How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright.

“Baby, don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright”. The radio is blaring Mr. Marley. I push the gas pedal just a tad with my foot, zipping around  the North Georgia mountain roads, taking the U curves much faster than I should, car windows all the way down and bits of paper- cast off receipts, forgotten grocery store lists hastily scrawled on Post It notes- float in the interior updraft like swirling flakes of snow, none of the receipts or Post Its are the same- similar, but not the same, just like real snow. Individualized.

            My veins are coursing with the latest round of steroids. I am just coming back from a two hour IV infusion. The doc is attempting to get several health hiccups under control.  I am maybe a tad bit in love with him because he takes me seriously and has discovered what most of my problems are. He may not have the answers, but he’s giving it his best shot, and that's all that matters. Things are looking brighter and full of possibilities that didn't exist even a month ago. I have hope. I am happy. My heart is like a helium balloon floating against a sky blue backdrop. Nothing exists except this moment: the music, the road, the wind, and the sun. The past few years melt away.  There has been death and sickness and hard times. There have been sleepless nights and tears and the feeling of being encased in an immovable weight. All a part of the human condition.  We all reap our share. But, for me, right now, all that is gone and there is just NOW, nothing else.

             The curves of the winding road come up sharper and I turn into them leaning and smiling, knowing that it’s moments like this that are gifts that often we don’t recognize or acknowledge. Today I acknowledge it.  I am invincible, I am free.  Who gives a shit for the big happys as I call them; its the little happys that count. The little happys are those minuscule increments we so often miss because we are so blindsided by the big happys that really don’t matter: more money, our job, debt, the squirrels digging a nest into the roof. Those matter, but then again they don’t.  Not in the grand scheme of the Great and Secret Show. When we don’t receive the big happys and we revel in our worries it knocks us off our game. Then the inevitable little things go wrong like the satellite dish screws up and we miss the new episode of Downton Abbey, or the dog pisses on the rug, or the sprinkler breaks, or some asshole weaves across four lanes of traffic to get to the exit, then little happys somehow get lost in the cosmic garbage. A new spring flower after a hard winter, the evening sun slanted through the trees all gold and red, the feel of a loved one’s hand squeezing ours in reassurance, no waiting in the checkout  line. Little happys that we miss.
            But it’s the little happys that make our hearts swell and engorge with a light so bright and pure that surely the heart will supernova. There’s not another feeling  like an unasked for, truly gifted little happy moment. 

            So, maybe when I see the woman her heart calls out to mine. My heart is open to the moment. I am living in my little happys. She stands on the side of the road in the curve of the Appalachian hiking trail parking lot. Her backpack almost dwarfs her slight frame, a look of pure hopelessness in her eyes. Her eyes find mine and my breathe catches. I  zoom by too fast and there is no where to turn around. She looks somehow beaten and defeated. But someone will pick  her up. But what if they don’t? She looked to be around my age or older. What in the hell was she doing off the Appalachian trail by herself?  She looked like one of those hard core, kick ass, serious hikers. The ones that Bryson wrote about in his book, “A Walk in the Woods”. Oh well, I can’t go back now.

             I lean into another curve. I keep seeing her eyes. Surely she’ll get a ride. I mean, she’s a woman. Yes, she’ll get a ride. Damn, that pack was freaking huge. It wouldn't fit in the backseat of an economy car. I glance in the rear view mirror and the space in my KIA Sorento seems to mock me, “Yeah, we got all this room. That backpack would go in your car easy, but you passed her, so get back to driving.” The voice gnaws at me.  Warnings about hitchhikers kick at my brain and I push them back. She is a woman. A woman about my age. What’s she going to do? Hit me over the head with her hormone replacement therapy meds, kidnap me and dye my hair an eye splitting red, steal my credit cards and max them out at Kohl’s, hold me up for my panty liners? She is a fellow woman. She must be pretty ballsy tackling the trail like that on her own. Who is she? What’s her story?  There’s a place ahead to turn around. It’s easily seven miles back to the woman now.  She’s probably gone.  Karn Evil 9 comes on the  radio. I remember the song well. “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside...” I can stay outside and keep driving. Mind my own business. Or I can turn around. 

           I turn around. 

            I take the curves back just as sharp. I don’t let up on the pedal.  Nothing can happen today. Nothing bad. This is one of those Golden Moments that Zora Neale Hurston wrote so eloquently of. Today I’m not even paying attention to prepositions at the end of sentences. 

            There she is. Her right thumb sticking out determinedly. Her shoulders are now squared, her spine in a rigid line.  She hears my tires crunching gravel and she turns and looks at me. There is hint of unbelieved relief on her face. Her pale red hair is cut blunt at chin level, wisps of gray pop out along her hairline edges like silver silken threads.  Her legs are muscular and encased in black Lycra shorts that grip her knees. There are a pair of tortoise shell glasses slipping down the sheen of sweat dripping from the bridge of her nose.  I get out of the car, walk around to the front where she is, and I ask, “You need some help?” Her eyes are blue and they widen. She gasps, her shoulders slump, and then suddenly she starts crying. The tears are sudden and they embarrass her. I hold my palms up. She sniffs, “I’m sorry. I didn't mean to cry. I twisted my ankle about two days ago on the trail. It really hurts and I am so tired.” I smile and tell her that sometimes we have to cry so we can be strong again. She tells me where she’s going. I tell her I will take her.  I tell her I am a teacher so I am safe. Teachers are almost always harmless. We struggle to get her pack and her hiking sticks into my car, but they fit easily. 

            Her sniffles drift away as we ride. I notice her right hand reaching for the “oh, shit” grip so I slow down.  I roll up the widows and blast the A/C. She says her name is Happy Side. She sees my puzzled look and laughs. Seems hikers use aliases on the trail. A way to recreate themselves. I didn’t know that. Her real name is Lorraine. She says all the trail leans-tos along the trail have been filled with younger people for the past week and she has had to sleep in the open. She says wistfully, “They always beat me to them.” She speaks of how nice it would be to talk to someone at night., She is from Florida but grew up on Long Island. She is a semi-seasoned hiker.  Her plan is to hike the trail to Maine where she expects to arrive in late September.  She says Bryson’s book and the upcoming movie have tarnished the trail; it is glutted with hikers. She voices concerns about bobcats in the area, tells me she hurt her ankle when her boot hit a large stone and her foot twisted. She says she didn’t think anything of it at the time.  She says she just needs to ice her ankle for a day or two. She is older than she appears: sixty-two. She is sweaty, obviously exhausted, and in need of a bath and a good night’s sleep in a soft bed. 

            She directs me to the Budget Inn in town. She says hikers get a special rate and the small motel even shuttles hikers back to the trail. Another fact I didn't know.  There are a group of twenty and thirty something-year-olds gathered in plastics chairs in front of one of the motel rooms. They are dressed like Lorraine; hiking shirts and faded t-shirts. The men all have several days worth of stubble on their faces, the women all have stringy, sweaty hair pulled back into red and blue bandannas. A gang of hikers, I think. She retrieves her pack. I push a Post It note into her hand with my name and phone number written on it.  I tell her I will be around until tomorrow and if she needs anything to phone.  I hug her. She resists a little saying, “I’m smelly”. I tell her, “I don’t care” and I hug her harder. I tell her I hope her hike goes smooth from here on out. I wish her well. She turns and heads towards the hotel office.  She is gone.

            I roll the car windows back down, but I shut off the radio. I take the curves sharply like a clean knife cutting through icing on a cake. I sing loudly and off key, “Baby, don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright”. And you know what? It is.

Post Script April 15: Happy Side phoned me this morning to tell me her foot is still swollen. She is heading to her sister's in North Carolina to recoup for a week or so before she hits the trail again.. Out of the many minutes in my life I spent a mere twenty minutes in her company, but I will always remember her. 

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