From Chapter 2 – Crawling
Day 0 – September 4, 2016 at 6:00 am PST / The last morning in a bed I can call my own. I have no idea where or, in what, I’ll be sleeping tonight. There are no more tomorrows to cling to, this is happening.
I remove the blankets and sheets, placing the bedding into a trash bag and the pillows into another. I greet my morning lover, the coffeemaker, thinking ahead to the next day when this instrument which conducts my daily wake-up ritual will be touched by a different hand. Animosity consumes each sip. I swirl the dark brew hoping time stops. But, no such luck. The inevitable countdown is launched when I step into the shower. Steam billows over the glass wall. Four years and hot water never felt so good. The worry of not having this sacred space adds more weight for me to carry.
I reach for the products and tubes that created the mask of someone who wasn’t broken, but the counters are bare. Flaws and defects exposed. A pair of jeans, once an army of uniforms, lay out as if surrendering from a lost battle. Where my dress shoes sat are a pair of clunky hiking boots that make me two inches taller. Thick treads for traction, waterproofed for durability and warmth. The overstuffed backpack with more buckles than a roller coaster ride, every snap and click tightens the straitjacket.
Doubled in size, I take one more look at the Hollywood Hills. Palm trees sprout from the mountaintop. Midcentury homes and mansions pepper the lush landscape full of people who will sleep in their own beds.
As I leave, I recall Adam predicting this when he said, “everything you desire is waiting for you on the other side of that door.”
I turn the key and slide it underneath. For a bit of luck, I rub the tarnished bronze knob and place my hand on the apartment number, sixteen.
8:45 am PST – I am officially homeless, and all I have left is a big stupid backpack and these hideous hiking boots.
At the scheduled departure time of 9:40 am the doors of the double-decker super shuttle close. There are nine hours to think about what brought me here. Was I a failure? Or, am I crazy?
11:45 am PST – Nothing outside is recognizable. A scheduled pitstop, my halfway mark. Devoid of logic, I record each step. In my mind, I am a pioneer, a visionary. Convinced this is a rite of passage, a journey unlike no other. Photos showing hope and videos with conjured tears create a theatrical trailer playing on a mental loop. The person peddling this cycle is waving the banner, “I’m going to inspire so many people! I’m going to change lives.” A campaign diluting my self-worth and showcasing my delusion – unless others praise me how can I know I am truly loved.
When I get to Oakland, it’ll take two hours to reach a small town. Then another thirty minutes until I’m twenty-six hundred feet into the mountains.
8:15 pm PST – The host of the work exchange arranged to have someone pick me up from the bus stop. At first, I declined. I didn’t want to be a bother. Another pattern, turning down pure honest hospitality to distance myself, to play martyr. My ignorance is laughable. To think I could hike uphill, at night, twelve miles, with fifty pounds on my back is evidence enough to warrant my next punishment. Repeating an even bigger pattern, telling a complete stranger every possible thing about myself like the world is ending and my story must live on.
We’re in the middle of the mountains, at night, and the poor guy driving has a weirdo next to him talking about a voice in his head called Adam. His only option? Drive faster. Matching the spillage of esoteric nonsense from my loose lips, the car snugs the sharp corners at super speed. After making a left at the only traffic signal, we near bubbles of light resembling an oasis in the middle of nowhere.
“We’re here!” he excitedly announces the second the tires touch the woodchip road. There are people in the distance. A celebration it appears. A shindig for the last night of summer. Labor Day.
The property was once a thriving RV and camping resort about eighty years back. Those were the good old days when families took road trips. The place fell into disrepair but the new owner plans on turning it into a sanctuary for like-minded people who desire community and sustainable living. To my surprise, I couldn’t be happier.
“I’m glad you made it,” the handsome grey-haired patriarch welcomes. “You’re in cabin seven. Get settled. We’ll talk more tomorrow. If you’re up for it, stop back and check out the talent show.”
Relief. His charm preceded his handshake, and his smile was exactly what I needed after the long journey. And, I get a cabin… all to myself. No bunking with strangers. Finally, Adam was paying attention.
Before my host turns away, I ask “Is there a restaurant nearby?”
“About a mile down the road,” tilting his head with a confused crinkle. “You gotta flashlight, right?”
It dawned on me later that what he meant to say was, “You are nuts if you walk these streets in the dark.”
My perspective had shrunk. In my view of the world, there is a market and bar on every corner. In this world, cliffs and gullies are inches from the roadside. And, in the last twenty years, I never touched a flashlight so why would I bring one? But I’ll be fine because I have a plan. Unpack, shower, go out for a drink. Just like I do on vacation. Hah! I just did the stupidest thing in my life, and I need a beer, or two.
Entering the cabin flashes to twelve hours earlier when I closed the door to my old home. This will be my new one for now, and… I remember seeing it someplace before. Yes, that’s it! There should be a guy in a hockey mask jumping through the window any minute.
I start repeating to myself, “Think positive. I have a roof over my head. Everyone seems nice. Things could be worse. Look at the bright side, I always wanted a cabin in the woods.”
The stench of bus seat and rabid dog seeped from the walls. It had the vibe of a toolshed if a fur trapper married a gimp. Plywood counters painted in the same mechanic’s grey as the rotting floorboards. Ceilings ripped out. Original fabric-wrapped wires crawled along the exposed rafters. Cobwebs latched to the nails piercing the roof.
The last time I moved, it took two weeks to unpack. This time, five minutes. One shelf. Nothing to hang.
Shower time. Damn. No window shades, no liner. In seconds, hot water pours from the clanking pipes. Adding the right amount of cold, I step into the white metal box. The tin floor pops and buckles under my feet. Turning around pushes some part of my flesh against the moldy wall. The feel of water washing over me takes away some worries and restores a morsel of my humanity.
I put together a little ensemble perfect for dinner at an outdoor cafe in West Hollywood. Hair combed and a hint of lavender, I saunter down, without a flashlight, to the pool area where the campground guests gathered.
Looking around, I’m uncomfortable. This is a tribe of a different nature and I didn’t belong. At least, not yet. The showmanship I once displayed when I walked into a room was just that, a show, fake, bullshit. No one cared who I was, who I knew, what I did. I was no different than anyone else. For me, this was devastating. Doing what I do best, I slither off heading towards the mountain road in search of a cocktail.
Although my host expressed doubt about walking this late, he didn’t know how clever I was. Oh yes, another pattern. I’m smarter than everyone else and superhuman, I am David K.
The further from the lights, I understood the true meaning of night. There were no street lamps, no glow from any buildings. This was — close your eyes if you want to see better — dark.
Openings in the tree canopy allowed moonlight to glimpse a few feet ahead as the path slipped into nothingness. The rare sighting of a car gives me hope I am getting close.
A white pickup truck keeps turning around. Two times. Here it comes for a third. This must be my paranoia and I am seeing things. On top of that, there’s no cell service and the battery is dead. I start planning my escape. I can run into the woods and hide. Then a moment of Guidance, a thought. How will I make it back after having a drink or two or, knowing me, a hell of a lot more? The nudge within, too strong to ignore. The circling white pickup drove by again… slowly. Pivoting, I quicken my pace. This isn’t going to be a scene from Deliverance.
I make it back to the woodchip road. The lights are out, the party over. So much for my first night, but sure in one thing, the need to protect myself outweighed the need to numb my-Self. Already, a pattern broken.
Of course, Mr. What-is-a-Flashlight wanders the property for thirty minutes trying to find cabin seven. A new truth… always leave a light on.
My first supper turned out to be an energy bar and tap water in an old teacup. Under the clearest skies I’ve ever seen, I lay on the brittle deck, a speck on the globe. It was this Adam wanted to share with me. It was this he knew would comfort me. The real color of Midnight Blue, the spinning of our planet, the sound of my heartbeat.