Thursday and Friday were bad for my heart.
I’ve had difficulties before. I’ve had setbacks, broken gear. The sun beat down, the rain beat harder. This is my first experience of existential why-am-I-doing-this pain.
Originally I wanted to write a post called “Last of the Islands.” Since July 4 I’ve skipped from one refuge to another. Three were planned and two were spontaneous, but I’ve found way points with friends and family along the way.
Thursday morning I departed my parents’ house and, with it, the last known way point. That night I was rejected by a friar. You all know that story.
When I slept, it rained on my head. Dutifully I crossed my legs and shrouded them with plastic. I am so tired, I thought. I can sleep through anything.
Five naps till morning came. Cloudy and windy. I was exhausted. Weak. Trembling.
I made 55 miles to Prairie Du Chien. Arrived afternoon, hoped to find a kind face. Cafe after cafe was closed (so early?). The grocery store was two miles further on; I settled for a meal at a bar. Swooped by churches, none were open. All the usual suspects—spots I might find an offer of lodging—null.
Backup plan. Always have a backup plan.
Slow and sore I pedaled back the way I came. Outside of town is a bluff line with forest at the bottom. No houses there, no one will care if I camp on it. Getting the Giant to the woodline was herculean: he has weight, the roadside ditch rejects him. Threw him up the slope with all my might, dove through the vines, and—
I jerked back and saved the Giant from snaring his rubber toe on a barb-wire fence. Three lines of the stuff; nothing solid to climb; can’t get bike over; no snippers on me and anyway I’m no vandal.
Damn damn damn damn.
The sun winked her last light at me and put herself to bed; I, in the cold, had no such luxury.
I had a will, a fire not to sleep outside again. By gloaming and brow-sweat I returned the bike to the road, resumed my flight from town, looked for another spot.
20:30 I walked away from the hammock. It was set up and well hidden. I strolled the road in the dark, feeling. I sat by a church and felt. I looked at the sky and felt.
What, Drew, if I made a mistake?
I didn’t want to think it, I pushed it away. I’m not the crying type, my silence was my tears. I had not felt this sorrow, this uncertainty, since when. Since I first set a date to depart?
But the sorrow-of-alone has been my faithless companion. In college, I felt it. In my early career I felt it. I felt it in my home life even (especially?) when married. A deep sense, not of depression as it were, but of being completely alone from the world.
And if silence is my tears, this stony face at the Christian Assembly stoop was a jag to flood the world. My world, anyway, and that is all I have.
Today I push on. I don’t know the future. I only know that I lived, and this happened.