Journeys of the Mind
It is early morning and I again find myself traversing those mystical places, those fertile fields of my memories, heading once again in the direction of that distant stone castle, the one that I've been striving nearly all my life to reach. I am once again awake and dreaming the dream of a dreamer, dreaming the dream that becomes more and more real with each passing year and with each passing moment.
This morning's journey began just as it always has, with me walking through the cool mists of ancient forests, straining to look for that which lies just beyond the dark shadows around every bend in the trail. Searching, forever searching, for that which will give me solace from the ache in my heart, the ache from that unrequited desire to live in my own past, long gone.
A sound, and I turn toward my ear.
I thought I heard Bonnie stirring in the trailer. I was the first one up this morning, so I made the coffee and walked outside. Here, too, as in my dream, cool morning mists rise from the trees and underbrush on the descending hillside, just a few dozen feet from the trailer door. The rising mists paying homage to some arbitrary sun god, as if all creation was offering up prayers, thanking him in advance for another day that the golden orb will warm the earth and awaken its life.
I'm sitting in one of the lawn chairs we have set up outside our forest-home-on-wheels. Things are very quiet. The only sound is that of a distant crow, complaining of its lot in life, one of the few not quite as thankful for the moment, nor the coming day.
Today is Sunday. Soon, all those camped further down, near the only entrance to the campsite, will be packing up to leave. Once again, we'll have the campground all to ourselves, for another week or so, or at least until next weekend. We could get naked and walk around the place and no one will see us. Or, maybe someone will. Who knows? Who cares? We'll take that chance. An element of danger perhaps! We will embrace it - as we embrace all the changes in our lives these days. Well, most of them, most of the time. After all, we're young and crazy; well, we're somewhat young, but still very much in love, and definitely crazy.
Rising with the misty haze come those wondering thoughts once again. Wondering and wandering. Wondering if I hadn't met Bonnie, if would I have spent the rest of my life alone, going from occasional girlfriend to occasional girlfriend, with almost no relationship lasting for much more than a year. Would I have ended up all alone in my old age, as I am now, without even the slightest memory of ever having had an honest-to-goodness real life-partner, to keep me company at night? It was always a distinct possibility, back before she and I met. My heart is with her heart and my spirit is in communion with her spirit, even as she sleeps in the trailer.
It was more than a few times in years past that I came to the conclusion that I was just not the marrying kind, that I was the sort of guy who was good for a few laughs, but not the sort to whom a woman hitches her wagon or gives serious thought as far as this man being a prospect with whom she wants to spend her life.
They would stay for a season, but then when the newness wore off, when the thrill was gone, when not even the best sex could hold us together any longer, they'd leave; or at least they'd give me every indication that they wanted to leave. Not such a good feeling, really. Goodbyes were always tough, devastating for all concerned and a little bit of me died each and every time that my one special lover in all the world walked away into the dark shadows of my past, to join all those other memories who had gone before her. There, to be thought of often, but never to be seen again.
Sure, it was mostly mutual, with all but one of them. Well, OK, there were two. But what do you do, just keep holding on for old times sake when you know it's over? No - no! You play Requiem for a Fool, and you play it loudly, so that it soaks up every emotion in your soul and deadens the weeks and months of grief and self pity that you know are coming. It was always the same thing too, only this time attached to a different face. Yes, the time always inevitably came, when you realize that the both of you already looked like a couple of fools, as you both try so very hard to keep a relationship going that had already ended some time ago.
For whatever reason, it never got to that point with Bonnie and I. She just stuck around, as did I at age 29. I know neither of us wanted to be alone, but it was more than that. There was something different about the entire tenor of the relationship. Unlike with the others, she and I didn't start off with a bang. It was more of a whimper, but one with immutable chemistry at work. Not that I would characterize her and my relationship as ever having been all that bad or that we just barely managed. Well, there were those few years before she died. But, all in all, it was good, even very good. She was my life-partner – thirty-two years. We grew old together. Her death changed me forever. I loved her. I love her still. Her ashes rest above my bed, just above my head where I sleep. Nightly, I see her in my dreams – alive, just as if she had never really left. When she WAS alive, I never realized just how much of her personality I HAD absorbed. Her spirit is now as much a part of me as is my own.
“Ich weiß es nicht, Manni. Es sieht sich immer noch ziemlich weit zu sein.”
How strange, I think to myself, as I again marvel at the attraction of an American man and a French woman and how they have German as their common language.
Vetti and I are again walking the nude beaches of Cap d'Agde. A dream within a dream within a dream. I'm 23 years old.
It's late afternoon. Anna Marie went into town with some of the others this morning, so Vetti and I spent the day by ourselves. Seems we're still very far down the beach, several kilometers from the Heliopolis and our apartment in fact. We haven't seen anyone in all the hours that we've been walking. We also haven't heard that constant din of voices and laughter, which is usually present at various stretches along the beach in select places. It's late in the year and many of them have already gone home. We will also be leaving in a few days.
Vetti is right to bring it up though, we're still quite a distance from the Heliopolis. We've got to make haste, so as not to get caught in the dark out here on the beach, this far from the lights. It's overcast and we'll be stumbling around in the sand trying to find our way back. Being nude, it's not as if either of us have a flashlight in our back pocket.
It has been an enjoyable day, two lovers walking the beach, talking, spending their lives together in this niche of time. Of course, as usual, she has done most of the talking. Speaking of which, what have we been saying for the last 8 hours? I suppose it doesn't really matter. We're talking; that's what's important. We never seem to run out of topics either, despite having been together for 3 years now. It comes to mind again how I can no longer hear this French woman's accent. Weird how that works.
An ethereal twilight covers the beach. We can now see the distant lights of the Heliopolis reflecting into the water. It's still a ways up the beach and though the sand between our toes is still warm, it's starting to get a little cold now. It's been more cloudy lately and the winds blowing across the Mediterranean from the African desert just aren't quite as warm as they were a month ago. We'd really be cold if we weren't walking so fast to get back.
We pass the first leg of the Heliopolis and home! Well, no, not home in the conventional sense, but it's our home for the time being, at least as far as we are concerned. Where is home anyway?
We scurry into the first stairwell and up the steps to the top floor. We're freezing. The third member of our team, Anna Marie, greets us as we come through the door. She asks us where we've been. Without saying a word, Vetti and I head straight for the bathroom. The only thing on both our minds is a hot shower.
I think of Vetti often. She's the one that got away. Sadness, such sadness. But does it really matter? Would life have been any different if we had figured out some way of us staying together, of me staying in Europe, living in France, or Germany? Would life up to this point really have been that much better for either of us? We'd still be old now, wouldn't we? Perhaps it would have been she, instead of Bonnie, who died 3 years ago. Things change; people change; time passes; life changes; and sometimes, life ends. C'est la vie - such is life. Still, I wonder, does Vetti ever walk the beaches of Cap d'Agde with me, just as I have with her, so many other times?
The venue again changes and the sun is overhead now, bright in a cloudless sky. A new song plays in my heart. I cover my brow with my hand to shield my eyes and look into the distance. Magnificent! My castle! It seems closer than ever today.
The clods of dirt crush underfoot, as I walk the furrowed fields of my future. I wonder about the farmer who tilled this soil and got it ready for planting. Is he like me? Did he love as did I? Did he lose what he once had, only to live a life of memories, as I do now? Does he also visit his past in the wee hours of the morning, just to remember?
Perhaps the castle, my home, is yet a lifetime's distance. Perhaps, it was always meant to be that way. Still I wonder who it is that lives there. I wonder if there is someone in there, waiting, waiting just for me, someone I once knew.
The sun is shining and I'm happy. The castle definitely IS closer today. The memories are plentiful; my plans are few.
"When we wish for that, which once was, and we long for a life, which might have been, we become acutely aware that we now live on the other side of what had once been our future. Here we dwell with our memories, and live with fantasies of things that will never be."