Friday, February 6, 2009

A River Runs Through It

Long ago, I dated a hairstylist from a small town 50 miles to the east of my hometown. It didn't last very long and the drive was grueling. He didn't own a vehicle so it was very one sided. He was a nice enough fella though. At the time I had a 1980 Ford Pinto, it would sporadically give me trouble, so you can see my concern with the distance. That stretch of the highway was very desolate and not many places to ask for help if you needed it. I'm not even sure if they had cell phones back then.

My story begins with the break up and the retrieval of a jacket I had left at his place, so far away. I enlisted my best friend to go with me and use his, much newer vehicle to go pick it up. The drive down was enjoyable. It was the first time I made the trip with someone to talk to for the hour long drive. The scenery was beautiful, rolling hills and uninterrupted forest. The sprawl hadn't crept that far yet. We talked about all sorts of stuff on the way down. The usual fare between gay best friends. The next party, the cutest guy at the bar, floral arrangements and the the like.

We arrived in the little town and meet up with the fella to get my jacket. It was just a cheap denim jacket, but I loved it and still have it and can wear it. It was always a little to big back then. On the start of our return trip, as the car climbed the steep curved road that bordered a river, the car begin to sputter, then died. The thing I hope to avoid by not bringing mine had happened to his. He pulled the car off safely to the side of the road and tried to start it again. Nothing. We exited and headed back down the hill into town. We used the first payphone we came to. Thankfully my best friend's parents run a successful tire shop in our home town and still do to this day. His mother would send a wrecker within a couple of hours. We had some time to kill while we waited.

We were still near the outskirts of downtown proper, but there was a McDonald's, so we ate lunch. It was too far to walk anywhere else afterward, but sitting at the window eating we could see the river across the highway. We crossed and made our way down the steep embankment. It was beautiful there. Shady, cool, dapples of sunlight, you could barely hear the traffic which was now almost 20 feet above us. The was broad, maybe 50 feet across, scattered with rocks, both huge and small. It was relatively shallow for the most part. It meandered there in the shade below the highway like a myth hides in the back of your mind. We walked and talked and marveled at how a thing could exist so close to the road and yet seem miles away from it. We came upon the old ruins of some sort of factory built at the edge of the river. After walking for 45 minutes we could go no further without either getting in the river or passing through the ruins. Neither option was appealing, so we headed back, the time was close that the wrecker should be arriving soon anyway.

We made our way back up the steep embankment, out of the cooling shade and into the hot sun and glare of asphalt. We trudged up the hill toward the crippled car. After catching our breathes and allowing the experience to sink in, the wrecker was there to take us back to our lives in our small town, without a river to explore. We were unusually silent on our way back. Maybe because of the driver being a stranger to our circle or maybe we were still back at the river, that grew more distance as the miles clicked by, either reason, it seemed a much longer trip going back than it took to arrive.

( I just realized that today is the ninth anniversary of his passing. Feb. 6th, 2000.)


Russ Manley said...

Great story Dave, very well written. I like the line about the river meandering unseen "like a myth in the back of your mind."

Bob said...

That's a beautiful story, Dave.

We all need to take that moment and just be.

Lemuel said...

I too enjoyed your tale. Every once in a while we are blessed to stumble on one of those wonderful places in our world that go generally unnoticed and unspoiled, places that take us to another plane of the spirit. Thank you for sharing.

The added bonus for me was that the picture that you included reminded me very much of the area in which the Boy Scout summer camp of my youth was located. It too was one of those special places of the spirit.

Steven said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Dave. How unfortunate that he had passed away.

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