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One Isolating Life
I have gotten used to it—being alone. This is a feeling that begins, at first, as isolating, but as most things do, it becomes something else, even a good thing. But what is a good thing can also grow to become isolating too. The rate at which they change happens at an up-down rate, and since my story functions at an up-down rate, change turns out to be regularity, an almost commonplace thing.
It was the beginning of November when the first changes of fall appeared; the leaves underfoot were different, now a stale grey, cracked into smaller pieces, scattered about, fallen on the ground like a nightmarish bed. My boots hit these leaves with such force that I shuddered when I heard the surprising crunch they produced. It had been silent for weeks. Upon hearing this new sound, I knew that the season had changed and it was time to do the necessary tasks to prepare for the approaching winter. Small things made me start to think about gathering wood or hunting rabbits, but I was in no hurry; I sat on stump and retied my shoes laces three times.
When I saw the squirrel lying dehydrated and shrunken on the ground, I cried. I cried because it reminded me of the earlier days, when I used to live in the city. I had just come home from work, and being in the temperament associated with coming from a hard day did not help the situation. My apartment smelled strange, as if it had been scrubbed with an old cleaner expired many years ago. This is seemingly unrelated to what I discovered in my bedroom corner—my cat in its attack position, teeth bared and paws up in defense; she was dead. It’s been said, or merely rumored, that when a cat dies it will take on this position before it breathes its last breath, and after seeing this for myself, I can tell you that this rumor is true.
I didn’t know this was applicable to different mammals until I saw the squirrel in the same position beneath the bush. After this terrible reminder I gathered myself, intent on finding a safe spot to sleep and to forget about squirrels and cats.
The memory of my past life comes and goes as it feels necessary, as if my memory is its own being: eating lunch at the hidden German restaurant on the corner of Main and Harden Street, that Tuesday when I spilled soup on my pants before the conference meeting, finishing my thesis at five in the morning, falling in love with my best friend, hearing from two investigators that my father is missing and his whereabouts are unknown. This last memory I hate to talk about, because when my father disappeared everyone thought I had disappeared in spite of it. People tried to explain to me the reason I choose isolation, and my father is the ultimate one to blame for this.
Isolation, I’ve learned, gives one time to reflect on their unfortunate present state, their dismal past and their impending future (which to this individual will be utterly depressing); but amidst this thinking isolation can induce change.
I started the long trek to where ever I was heading, even I didn’t know, not then anyway. Later, when I thought about why I did it (I inevitably always end up thinking), it was because I was being naive, as I didn’t see the outcome for what it really was.
I was hungry so I stopped walking to eat some of the food I found, a pathetic pile of peanut shells. When I retrieved them from my bag they had sordidly turned from brown to green, indicating that some sort of mold had begun to form on them. I ate them anyway, my true dedication to being homeless. I say dedication because I have chosen to lead a life without the crutch of American society: the house, the job, the bank account, the spouse, and the other unimportant aspects that most deem significant. I am homeless for many reasons, the main being that I am so satisfied with myself, with how I think and feel, that in my ultimate selfishness I decided to abandon my other urban counterpart.
This phase in my life was the good part, in the beginning when I first started. In the first weeks, I pursued my journey with happiness and a feeling of self fulfillment that I haven’t experienced since. I hopped from shelter to shelter, until finally someone gave me a tent they didn’t want anymore. On the road I walked and walked, stopping only to sleep or buy food with what little money I kept on my person. It was good then, things seemed better. In the day I was a wanderer, while at night I read by flashlight. My life was pure and simple, the quality of simplicity known to retired people.
Now I’m entrapped in the isolated phase. This is understandable since most things can’t function without the other extreme prodding along; government can’t thrive without both the Republican and Democratic parties, children aren’t born without the essential elements from a male and a female, a national best seller isn’t great if it doesn’t have critics and fans supporting it. Good things can’t happen without bad things happening too.
I am hungry all the time because food is scarce in the sector of woods I recently came about. After arriving here three weeks ago, I’ve only seen rabbits and one deer, the latter of which I was unable to kill from the sheer loudness of the fall leaves.
At some point during these weeks I became irritable, for instance when I was visited by a curious stranger one night.
I had been stuffing pine straw into my sleeping bag since on that particular night the weather was nearing a temperature too cold to describe, even though it was only November. Methodically, I walked from tree to tree taking its discarded pine needles as my own. I came across the squirrel I had encountered earlier, and it was even more shrunken with its ribs protruding at an unnatural angle; I knew the dead squirrel was suffering as much as I was in the cold. From the familiar cracking of leaves I heard someone was walking toward me. Standing erect, I listened—crack crack, they paused, then crack crack.
My ongoing determinism for isolation had been disrupted by the person who stood looking at me on the opposite side of the trees. He was a gaunt, unimpressive excuse for a man; his hair was tied back, accentuating his narrow jaw line and thin lips. His eyes were so small that I was unsure as to if he was looking at me or humming quietly to some dark tune in his mind. But indeed, he had been looking at me.
“Hey there! If you’re looking for more pine straw for your bedding there is a lot off the hill about a mile away,” he coaxed me, “I can take you there if you want.”
In confusion, and mostly in an effort to get him to leave, I declined, “No that’s okay, I’ve got what I need here.”
But like most men, he wasn’t convinced and advanced toward me in an intimidating manner. He asked me again if he could take me to the hill, and when I refused a second time, telling him to leave, the man in a violent rush embraced me, trapping me in an extremely awkward hug.
At that moment, I knew I was alone, as alone as ever.
This feeling subsided, though, upon learning that this man was my long-lost father. We held each other for a long time, and as the tress started to whistle and the air turned for a moment warmer, our bodies came in such proximity that the isolating void I had been feeling was permanently lost. When I opened my eyes and looked down, the squirrel that had become a friend to me in our depressing relationship was gone too.
For a time I was locked in a state of restlessness and in need for change. When I found my father, or when he found me, I surmised that things weren’t as bad as I had thought they were. My life isn’t solitary or meaningless, now that I’ve been reunited with my father. He is man of few words, but of the few he has spoken, these have lasted with me, “Isolation is necessary, but not for the entirety of your life.”