Out of the Woods
The gas station was dry, and unnaturally bright. It was too late to have such dazzling light. Bright, filled with food, and constantly filled with employees who hate you, it’s a modern day Valhalla. I stalk the shelves searching for something worth taking with me, but everything’s old. The entire store has been here too long, my entire life this store has sat on the edge of town, a harbinger of expansion that never came. I give up on finding anything worth taking with me, and grab a water bottle out of the cooler. Exchanging as few words as possible, I pay and leave.
The path I wore into the earth leads me back to the reservoir. This time of year it’s constantly full. The rain never stops and the reservoir is never empty. I’m sure somewhere all the stones I’ve skipped are collected, wet and moldy. Every day used to be spent lobbing things into the water. I used to think I’d fill up this shitty little lake with my pebbles, that someday the mayor would come to my house outraged that my work had filled what was so carefully excavated. The reservoir never changed though. I take one last glance at the path I etched in my youth before I step off into the woods.
The sky hadn’t cleared for the last four days, even now letting forth a light sprinkle. The leaves steadily dripped onto my head. Drip, step, drip, step. It continued on like this for the first hour as I trudged ever deeper. The last sign of civilization had long since passed all that was left was me, my thoughts, and the ever present dripping sensation. I ran out of things to think about after my tenth examination of a leaf so now I think about thinking. My thoughts chase themselves tirelessly but nothing comes of it. The rain continues to assail my head.
In the distance an owl hoots. It’s a melodic sound repeated in time with my footsteps. Drip, hoot, step. The owl doesn’t have anything to say but it still talks. Why does it talk when no one is listening. I try responding in kind. “Hello” I say after the next hoot, but nothing comes of it. Nothing is worth saying but I speak nonetheless. I talk about my past, I talk about my family, I talk about the town I’ve left behind, but nothing ever gets through to the owl. Soon enough the owl was disappearing behind me and I was left again to listen to the raindrops on my hood.
The forest continues to drip onto my head but I still don’t understand it. The wind blows and the trees creek but I don’t get it. The sounds of nature assail my head but never enter my brain. I wonder why I’m supposed to be here. I wonder what’s supposed to be here. The mud has caked my shoes, the fabric has started to soak through. I stop and lean against a tree as I strip out the sneakers tread with a stick. When did the stick fall. Was better for it to grow or better for it to clean my shoes. I walk.
The drizzle has stopped for the moment, but the clouds still hang low. A fluffy white sheet that covers me in misery. The weatherman said that they should have passed by now, yet they still loom over me. Do they know how annoying they are. Someday this will be over, I’ll flee down south and never see these clouds again. They’ll try to follow me but they’ll never survive down south. Those southern clouds know when to move on. They know if you stand you’ll burn your feet. They know to keep moving. I keep walking.
I can hear the water again, but not the same. It’s the sound of a creek, the sound of a constant flow, the sound of consistency. Water will run here forever. I stop by the edge of the creek and lean against a tree. The bark is wet but it’s too late to care. I’ve grown so wet here this water will never leave me. I take out my water bottle and drink. the bottle’s too cold, it stings my teeth as it creeps through the crevices. The creek is too small for anything to live in, they all stay downstream. The only thing left at this little creek are the insects that don’t know any better. They could be living the highlife in the big river but they’re too dumb. They stay locked in the same shitty little stream they were born in. I walk onward.
The trees begin to thin. The water stops dripping. I can finally hear it, the sounds of civilization, the sounds of buses and cars, the sound of knowledge and progress. The bus comes into view as I say goodbye to the forest for the last time. The bus depot is empty. Ceiling lights illuminate empty benches and glittering vending machines. The only witness to my escape sells me my ticket without a single unnecessary word, far more interested in her paperback.
The bus I board has stale air, air that has been recycled and cleansed, air free of moisture and smell. The driver barely notices my boarding, the other passengers are already asleep, this stop is not worthy of notice. I take my seat and gaze out the window. I listen to the engine’s steady hum as the clouds disappear into the past.
Whiteman La Torra is an accomplished bum and general layabout. He spends most days navelgazing and has accomplished nothing of note. He hopes to one day do nothing, professionally.