Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 16th, Day 350

near Norrisville, MD
I rose from my bed of leaves and packed my wet tent into my bag. It would have to wait to dry off. The air is cold with little sun but that's what makes this season what it is; fall means preparation. I learned that in Shenandoah and I am supposed to be preparing. I have been preparing, I suppose, but so far only unconsciously. I am hardly aware of where I'm going as I walk down winding roads among farms and fields. My head knows I am close to New York but my body does not. New York City is where it has always been, far far away from the country, invisible. I feel I'm never going to arrive, that this walk will never end, even as I scrutinize my map and the remaining distance. All the roads are blending together and I have trouble remembering anything about them now. The brooks swimming through forests and bending around the farmhouses, the curvy roads and their cars and narrow bridges, it's all an odd dream. I'm having trouble separating them into specific days.

It was 4:00 p.m. when I snapped awake. I was in a dinky village called Monkton and had spotted a trail. Thinking I might be able to walk that instead of the road, I queried two people standing outside a small cafe. I found myself talking with a guy named Dreaming Fox, a.k.a. Mike. He's 23 and barefoot with camo pants, forest green button shirt that's one size too large for his short stature, and long brown hair knotted in a ponytail. He wears glasses. I knew right away that Mike was a chill guy and we got to talking.
He actually operates the cafe and he gave me a refill on my water and scoops of homemade ice cream. I wouldn't end up using the trail (it moseyed West) but we traded numbers and planned to meet up later. I set off again and walked until dark. The sunset was crazy beautiful, mixing with clouds and their shadows. An armada of geese took the sky at once, hundreds of them shrieking and calling out as they flew off in formation. It was haunting and beautiful, a harbinger of the goose apocalypse.

I stood in the dark of a parking lot waiting for Dreaming Fox when I got his call. He pulled up in his white Suburban, hopped out barefoot and cleared a space in his cluttered backseat for my pack. An American Spirit dangled from his lip and he gave one to me as we tore off towards his friend's house.
Mike told me about the area. We're in Maryland boonies out here and they farm in the spring, tube in the summer, harvest in the fall and trap and hunt in the winter (I think that's right...). The flat we pulled up to had a door that looked like the entrance to some shady bar, complete with a grim parking lot and an outdoor light fixture above the door. A couch sat outside.

We walking in. The whole place was only two rooms, the bedroom which served doubly as the foyer and the living room/kitchen. Four other guys were in the other room ripping off of a bong and smoking cigarettes. I passed when they offered it to me. I wanted to see how things would work out. The guys--Albert, TR, Josh and Brandon--were all likeable and chill and pretty amazed by the walk. Rock music spilled out of a speaker by the couches as we sat around and talked.
It was strange though--Brandon kept pulling all these alpha moves while super stoned. In the middle of conversation he would suddenly say "You wanna fight?" and gesture at me with his chin. Or "Hey, what's your name again?"

"Oh, okay, Steve. Would you pass me my soda?"

The soda was closer to me but still within arm's reach. I blinked at him. Was this really happening?

"Dude, get it yourself, it's right there."

There was an odd pause and he looked like he was going to reach for it but I got there first and moved it two feet closer. Weird shit like this kept happening and I failed to respond appropriately, largely due to confusion and passivity induced by my exhaustion from the day's walk and being unsure of my new situation. I ignored him for the most part when I should have called him out for being an idiotic ass.
The other guys were cool though and would keep apologizing for his behavior. He does that a lot, apparently. Brandon showed me the surgical scar on his arm. He almost lost the arm after flying 80 mph down a highway at night, drunk. The scar twisted up his arm to the shoulder like a snake.

TR, the renter, offered me a place to crash but I decided to leave with Mike. Mike was the only person there I felt comfortable with. He's an awesome, hard working kid who loves nature and the country life. Tonight he was wearing an Indiana Jones hat and was still barefoot. He also brought me locally made granola and other snacks because "I want you to have a good breakfast tomorrow." He also gave me a hawk's feather and a stone said to absorb a person's pain.

I left with him and TR and we left that place to seek out a home for me tonight in the woods. We found one in the middle of nowhere and it was a great spot near the road I would be walking in the morning.

When they drove off I sighed to myself and set up my tent beneath a canopy of trees and stars. A strange day and I was tired.

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