Walk About


He was tearing out of town; she was staying behind.

He was going where the steel patterns faded and the soft land reclaimed its glory. She remained on a concrete island where human energy fired the grid. 

He'd lost his way in the big town, feeling endlessly pulled or pushed, rarely able to step back and reflect on a purpose or plan. She'd come to the city to know it more intimately, to surrender to its frenetic feel, synchronize her pulse to all its divergent rhythms. 

He was going where the beat was counted out by a divine force he wanted to better understand; she was staying where man improvised the beat from his own bold desires. 

He roared into the wilderness, burning off layers of stress with every exit ramp, feeling his soul burst free from the festering confines of space and time. She walked the streets of downtown, full-stride, fueled by some live current coursing through her veins. 

He moved faster and faster until the city was no longer in his rearview mirror, then allowed his foot to ease off the gas. She stood at a loud intersection spinning wide-eyed, charmed by the chaos. 

High above them, satellites and spaceships circled the globe in silence, the earth moved in mystery, and the stars stretched out beyond all memories of human life.   

He left a four-lane freeway for a two-lane highway and then one-lane dirt roads. She left the sidewalk for the nightclubs, the car horns for trombones. She sat surrounded by strangers and, in the seduction of a soulful, sweat-soaked jam, fell in love with them all, if only for an evening. This was an impulsive town, she thought, brash, a world away from southwestern Minnesota where she'd grown up. 

He saw the moon rise over a river where the ice had broken apart, and he listened to the rippling water, convinced that the earth suddenly held him and him alone, that the eons of cosmic creation, all the swirling dust and gases, were designed to place him here at this moment, simply to know it. 

She met a man with a round, full face and friendly eyes and danced in the corner. She felt herself leave her body and float above the room with the rolling rhythms and rhymes. 

He had left the city to be by himself, but in the moonlight he wondered what self remained. He saw little difference between what he was and the white pine beside him or the fire burning at his feet. He lost interest in all but his breath. 

She felt the fluid force of the city sidewalks and merged with the throngs bouncing from bar to bar, club to car. She longed to be like the untethered souls in her midst, light in her skin, clear-eyed, lusting for the timeless moment.  

He climbed into his sleeping bag on the floor of a one-room log shack and closed his eyes. There was no pain in his joints nor ache in his head. He didn't want for anything but the hours of slumber that beckoned. His last thoughts before drifting off were of losing his job and the veiled gift his U of M roommates had delivered when asking him to leave.

She stumbled home to an apartment filled with friends and the sound of Roma Di Luna spilling from hanging speakers. She sat in the corner with an expression of quiet gratitude, staring at the faces around her, bathing in them, collectively and individually. Seven months ago she'd left her parents' home for the first time. Tonight, she told herself, she was reborn.

Outside on the corner the red lights turned to green and then amber. Choreographed traffic striped the night in patterns of light. The low bass of car stereos moved muffled and muted, and the high-pitched laughter of women sparked fitfully from behind frosted windows.

In a cabin nine miles north of Brainerd, a lone mouse moved along a baseboard, past a green cloth sleeping bag, as weary embers glowed faintly from a Franklin stove. Outside, pine branches quietly released melting snow to the ground below, and smoke from a chimney escaped into the ether, crossing the threshold to eternity.