I inhabit these fugitive words,
I live, my face my face’s lone companion,
And my face is my path,
In your name, my land
That stands tall, enchanted and solitary;
In your name, death, my friend.
– The Solitary Land by Adonis
Janet and Greta stood, on the famous ugly carpet of the Portland Airport ready to board their flight to Los Angeles. Greta had not been there in years, Janet went there all of the time.
Greta was wearing stretch pants and a long sweater. She had a stylish brown leather carry on case that was full of summer clothes. It was going to be hot there. In another matching leather case, there was her laptop and files on Genevieve Jones. Janet and Greta made sure to get seats next to one another so that they could discuss the case on the two hour flight.
As they boarded the plane, Greta resisted the urge to order a beer, she had to keep a clear head. They would usually have interviewed Annie before they left, but they needed as much information as they could get before doing so. Annie was reluctant to share. They did not know why or how. They just knew that they would not get anywhere without some hard information on their side.
On the plane they went over their plan of attack. They would first visit the Jones family to discuss Genevieve’s relationship with Annie. They wanted to know how long the women had known each other and what kind of relationship they had with one another. They also wanted to know how long Annie had been coaching swimming for the university.
They would then head out to the university to interview friends and colleagues and lastly, to the area of Griffith park that Genevieve was last seen jogging. They discussed all of the possible outcomes of this case. The flight wore on and Greta began to nod off. She faded out of the airplane and into the wilderness. There were children playing. Greta watched as the scene unfolded.
She used to go back to the lake. There were things at the lake that she enjoyed, savored, touched and experienced over and over again. The lake was a difficult place to access. The children had to carry their own items, the children had to walk over a long distance. The children grew tired as the climbed the mountain on the trail that led to the lake. The lake was dirty, shallow, supported little life, and was beautifully serene. The things that happened at the lake have become murky in themselves as time has passed, as the memories have been handled, taken out, refiled, replaced and reorganized.
There are moments marked with a flash of light, an arc of beauty, those moments are a sanctuary in the darkness. It is at the lake that the children take on their true form. Children are made of curiosity and discovery. Children must take off their true form to function within the society that adults have built for them. It is at the lake that the children slowly, firmly and with precision take off the costume of order and obedience and take begin their transformation. As the children change, so their movements, speech and actions change as well. The children are tired upon arrival but their true form gives them energy and strength. The children see the wilderness as exploration and curiosity incarnate. They begin to ask questions of and interact with their new acquaintance. Wilderness walks with the children and talks to the children about herself.
The children feel the freedom and the kindred connection with wilderness in a way that causes them no pause. Wilderness, and the heart of children are spirit twins, incubated in the same womb and when reunited, understand that they grew and developed together.
Wilderness talks to the children about water, water introduces herself and the children become acquainted with her. Water has few rules and even fewer boundaries. The children explore the limits of water. What will water allow us to do with her? How far can we take her, they wonder. The wonder is beautiful and powerful and lights up their eyes with that arc, that flash, a moment in time that is forever illuminated. The children begin by easing their body into the water. There is a physical communion of child and water, water and child.
They feel the water on their bodies and their minds and bodies, so closely connected still respond with wonder. Respond with a curiosity that moves them. The children begin to scoop the water into their tiny hands and watch as it spills through the cracks in their perfectly formed fingers. They wonder, they marvel. The children splash each other, the water is cold, some children laugh, some cry. The children are learning that though wilderness and water have few boundaries, children do. The children find bugs and sticks and tiny minnows in the water and the wonder and the exploration that is bubbling up in their hearts drives them to begin to dominate the water. They are driven to stop the water using dams and imprison the water into vessels. Water does not object, water is always moving and changing. Water accepts the force of will upon her. She understands it. The children spend hours and hours with the water. The children push and pull, both dominating and accepting. This ebb and flow holds their interest, holds their curiosity and compels them to act.This is just one moment, one flash in the darkness of the stolen past.
Wilderness shows the children the large rocks that surround the area. Wilderness allows the children space and comfort and the children are able to touch and experience the rocks in a way that only children can. Once again the children climb, dominate and explore the rocks in a way that both ignites their spirit and curiosity. The children stand atop the rock, a rush of fear and power overcome their tiny, burning little bodies. There is never a life so fierce as the life inside of a child. The children slide down, climb and slide, climb and slide and wilderness gives the children the time and space to do this until they tire of it on their own. Wilderness does not impose her will on the children, the power continuum is turned over as the children become powerful agents and wilderness become the obedient.
The children begin to feel hunger, they begin to be overcome by the exhaustion of the day. The fire burning so brightly in their bodies burns them up, and they must rest. The fire draws them to the fire and the children eat and begin to interact with the light and the heat. The children again must exert their agency over the fire, they put sticks in the fire and tear around holding the smoldering embers. The children make sure that they get exactly next to one another with the burning heat. One child must burn another at least once. This is after all one of the few rules Wilderness absolutely insists on. As the fire dies, the children settle in, they become languid in the dying heat and must sleep soon. The children fall into the enchanted sleep of a fulfilled child. This sleep is craved by the adult, but is never found. As the children fade from consciousness, so the joy of this memory fades for her as well. It slips out of her hand and falls to the floor, just out of reach. The memory is there, she can see it, she can touch it, she can access it, but the joy that it brought is ripped away. A small piece of her bright, burning soul is dimmed ever so slightly. The loss of joy profoundly takes.
A hard bump knocked Greta out of her dream and back into the uncomfortable airplane seat she was in. Janet was still drooling next to her. Greta snapped a quick picture and then shook her awake. Janet sat upright and looked around like she had forgotten where she was. All around the plane people were turning their phones back on and the ding! Of incoming texts sang out in the cabin. As the plane taxied to the gate, Greta booked a car to the cheap hotel they were staying in in Korea town. The cheap hotel had a pool nonetheless and Janet and Greta were thinking about spending the afternoon with some drinks beside it.
It was hot outside when they finally made their way out of the airport. After the wet, rainy winter they had been through, it felt like the sun was drying all the mold that had accumulated in their bodies over the winter. Their car was waiting for them and they rode to their hotel like a couple of giddy schoolgirls. Something about the sun and a new place seemed to revive their spirits. They hatched the most devious plan. The people they had called to make appointments with during this trip could not meet them until the next day, so they decided to sit by the dilapidated pool all afternoon and drink margaritas. Janet and Greta justified their lazy and irresponsible behavior by telling themselves that you need to relax in order to think. So they pulled their swimsuits on over their pasty dimpled thighs and made their way to the pool.
Greta and Janet had one of those magical afternoons that one has to save up in order to remember. There is so much sadness in the world, but then there are these moments that make all of it worth it. This was one of those. They could never imagine what was to come, but for now, they were happy. Greta’s ribs were still incredibly sore and she moved like a little old lady, but this time, she did not let it hold her back, much. They walked over to the rickety old bar next to the pool and ordered two margaritas. They set their towels on a couple of old green lounge chairs and lay down, letting the sun sinks all of its heat into their moldy bodies.
Janet was in fine form that day, and decided to spend her time making fun of Greta. Janet asked, “Soooo how is the dating going? Whatever happened to that Alex guy that you liked?” Greta said, “Yeah, I liked him, that’s why I don’t want to see him anymore.” Janet laughed and said, “That does not make any sense.” Greta looked at her incredulously and said, “That is the most normal reason I have for not seeing a guy anymore.” Janet said, “Ok, what are some of the other reasons?” Greta said, “Let me think… Ok… here are the last few: One guy was too fit and I felt embarrassed to be naked in front of him. One guy was too tall, one was too short, one did weird things with his hands when he was talking, one had a weird head tick, one guy was a nerdy doctor and being both nerdy and a doctor was too on the nose, one guy’s house was too clean… shall I go on?” Greta smiled. Janet said, “Fuck no girl, it sounds like the problem is not with the men but with you.” Greta said, “Let’s talk about you for a hot minute Janet, you love to criticize me, but are you a Lewis sleeping in the same bed again yet?”
Janet sighed a deep, hot, sigh. She looked at Greta and said, “You can judge me when you’ve been married to the same farting, pit stained, chubby dad bod for 22 years.” Greta said, “Awwwww! How sweet! Sounds like true love! You make being single seem terrible!” Janet got up to go to the bathroom and Greta, regretting the pain that came afterward, jumped up and pushed Janet into the pool. Janet hit the water with a satisfying splash, still holding her drink and wearing her swimsuit cover. When Janet broke the surface of the water, Greta was glad that the only other person at the pool was the bored looking bartender because what came out of Janet’s mouth would make a sailor’s hair curl.
“I will cut your fucking head off and shove it up your God damn mother fucking ass!” Janet yelled. She apparently had no shame because as she got out of the pool, her ill fitting swimsuit inched down showing an obscene amount of cleavage, and with that Janet was on Greta. Greta genuinely cried out in pain as the found Janet, though she gave it her all, Janet was not injured and was able to shove her poor injured friend into the deep end of the pool. But Greta was smart and quick, she held onto Janet’s arm for dear life and pulled her into the pool with her.
The two women came out of the water gasping and laughing that deep satisfying laugh that shares the secret of friendship. Greta made her way slowly and painfully to the stairs because she could not pull herself up out of the deep end. She walked up the steps picking her wedgie with one hand and flipping Janet off with the other. “Fucking asshole” Greta mumbled. “Um excuse me, what did you say?” Janet asked. “YOU ARE A FUCKING ASSHOLE!” Greta yelled without caring who heard. She had no shame. Janet just laughed.
The bartender stood with his mouth gaping open. He was a young guy going to college and trying to make a little extra cash. He had never seen two women, middle aged women at that, behave in such an infantile way. He had never seen it because he did not know Greta and Janet. And later, when Janet went up to the bar to get their fifth round, he was too afraid to cut them off, so five margaritas in the sun, by the pool it was for the ladies.
They woke up on top of the covers with their swimsuits still on, looked at each other and solemnly vowed to never tell. And they kept that vow. Because a best friend as a child is a treasure but a best friend as an adult is a miracle. They knew this. Janet groaned and asked Greta if she would make a pot of coffee while she showered. Greta just grunted back at her. But when Janet got out of the shower, Greta was back to drooling on her pillow, but there was a pot of hot coffee waiting for her.