Thursday, December 31, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 15: Hitching a Ride

"Jan and I stood in the campground parking lot taking stock of the visual splendor. Shouldered between robust mountains, cerulean sea, sun and sky, the landscape up and down the coast from the mouth of the Big Sur basin was extravagant. For miles in all directions, daunting cliffs, accentuated by a profusion of colored cacti perched on jagged rock, stretched beyond where the eye could see. We couldn’t have summoned a more heavenly place to rest our heads.
     Employing the same tactic as the night before, when the park official was attending to young man driving a small station wagon, Jan and I sleuthed past the visitor’s booth and into the campground. Safe beyond the front entrance, we popped into the general store to pick up a couple dinner items and scoped the most idyllic setting to drop our tent. This would be a respite for our bodies and our minds.
     Below a wooden bridge, not far from a pebbled pathway, we found a spot adjacent to a brook. Large fir trees, and the rugged Santa Lucia mountain range seemed like old friends. Quickly, Jan and I set up our tent and unfurled our bags. Still ill equipped for light and fire, I hoped the temperature would remain relatively comfortable. Not wanting to give energy to negative thoughts, I didn’t express my fears. 
     Jan suggested we get our bearings.
     Suspended on a fallen tree trunk, bathed in blonde sunshine, I composed a letter to my family, and another one to Liz. Depicting our San Francisco experiences, I described Peter, Michael, Gerry, and the Holy Order. Two days had passed since leaving Steiner Street, I missed the place and the people in it.
     That morning, Jan told me she’d dreamed about Gerry and Peter coming to take us away. When she'd tried to cry out, her voice fell silent. In my letter, I told Liz about Jan’s dream, and more about Peter than I had mentioned to my family. After sharing the things I knew about him, I re-read the letter and thought it made Peter and his life seem depressing. Much of his life was depressing, but I didn’t want to her to think he was a loser – which he wasn’t. I added how when Peter entered a room, he was whistling, or carrying wild flowers. I told her he was helpful, a good listener, and fatherly in many ways. When Jan and I'd mentioned how Jan had been refused at the border during our first attempt across to Washington, Peter had taken the side of the officials. During our spiritual discussion on the second night, he nearly croaked when I admitted I couldn’t imagine being around in twenty years, much less know where I'd be in twenty days. He reminded me the world is a good place. "It’s getting better all the time,” he'd said. I should never forget it. I told Liz of Peter’s patience and fearlessness, and how close I felt whenever we talked.
     There were strong feelings.
     Liz and other friends knew I could be over the top once something grabbed a hold of me. No doubt, my family would be wary about some of the things I’d intimated.
     When nightfall came, our cheer fizzled. Just as the night before had sucked, this one did too – only worse. Here we were, nearing the end of April in California; it felt like January in Southern Ontario, mostly because of our inept sleeping bags. The gnawing in our stomachs didn't help – a bag of Fritos split between two people, and an apple apiece doesn’t cut it. My spirits low, I began to feel sorry for myself; that I was responsible for dragging Jan along on this unpredictable excursion. She had wanted to travel; there was no question in her mind or in mine. Still, Jan was sixteen months younger than me. A big gap. No doubt, she was scared shitless. I know I was – of all kinds of things – wild animals, and crazy rapists lurking in the forest seeking unsuspecting victims to overtake, and kill.
     As stupid as it might sound, freezing to death in our tent flashed through my brain, just as it had the night before. I should have been the prudent, older, protective sister. I was however, able to take comfort in the knowledge that Jan was above holding someone hostage for her own choices.
     Wide-eyed and shivering in my sleeping bag, I felt increasingly guilty. As of late, our trip seemed to be hitting the skids.
     The temperature dipped down to almost zero. It would be an unforgiving night."

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