There were so many borders. He crossed the Sierra’s and ran out of gas. Down the backside he coasted. Then hours later it was the state line. An ocean of desert to be crossed. More mountains and miles and miles of road. But those were borders.
The real border was the front door. The end of the drive way. The day he told her he was moving. The real border came weeks before as he accepted the job. The far away job. Or the day he applied, wanting to be far away from her. The borders were crossed in his heart. Many times, and many times he came back. Would he return to her love again?
The cat slept on his lap as he drove. The radio playing a Lucy Kaplansky song about the road. Clearly she had also done travel at night. Her magical voice was holding him tonight. The music was a hug. The cat slept peacefully at last in the car. But it wasn’t an easy start for her. She cried and cried and cried. Like he wanted to cry and cry and cry. Maybe they both missed her. And all these years later he wonders if Baby Girl misses her like he does, at night, alone.
But maybe no being could miss another in the same way.
Years before he lived in Yosemite. When not crossing the high mountain trails he wrote. So much sad poetry and prose. So many long and pointless hours of cutting his own wrist with a pen. Bleeding onto the page, onto the screen. Into the snow, cold and unwatched. But he crossed a border in the park. It was the place where he learned to let M go. He moved beyond. And beyond he remained until he returned from Wyoming. And then borders were crossed again. There was no on in his heart for him for so long. Now she had crossed into his love.
Nevada is a land of barren beauty. A place unique and magical in a sparse way. Maybe one day he’ll live in a hermit shack off a dirt road in Eureka. Not the left-leaning town on the California coast. The dusty town hanging to the side of a mountain in Nevada. He passed through the town on this trip. And later trips. But tonight it was just a moment on the road. How many moments on our roads we pass through blindly. But for someone else the moment is dear. The moment lasts in memory. The touch lingers like a kiss on wet lips.
How many borders did he cross driving in the night. And in the heat of the next day. His heart had for so long been barren like the desert. Empty, uncrossed by human love. At least this is how it felt to him at times. But she was there like a dream. A well in the middle of the vast plain. Driving he crossed state lines. He crossed county lines and city lines. And each line was a step further from the one he couldn’t cross away from tonight.
Even after the granite valley of Yosemite. The strange orange land of south Utah. Through the dark of night and the heat of day. In Utah the temperature drove the cat to seek a place to hide. And she didn’t mind being wet for once. Like he was learning the lessons of having a wet heart. But he could never find a place to hide. The heat was so strong between them at one moment. It burned like the sun on his alabaster heart. And now he was peeling. One of his borders was slipping away into dust around him.
Maybe it didn’t have to be this way. Maybe it couldn’t be any other way. A voice inside told him to turn back. Cross back to safety. The comfort of her heart. But the clear sad truth was this border couldn’t be crossed anymore. He could cross Nevada. And later even crossed it in a snow storm. But the storms and the cold winds of live were driving them now. And each on a different current. The land he drove across was once at the bottom of the sea. In a time which feels so far away now. But years from now, across other borders so will today. The feelings, the journey, the borders crossed. It will fade as a memory. But she will never fade.
The King of Wands is today’s card. The ruler of the suit of Wands. Or rather one of the rulers. In this card we see a ruling figure alone with his wand. As the King, the figure carries a lot of power. But also a lot of responsibility. To be a good King, or Queen, means to balance of authority. The King of Wands is a person of passions. A person of bravery and convictions.
Wands is the suit of fire. A great drive for success in life. And as the ruler of this suit. This could be the top. The King may have gotten the authority and the respect so long desired. But this power and respect isn’t always easy. Not just in the getting but in the holding. And at times it lacks the allure it held before it was ours. If this person has focused only on power and respect. They may find their lives empty now.
Alone on the card with the one wand. The card is an echo to where the journey started. And it sends a clear message. There is no top to the ambitions of the world. There will always be another mountain. As we reach one goal, we begin the journey to the next. Like Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill. While the drive for success can be healthy. It can also be all consuming. Like King Arthur who left everything to fight and die in a war far away. We lose touch with what has lasting value. Unlike the Queen of this suit. The King does not look at the viewer. The focus of the King is the wand. When a fire burns just to burn to burns out the fuel it needs to continue.
With any real power comes responsibility. It is easy to forget or not understand. Not just for those lacking in power. But those who do not own the responsibility. People depend on you. There are tough choices to be made. And as a leader an example to be set for others. In this way a clear focus will help the King. With so many people looking to the King as a guide. Distraction is dangerous for the King. It is more than a single person and a single path. But a Kingdom.
The greatest asset to any person is a true passion. But the King needs it even more. There are people driven from within. Then people driven from without. It is a convenience to be driven from without. Your motivation is in the hands of others. But they will rarely push you as far as you can go. And will often hold you back to promote their own ends. But the King cannot be driven from without. The King must have an inner motivation. An inner passion. An inner drive. This is what becomes the focus. When others are not present. When the storms of life beat down. This inner fire like a lighthouse is the way home.
What this card is telling you is your bound for success. Find the inner lighthouse. Be true to your light. Be patient and kind with others. But also with yourself. You are on the right path. But don’t let the path itself be everything. When you sit in the throne, don’t sit there alone. Keep true to your path. If you haven’t just had a great success. in the near future you will. It could be both. But also recall the message. At the end we find a new start. The journey of life goes in cycles, until we find peace.
“Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.”
Back in Arcata there were new friends. But also old ones.
Karen was someone I had met before I left. But it wasn’t until I came back we spent time together. When I left she was dating another friend. But now she was single. She’s a smart and attractive woman. There was an attraction from the first time we met. I recall meeting her at a party. But she was drunk. The music was loud. We didn’t talk much. While I was away I stayed in touch online.
Before I moved back I wondered if anything was possible. However back in town the relationship with Simone grew. Karen and I grew to be close friends. We chatted about life. And shared poetry. When I tried to start my own blog. She was the other person on the team. There was a good connection.
If I look back to my accounts online I could pin-point when I met Milk. I know where I met her. Sleeping in my car of course meant no internet. So I would use the wifi at the Co-op. I wasn’t the only person using the internet. One night a strangely attractive younger woman was at a table. On the table was a half gallon of milk. I posted online about her. Did she plan on drinking the whole thing. Milk is gross to me. I will eat cheese and ice cream. But I will not drink milk.
Later we were walking out together. I started talking to her. Like me she was living in her car. We spent more time together. Got to know each other more and became friends. Things weren’t going well with Simone when we met. And there was a spark of hope for a new person in my life. But the winds changed with Simone again. And as a result the spark died.
For a while Milk was sleeping in my car. I offered her the space since I worked at night. And it was bigger than her car. On most days I would get off work, and get my car. I’d drive and park and we’d sleep for a while. Later I would take her back to her car. But one morning Simone wanted me to come over after work. I felt a bit like a jerk, but I had to wake Milk up. I didn’t want to drive back from Simone’s and it was too far for her to walk. Besides I wasn’t keen on the idea of Simone knowing Milk was sleeping in my car. We weren’t having sex. But it just felt odd.
There was no spark but we were friends the rest of her stay. We lived together in a small house in Manilla for a while. It was the house of a friend of her’s. We were house-sitting. It was a neat little place, and close to the beach. But the bathroom didn’t work and I drove into town for my business. One day we tried to have a party, but no one showed up. Simone came and a friend of Milk’s came: that was all. But I miss this time period. Again things weren’t going well with Simone and Milk was a good friend to me.
And she was a good adventure pal. She tried to help me learn French. She tried to get me motivated to jog. We would go on road trips to the coast and visit small towns. On one trip we went on an impromptu run. I’m not sure how long the run was, but it felt like miles. We also visited the redwoods, and once I took her to run in a race. I didn’t run, I took a nap while she ran. Then we went to Gaberville and had lunch.
It wasn’t just women. An important male friend was Dave. He was in his 50s. A homeless man who didn’t look homeless. I’m not sure what was his exact arrangement. He didn’t go to the service center in town. Though he told me at one point he had gone. He walked every where and just spent his days about town. There were a number of times we talked. He told me about his medications one day. And we talked about women and loss, depression and aging. It made me feel better. There were some times during my stay in Arcata I had strong doubts about my future. I felt like a loser. I felt like I would always be a loser. Alone and broke with no prospects.
Writing for the local news paper I covered the homeless service center. Something I shouldn’t have done since I was a client. But no one knew I was sleeping in my car. No one, except staff at the service center, knew I had gotten a camping ticket. And they had helped me get it removed. I had to serve community service, which I did at the service center. In Arcata this place was a point of a lot of debate. Like many other communities which want to help people. But also feel like the same people are dirty and cause problems.
The director wasn’t always a friendly person. While I covered the center and was a client he told people he thought I was a spy. One time I was talking to him about a flier for a public meeting. The wording seemed vague to me and I was trying to understand. This upset him, and he hung up on me. A move which I later heard upset a few people on the board of directors. One of the workers at the center was John, also the director’s name, but this was a different John. He helped me in a couple ways. At one point he talked about buying a local paper and hiring me to work. But it never came to be.
As a reporter I believe I wrote some good stories about the service center. I spoke with a wide range of people. And at one point got a statement from a city official critical of the center. Something my editor told me no one had done before. But I also talked to students, community leaders. And a couple of my new friends on the board of directors. The push while I was there was to serve lunch again. When it had been served before it had caused problems. Part of the issue was the center’s location. One it was in a building owned by the city. Two it was located next to the bus depot. And bus drivers said the clients caused problems.
They were granted the right to serve lunch. But soon after I left the center was closed.
Wendy is the wife of a pastor who served on the board of directors. Her heart was so open and caring. It made her attractive in a way you wouldn’t expect for a married woman at her age. We got to know each other talking about the center. But also a few other issues in the public debate. The begging issue was one of these. A law to limit the activity was up for a vote. While writing about the issue I talked to Wendy. It passed.
Towards the end of my stay I moved in with Simone. She lived outside of town. And I spent less time working for the news paper. When it came time to leave. I didn’t feel like I was leaving many people. But at work I had a good friend. We worked together for over a year. And we talked, and spent many nights working the same shift. Toward the end a new guy was hired. He was a bit of a drunk and a douche. I remember my friend telling me before I even talk seriously about moving: “If you quit, I’m going to have to quit too.” I didn’t think he meant it. But I talked to him later and found out he did quit.
Working at CVS was great for a few reasons. We didn’t get much theft at night. But when we did, against policy, we chased them down. One night my co-worker chased a guy down the street and into an alley. The guy heavy guy running with beer stopped. My friend had the phone in one hand, and his pepper spray in the other. The police later told my friend they guy wasn’t heavy. It was all muscle. Another one of my co-workers packed a gun under his shirt at work.
But it was also crazy. One night a guy was giving my cashier a hard time. I went down and asked him to leave. He resisted. I kept asking him politely to leave. But he was getting more and more upset. Until he finally threw his change at me and left. Another guy I tried to get to leave the store because he was causing a scene. We had to call the police. I don’t think people understand how easy it is to get removed from a public store. As the supervisor though I was the captain of the row boat. On most nights it was me and maybe one other person.
Then I got the job in Colorado.
1) Get a real job, a boring job and focus on it like it matters. Do everything you can to keep it and to grow in the job. Find a job you can enjoy, even if you it isn’t one you love.
2) Take your education seriously.
3) Plan for the job you love. But know it might not work out. Or it might and it might not pay you enough. Try to develop a back-up career. (See 1)
4) Fall in love often and easily.
5) Let love go often and easily.
6) Travel as often as you can. Don’t be afraid of the world. Sleep outside and hitch-hike while you are young. It will be easier on you, and people will trust you, help you more.
7) Save as much money as you can.
8) Learn to find joy in nature, in friends, a sunny day at the lake with friends. Spending money and happiness are not joined at the hip.
9) Write as much as you can, even if you are not a writer. Keep a journal of life events and how you feel.
10) From time to time go back and read your journals. You will see what you have been through before, and how you at times felt like you couldn’t make it. But then you did.
11) Make as many friends as you can.
12) But don’t be afraid to let friends go when the time has come.
13) Drive safely, don’t speed and watch out for other drivers. It will mean less stress and decreased risk of accidents. For the times you make mistakes while driving: let the other guy make mistakes.
14) Remember only love is real.
If only I hadn’t gone to the job fair. I’d recently moved to Vancouver and needed a job. At the job fair I met Tye. And we talked about working at Walmart. Three years later I am doing good at Walmart. But if…
If only I hadn’t had the crazy roommate move in with me. I thought having a roommate would help. But she was crazy. Thought I worked for the police. Ate all my food. And then wanted to have sex with me. Craziest thing of all really. But then I wouldn’t have moved to Vancouver.
If only the weather hadn’t been so cold in the spring. If only the workplace hadn’t been so cold. And then so loud. If only I hadn’t had a great friend in Vancouver.
If only I hadn’t stayed in touch with Michelle. We met years ago. And had been close ever since. She’s been an amazing friend. And I’ve been a wandering fool. If only she hadn’t stayed friends with me all those years. I wouldn’t have had the option to move to Vancouver.
If only I hadn’t met her at Burgerville. It wasn’t a place either us belonged at the time. But we were there for a short time together. We got to know each other. Became friends and became close. If only when she asked to be my friend I had said, “no.” It would have been a sad mistake. But it could have happened.
If only I hadn’t gotten fired from the deli downtown. I worked for a Korean couple who barked at me. The man said women were trouble. The woman said I made her feel stupid. But I worked and worked. Coming in late every day. I didn’t know the clock was set fast. If they hadn’t fired me one dark day I wouldn’t have gone to Burgerville. And I would never have met my best friend: Michelle.
If only in the wet of winter I hadn’t moved to Portland. Starting out in the city wasn’t easy. I had to really work hard and rent cheap places. When I could rent any place. I had at one point planned on moving to Seattle with a woman. But it didn’t work out and I landed in Portland. Why Portland, I didn’t even know the place. But I knew, M, the girl hated the place. And it was close enough for me to afford a ticket on the bus. If only she hadn’t hated Portland. If only I could have afforded to move to Austin. If only I would have moved to another town.
If only I had stayed a week longer. I had been camping by the river. And the night I left the water flooded my tent. A couple years later I went back and found it. It was under a deep layer of mud. I’d never thought the river could flood. If only I had stayed another night. It might have been my last.
I had met M on a lonely night in San Francisco. I had turned while walking to talk to a friend behind me. But bumped into M. She was looking for someone for talking. I sat down and we talked for hours. We blew smoke bubbles. My heart was feeling light like a bubble. If only I hadn’t bumped into the strange girl. If only I hadn’t fallen in love. If only the night was just the night. But we stayed together for weeks. And then later went on a long trip. If only we hadn’t been so close. I would never have made plans to move to Seattle. I would never have moved to Portland. If only on one night in San Francisco I was walking on the other side of the street.
She had left home to see her favorite poet. Allen Ginsberg, was alive when she when she left Seattle. But he was dead when she got to San Francisco. If only she had loved a different poet. If only she hadn’t been feeling lonely. If only she had never left home. There are so many unknown if only’s in her story. If only her family had been closer.
If only I hadn’t been cruising around the Bay Area. If only I’d never started on my experimental life. I left college to be on the road for a while. But I never left the Bay Area until I met M. If only I had never met her. If only I had stayed in school I would have a totally different career. But there had been a longing in my heart for something different. If only I had been happier with my life choices. If only I had ignored the call of the wild.
If only I hadn’t been in San Francisco. If only I hadn’t met M. If only I hadn’t moved to Portland. If only I hadn’t worked at Burgerville. If only I hadn’t met Michelle. If only I hadn’t moved back after many years. If only I hadn’t gotten a job at Walmart. If only so many more things I can’t count or recall. And a few I am not even aware of right now. I wouldn’t be here writing this, and you wouldn’t be here reading it.
I for one am happy all the “if onlys” worked out the way they did.