Please keep in mind this is a rough draft of a story I am working on. This is only a small portion of what it will become. Any feedback on what to expand and flesh out is welcome. Thanks for reading.
The hills were golden and yellow. I stared at them for a good time. Giants. Forgotten spirits sleeping and resting. I wanted to wake them up. I wanted to of their secrets. Rouse them from their slumber and learn from their silence. If I was a painter I would have painted those hills with the hand of the impressionists, capturing every wisp of tall grass, every uneven bump and bulge rolling into the distance like the sunset in the clouds.
The sun was bright that day. It shown high in the sky. I stared at it through my eyelids until a jacinth ball appeared in my mind’s eye. It burned my thoughts and disintegrated my brain into the back of my skull.
I dug my feet further in the sand and a bead of sweat trickled from my forehead. A gull screeched overhead and a breeze from the ocean swept me away. Lost.
I walked over to a little alcove along the hills and made a place in the sand. The bright haze of the sun put me into a trance and sleep. I dreamt of waves, the rhythmic splashing and crushing along the shore. When I awoke, I found a bone on a nearby rock. It felt as though it was place there just for me. A gift from the sea? Or the sky? A hello from death.
A man passed along the shore. He stopped for a moment. “I saw you earlier,” he said.
He tipped his hat and continued on. This must be a dream. So many blurry figures dissolving into the mist. Where do they come from? Where do they go?
I trekked back up and through the hills to the road. On my way I saw little snakes and lizards rustling in the brush. I stopped a few times to watch the reptiles. Dreaming. Always dreaming. Especially the lizards, baking and melting in the sun. There are times the reptilian brain takes over and we humans experience the primal now, a rather alien experience for our modern minds always running on-the-go chit-chatting tweeting like little birds and monkeys.
I was staying at a woman’s home a five minute walk from the beach. It was a short two week period I lived with her. I would awake at 5 or 6 in the morning and work until noon. When 12 o’clock hit, lunch was the sun.
She was an elderly lady of about 60, young at heart. We spent nights cooking together and drinking wine. We gabbed about past memories and future wishes. She would give me advice on love and I would console her when she hit the bottom of her wine bottle and her loneliness turned to tears.
Often times she would paint and I would write and we passed our time in such a manner. Our relationship bordered on romantic, but we never slept together. Although we joked about it, we never breached a physical relationship. This was not the last time I would find myself amidst a love affair with a woman much older than I.
It was a long two weeks.
Eventually she kicked me out, repeating a pattern of philanthropy ending in divorce. For a moment I thought I found a patron but my bag of tricks was a bit too much for her to handle.
A few months earlier I met her through Craigslist. She was looking for a writer. We talked on the phone a few times, exchanged emails and websites. She called me a monarch butterfly in the midst of chrysalis. It tickled me she would use such language.
The story she wanted me to write was somewhat of interest. It was a story from her past about a man she knew in her twenties. Karl. The infamous Karl. He was retired in his seventies. He approached her while she was gardening. He stood in front of the sun and said hello. When she looked at him all she could see was his shadow. They chatted for some time and over the course of a few weeks they became friends. It ended sourly when he grabbed her and in an attempt to sleep with her. She yelled and screamed and never heard from him again.
All those years passed and she held on to his memory. She researched his life and found a score he had written called “Echoes from Melody Land.” He was a conductor for a small time orchestra in a small time city. He never amounted to fame or any great social status, but she had a desire to make more of him. Hence the reason I came into the picture. I was taken with the title of his piece of music: “Echoes from Melody Land.” The title beckoned of ghosts and death. It called from beyond like a single breath from an otherworldly realm.
I wrote a preliminary short with a beginning and ending but no middle. The middle required time and research. I wanted to dig into the subject to elicit depth and richness, but I moved too slowly for my potential patron. She wanted a bestselling book. A blockbuster movie. Millions of dollars. I laughed at such a notion. Up until that point, my approach to writing and art was entirely too esoteric for the mass mind.
When I gave her the story she yelled at me. “You think you’re a writer?! You’re not a writer! You’re a mad poet who thinks he’s a shaman!” She threw the pages at me. “I can believe that! Why just the other day you brought the clouds home with you from the beach. I could see them rolling in and felt a sudden pang of sadness and knew you were walking close.”
It was true. I cried away a good portion of the day. I cried while I worked, while I ate, while I slept. I lost a woman and muse. I lost the devotion and love of a committed partner. I pushed her away into the arms of another man. All because of my art. I was bent up, bent over pouring tears into my work at the time.
Two weeks prior to my stay with the patroness, I was more or less homeless spending nights in the back of a jeep, wandering the streets of Berkeley and Oakland.
I found refuge in a printing shop previously used by the Black Panthers. I volunteered in exchange for printing accessibility. I had written a short story about love and revolution so I was printing that up and spreading it around. On top of the printing, I also cooked a few dinners for the staff. They had a kitchen and everyone ate together. It was a small community of radicals and labor enthusiasts. I would always snag leftovers for the next day. I had no money so I was learning to be creative in feeding myself. It wasn’t easy. I never begged. I ate berries off trees. I found community gardens. Some days that’s all I ate. Maybe an apple or an orange I’d thief from a farmer’s market. I was delirious with sadness and hunger. Walking the streets in tears, a waif, skin and bones trying desperately to find solid grounding.
I hit a low when I walked into what I thought was a soup kitchen. I stood in line and a woman tapped me on the shoulder. She whispered in my ear, “Do you know where you are?” “ A soup kitchen?” “This is a battered women’s shelter,” she said. I looked around and blinked my eyes. Fifty or so women came into crisp vision. “Oh fuck” is all I could muster. She asked me to leave but before going she invited me to her office and kindly gave me a packet and schedule of churches and soup kitchens and their allotted times for meals.
I found another refuge at the Hare Krishna temple where I served food to the hundreds of people who came on Sundays for Prasad and Kirtan. It was beautiful. Everyone was so thankful and bright, singing and dancing, praying and eating. The air was vibrant and alive. Going there nourished me in so many ways. It gave me the strength and hope to keep plugging though my wandering days. I fantasized about joining the monastic life, but ultimately decided against it. It was right up there with fantasies of going to prison. The desire for solitude has always been a strong one for me, to study and pray, to be lost and found in the sanctuary of the mind. But I am too much a social being for that. Despite my wandering ways and sadhu-like features, my affinity for people will keep me always within the reaches of society.