And there I was. Ready to go. Really ready to go. Ready to go alone. Ready to step out onto the street completely alone. Not thinking of anyone. Not wondering about anyone. Not wanting to find anyone or run away from anyone. I knew I was ready to be. To go.
It would not be easy, I knew. There is always danger. There is always risk. To be alive is to risk living– to risk being hurt, to risk being loved, to risk being human. Or, not so much a risk as a certainty. There is no way to avoid it. We are alive, and there we are. We are on the planet, and there’s nothing to do or say. There’s only being. And we can choose to be, with mindfulness in our heart, or we can choose to just scrape by, our eyes barely open, our lungs just full enough to keep functioning, but never fully open. That is terrible. To live life asleep.
I was being harsh. It is not so cut and dry. There is no one who lives so truly quietly and no one who rages at mountaintops and oceansides so constantly. To everything there is an ebb and flow. To everything there is a coming and going.
And that is where I was. I was at that point of going and coming. Going somewhere. Coming somewhere. Wherever I landed, that is where I would be. Wherever it was, I would be myself. I would have found myself. I would be whole.
I was chasing myself, yes. I was chasing my own wholeness. I was chasing the breath.
And yet it was still because of love. It was still because of all the love Eve filled me with. I would not have been able to be this person if not for her. There is no reason not to recognize and honor that. There is no reason not to honor that. There is no reason not to consider the fact that she affected me. We are human and we affect each other. We do not exist in total vacuums. We are products of each other.
Now, the question was who would I affect and how? Who would I become? Did the things I told Mel have the impact I intended? What impact had I even intended? I wanted her to stop pressing me. I wanted her to look at herself and see what she was trying to push me into. I wanted her to think of what she saw in me that was only a reflection of her. And it worked. I turned her inward. And what did that do for me? Where did that leave me?
There was somewhere to go.
Under the same trees, the same lamp light, I walked along the same sidewalks.
I found a bus. It seemed to be going in the direction I needed. It invited me in.
It was dark. I was always coming and going in the dark. The arrival at the ocean with Eve was the only light I had seen in transit.
I wanted to go somewhere where there would be light. I wanted to go somewhere where the world would be awake.
I wanted to go somewhere where there was snow and cold and the annoyances that come with cold. I didn’t know whether I would be able to survive, but I knew that I wanted to try. I needed to get out of this city.
There was something about it that drew me in, and I was not ready to be drawn in. I was not ready to accept this place. I was not ready for roots to unfurl from my feet and dig their way into this ground.
I sat in the bus and watched the lights pass. The world in the dark was such a wonderful sight. In the dark, the desolation was given another light. It was given a different personality.
I was not afraid of it any more. I was not nervous. I was ready to accept that whatever might happen in the dark would happen.
Men used to yell at us in the darkness on those streets. Eve would pull me along, tell me to stay calm, tell me not to get upset. That the people were just ill, and ignored. And it was hard to go on ignoring them but it was necessary. It was hard to turn away. It was hard not to ask them who they were, what their names were, where all their family went, how they ended up in the city so alone. A city full of people, a city where there was so much and so little.
It was always like that. Anywhere and everywhere, there will be those who have much and those who have little. I realized on that bus that I would never be one of those with much. I would always be one of the have-nots. Somehow, that did not bother me. It was all construction anyway. It was all someone else’s values of what was much and what was little. I would always have more inside me than what anyone could tell from my clothes.
At times we were afraid, the two of us, walking alone. But there is nothing like having a little bit more blind faith in the universe. In having faith that things would happen as they should and everything would fall into place. That life would be alright. That we would be alright.
And then there was the night when we were stopped on our way home from our hill. We refused to be afraid of the dark. We refused to allow the night to become a prison. And we understood what that meant.
I heard a story about a neighborhood where mothers came together against the violence that rocked part of this city. The stories of violence travel quickly; the stories of triumph, not as quickly at all. Everyone had to stay inside. There was danger. There were guns. There was the threat of death for doing nothing more than breathing. Communities lash back at themselves when the world presses in and sends them to prisons, when there seem to be no paths out. Self-destruction because there is no way to aim for the real perpetrators without facing more pain, without facing worse consequences. Countries will send bombs to other countries before providing food and shelter for the needy within their borders. The rich send police to oversee the neighborhoods they buy and sell to and make sure that the inhabitants are still buying, still killing each other, still fighting instead of banding together against those who harm them. Meanwhile, they cannot protect themselves from their own inner degradation. Their inner wants only vaguely assuaged by their outer acquisition. Unsustainable if not foolish. Hunger must be sated.
I wanted to go someplace where my lack of a bank account would mean nothing. Where I would not need a credit card. Where things could be simpler than they’ve ever been. I wanted to go to that Elsewhere that some people would call Paradise. I wanted to go to a place where the buildings would fall away.
The buildings would crumble, surely. Buildings did and could crumble. We kept building against the breaking, but it would never be enough. The earth wants sovereignty. I wanted to remain captain of my soul and learn to be a subject of the earth. The wanting for something simpler than this world of numbers.
I wanted to learn to wake with the sun, to sleep with the moon, to give my own meanings to the stars.
It did not need to be far, I realized. I did not need it to be far and I did not need it to be exotic. I could find a way.
It was always about “finding a way” in those days. Always about that old “finding myself,” always about that need to become something or something. Always about becoming and formation and courage.
Living is always about those things. Life wants to make itself. Life wants to make itself known, wants to feel like it is full and open.
I dreamt a lot. I was not really doing anything. I was waiting. I was waiting for time and life to whisk me to a place that held all the answers.
For a while, it did. I took a bus far north. It was spring on the edge of summer so it was not too went and not too cold. There were occasional storms, but they didn’t bother me. Rain never did. Rain never bothered me. I didn’t mind being wet.
I only slept alone for two nights. Under trees and stars. Yes, I tried to live in the forest. But I had been taught nothing about it. That was when I realized that I was being insane. That I was going insane in my attempt to run away from everything alone. That it was vain to believe that I could really survive so utterly alone.
I had tried to turn away from everything I knew without first trying to learn everything I did not know. I had forgotten to become a student.
I was wandering blindly as people so often do. Sometimes all we can think to do is run. To run away from all that seems to trap us. We run in different ways. We run into bars and nightclubs. We run into the mountains. We run into the ocean. We run in place.
There was a moment of realization as I walked through a forest, completely unsure of where I was going or what I was doing. I thought about all those things that I knew I needed. The basic things. Food. Shelter. I thought of those. I didn’t make any progress in attaining them in those two days.
The problem was that I was not really trying. I was not really trying to survive alone. I was not really trying to be a wild forest woman. I just wanted to be away. I just wanted to hide. I just wanted to leave.
I wanted to die. I wanted to escape all that seemed impossible about this world. So much seemed impossible. So much seemed done. I was everywhere. My mind was everywhere and nowhere. I didn’t know what I was doing with myself. I had wanted to explore tall buildings. I had wanted to learn the landscape. I had wanted to discover what it was to be whole.
I thought I had to retreat from the world to find peace. I realized that a peace in isolation which cannot be carried into cacophony is not truly peace at all.