horizon toward trees and sky. Gray, foggy, and wet. Rain drizzling down in that slowly and steady Oregon way, the weather knowing it has all year to thoroughly soak every inch of the western third of the state – tip to tip. I set the cigarette down on a concrete slab on the patio and step inside to make my tea.

I agitate the bag in the hot water to steep it faster. I know this is some kind of heresy, but I don’t really care, I just want my caffeine. I snag the cigarette and let the words stew in my brain. Something has to change. Aren’t things always changing? Isn’t that life? I’m worrying about nothing for all the right reasons.

Maybe it’s the little things: the cigarettes and pot, the alcohol, the lack of exercise, the video games. Wait, shit – that’s my entire lifestyle. Is my lifestyle the something that needs to change? Do I need to become an entirely different person to catch up all the years I feel I lost in my twenties. Did I actually lose years in my twenties? Did everything that happen, all the loss, happen to lead me to this point? To this lifestyle? Is this how I should be living my life? Or am I being constantly drawn to this junction? Something has to change. Something.

Second thought Sunday – where to begin…

Twenty Six : Pleasantly Distracted

I don’t feel guilty anymore. I’m not sure when that changed, honestly, but it did. I don’t feel guilty that I talked to the cute girl, or that I gave her my number, or flirted with her. I don’t feel guilty at all. I smiled today, and everyone knew why.

It’s strange how I don’t feel guilty, and the less I feel guilty the less I feel tied to Grace. Caught somewhere between hope and hopeless romanticism. It’s strange how life can throw you so many curve balls, how your plans and ideas and direction can change completely in an instant – just because of something said, an action taken, a person met. It’s strange that just a month ago I was so dead set on doing the PCT but am now thinking of staying in Portland for an extra year, saving more money, seeing what happens. I’m thinking about my career, my resume.

The Salmonberry Corridor, I tell myself, that’s what you should do this summer to tide you over. Hike all the small trails you can for an extra year. See what happens, see how far you can get now that you’re finally on your own, an adult. Make more money, set yourself up, make more friends. Enjoy simply existing for a while now that the turmoil of constantly trying to flee is over.

Either way saving money is a must. To stay in Portland I’ll need money to find a new place to live in nine months. To leave for the PCT will require the same actions in twelve months.

For now I raise my glass of water and bowl of ramen and propose a toast.

To being broke, alone, and happy.

Twenty Five : For _ _ _

Today will be different
I won’t think about you
I won’t make decisions based on how it would effect you, because you no longer effect me

you are no longer a part of my life, and I am no longer a part of yours.

Today I will smile without you, and laugh, and be.
I will exist without you.
I will thrive.
I will keep calm and carry on without you.
I will be fine. Without you.
I will rise on my own. I will stand on my own two feet. I will do what needs to be done.
I will be happy without you.

Today will be different.
Today I will be without you.

—————————–12 hours later——————————————————

Today I was without you.
Today was exactly the same.
I’m happy either way.
I do what needs to be done.
I rose, and stood on my own two feet and fell just the same as I ever did.
I clawed with my hands until my finger nails bled.
Inky red syrup in the dirt and the muck.
Then, with my stubborn pride, I rose again to face the fire, the wind, the rain.

Today I thrived in agony, in fear, in panic, stress.
Today I was without you, and today I was fine.
Today I existed without you, and you didn’t exist in my world at all.

Today I laughed, and smiled, and danced.
Today I danced without you.


Today, I was only a part of my world. And the sun was blue, and the skies were red.
Today my life was color.
There was color in my world, without you.

Today was exactly the same.
Today I lived my life again, without you.

Twenty Four : Bake(r/d)

I get off work an hour late and scan my finger to clock out as soon as the floor is swept. I giggle to myself as I walk out the door – what the fuck happened today? Five thousand two hundred loaves, give or take, passed me by in eight hours, so fast I could hardly keep my mind from spinning helplessly out of control. The key slides into the ignition and I back out of the parking space and throw it into drive. Six and a half miles and forty five minutes later I finally get home. Squid is happy to see me. She jumps and whines and swings her tail dangerously about as she dances around me and nips at my pant leg as if to say “give me attention, dick”.

She’s left me presents in the living room and sits looking guilty as I pick up the three large piles of shit she’s left for me on the floor.

Up the stairs I go, down the hall and into my room expecting the worst but find that she’s only tipped over my laundry basket and strewn the dirty rags across the floor – easy to pick up.

I sit down at the computer and she growls, only slightly playfully, ball in her mouth. I snatch the ball from her and throw it out the door and down the hall, quickly grabbing my glass pipe and jar of weed. A long day calls for a high night. Flick, flick, flick and the orange Bic spits fire into the bowl, I inhale, hold, and exhale. I can feel my muscles relax, finally. I write the above lines and read them over, taking another hit. I think about all the things I want to write. Love letters to Grace, the nitty gritty details about my day, the cute girl who had a working interview – the cute girl I hope gets hired so I can say her name when she comes into work, whom I’d like to get to know. I think about Grace again, and feel guilty for wanting to get close to another girl. I’m single, I shouldn’t feel guilty. I’m such a piece of shit though. Back and forth I fight myself internally. Inhale, hold, exhale. Who cares? Why does it matter? I curse myself again for being constantly conflicted, the thousandth time I’ve put a curse on myself in over twenty seven years.

I think about getting a new job – but what’s the point when I’m going going gone in fourteen months.

Here’s to the future. Fire, inhale, hold, life.

Twenty Three : Slide

Mount Hood rose up before us in the distance and early morning light. Blue sky with great white sheets of cloud moving lazily along. The car hummed along, Squirrel sitting in the passenger seat playing disc jockey with my phone while I gripped the wheel loosely and steered us onward. Two days before it was decided that we would make the great pilgrimage to Timberline lodge, snow gear and boards in hand, to potentially hurt ourselves. Both of us not quite beginner, not quite intermediate riders, Ody riding the lines, carving more often, but me more willing to take risks and push my limits, even if my carving skills are still fairly undeveloped. By nine in the morning we were sliding sideways into a parking spot parallel to a large snow bank that had yet been prepared for parking. Apparently the lodge staff had not expected such a large turnout – it was only the first Saturday after the first good snow of the year, packing three feet of fresh powder on what had been an almost bare mountain when I was there last on New Years Eve.

After ensuring I hadn’t hit the truck ahead of me and biting my lip as another Subaru came sliding, brakes locked as mine had been, into the space behind me, but suddenly gaining traction on a bare spot and safely jumping to a stop several feet behind me, Squirrel and I put on our boots, readied helmets and goggles and face covers, snatched our boards from the back of the car and hiked up to the lodge.

It felt good to slide my feet into the bindings and feel the familiar glide of snow beneath the board I was now attached and one with. I steadied myself and looked back at Squirrel who nodded and gave a gloved thumbs up. I hopped and twisted to position my left foot forward and pushed my weight down, my board slid down the mountain and I went with it.

Toe to heel, toe to heel, slide, slow, fast, go this way, now that, wind and fall. Get up, brush off the snow, again, and again, and again. We rode to the lowest lifts, then half way up the mountain, just to glide a few hundred feet and catch a lift even higher yet. Back down, back up, through The Bonezone again and again, a thin, long, winding canyon down the mountain that is, even with snow, sided by rocks and trees jutting out, waiting for you to make a mistake. It’s my favorite run.

And then, the children. We decide, after I realize that my left knee is throbbing and sore and Squirrel decides that his ass has been a cushion for his falls long enough, that we will take the Bonezone one final time, and then a nother final time. On that last of final times we started strong, catching air, carving just within the inner section of the pipe, and then, from atop the ridge on the right, a child on skiis came sliding down, slowly, right into my path. My options, tank the little bastard and teach him an extremely painful lesson in watching out for traffic, or pull my board in front of me, digging my heals into the snow, and falling down, stopping abruptly with the possibility of being plowed over by a boarder or skiier from behind. I choose to fall, not wanting to deal with parents, who are, generally speaking, worse than the little shits they raise.

Sometimes it feels good to fall.

Sometimes it doesn’t. This was not a good fall.

The speed I was traveling caught up to me, instead of falling backward, I pivoted, shot forward, leaned to the side and caught my right elbow in the snow. I rolled farther still and caught a glimpse of the idiot child, completely oblivious, slowly making his way farther down the canyon. My board catches at one end, I can’t tell at this point if it’s forward or backward, up is glimpses of white dust and blue sky, down is snow, cold and everywhere. Tumble, flip, roll, eat snow and repeat, I lose count after three or maybe four – a sign I wasn’t doing a good job at keeping count in the first place.

Finally, stopped, I sit up and push myself up right, balance, and find Squirrel coming to a stop next to me, taking his time down the slope to pick jumps and ride the edges of the pipe. He gives a thumbs up, I nod and give one back. Down the mountain we go.

Twenty Two : Significance

I had a moment of nirvana early this afternoon while standing in the sun behind the house. Squid ran joyfully back and forth, to and fro, biting up stalks of weeds and grass playfully, shaking them about, nibbling, and then spitting them back out at my command. The moment hit me as I took a sip of my peach tea and whiskey.

With cigarette in hand I took a slow drag and exhaled, letting the moment last. Having finally made the leap to quit, but afraid of the failure from cold turkey, I cut back from twenty cigarettes a day to seven. I’m spending the next year setting myself up for the trail, and that means by the end of this month I need to be down to zero cigarettes a day.

But more importantly : I’m spending the next two and a half years setting myself up for thirty.

Thirty is important to me. My thirties will be when life truly begins. I’ve wanted to be in my thirties since I can remember.

Well, that’s a lie.

I remember saying that I expected to live no longer than twenty when I was in elementary. Let’s say since middle school.Thirty is important because people take you seriously as an adult. In the twenties, everyone expects you to be an adult, and act like an adult, but no one treats you as such either way, forcing you into this purgatorial void of, well, twenties. Ten long years of twenties. Ugh. But more specifically, I really started to anticipate it when twenty two came around, because that’s when I realised that until thirty, no one would truly take me seriously. Twenty two holds a lot of significance as a year as well. I moved to Arizona, chasing after Lai for the last time, finding a friend in Eric instead, and then packing and leaving at the first chance I got to return to Oregon, to safety, my family, and to my friends. Something familiar and right and true.

These thoughts led me into thinking about the Pacific Crest Trail and how significant it really is in my life. It’s not just a long hiking vacation, or endurance test, or long hippie camping trip. It’s my coming of age tale. It’s the thing that will usher in my thirties. On June twelfth, two thousand and fifteen, I will be twenty nine years old. I will spend the next three to four months hiking over mountains, burning in desert heat, and walking through thick forests, defining my limits, discovering my fullest, healthiest potential, and then, toward the end, contemplating my next step. My next job, living situation, meal, hike.

The daydream came quickly as I closed my eyes against the sun.

Standing at the edge of a wood that circles a large, crystal blue lake, I stand, Squid beside me, sitting patiently, obediently, her too forged anew in the gauntlet of the PCT, our bond becoming stronger with each day, with each step. The sun beams down on me, my skin tanned and leather, my face covered in a thick, long beard of brown, blonde, and red spattered with dust and sticks and leaves. My hair is long, tied back with rubber bands and a twist tie, pieced together with things I could salvage from other things. The hair, like the beard, has become something akin to the ground I walk atop. I’m wearing a white t-shirt with an unhappy cloud on it, the shirt, like the rest of me – sunstained, dirty, and worn.

A green flannel shirt also hangs over me and down my arms, the sleeves ripped off from who knows what or why at the elbow. Maybe just for convenience. A few speckles of blood can be seen among the common theme of filth. Black jean cut off shorts cover my waste, crotch, and legs to just above the knee. My socks are long, and what once was more than likely white is now brown, sweat soaked and saturated with dust.

The boots that cover them are caked with mud of all varieties, making the weather abused brown leather that much more inspiring. The tops and ankle of the boots mainly just worn leather with a spattering of dried, dusty mud. But the lower the eye drops on these ill fated footwear, the fresher and more intense the groupings of mud become until finally, at the sole, the wet soily earth has all but devoured what the mind can only hope to be good, in tact rubber.

My pack drops to the earth and I take a deep breath, exhale sharply, and laugh louder and more heartily than I ever knew I could.

So different than me now that it startles me back to the waking world.

The sun is gone, and I’m back beneath the gray shade of the city.


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