From a walk in the early hours of the 24th of May 2011

on May 29, 2013 in Journal

In the morning, no later than four or so, a boy awakens suddenly to a painful stinging of numbness in his left arm. After a few moments of discomfort and wading through his staunch self assurances that he wasn’t having a heart attack, he tries to force himself back to sleep. However, the lingering echo of the numbness and his general state of disquiet prevent him from doing just that so he settles on going for a walk. He isn’t sure why, but he was sure that his restlessness wouldn’t settle for less than movement of some kind or another, and walking seemed to be the only option at that time of the morning.
His suburban neighborhood was like a strange honeycomb of streets and cul-de-sacs, and even though he had grown up there, that span being the better part of two decades, he wouldn’t have been able to name ten of the streets by name if pressed. He swallows a Xanax, Wellbutrin, and Lithium, he plugs in his IPod and steps out into the night. The moon wanes gibbous high on his left as he trades the cold tile of the foyer for the hard concrete of the porch. He doesn’t have any particular destination or distance in mind so he just queues up “Rain Dogs” and resolves himself to walk until all the tracks have played.
For the first few minutes he follows the main road that cuts directly back through the subdivision ignoring the many branching paths as he goes. He eventually reaches the rear of the neighborhood and, having seen only a few early morning joggers and even fewer active cars, he decides, rather than to just turn and retrace his steps back to his house he would simply take every left turn that presented itself until he reached one of the major cross-streets that borders his housing development. Even as the idea comes to him he feels that it is both wildly intriguing and strangely exciting.
He knew that in a well ordered development this could lead to a decidedly rectangular, and ultimately self-defeating path, but from what he had seen of his neighborhood’s senselessly winding roads and poorly planned dead-ends he felt reasonably safe, and it wasn’t as though he was planning to adhere to his route schedule against all obstacles, he left just enough leeway in his turning instructions to prevent disaster. Thus, with logic stolidly in his corner, he turns left.
He walks for what feels like hours as the music separates him from the sounds around him. He drinks in the smells around him, the good and the bad. The crisp twinge of wet grass and sweet flowers not yet oppressed by the heavy heat of the sun and the occasional rank odor of an open garbage can hover in patches of air that he wades through as he passes. Suddenly the strong scent of decay creeps out at him from behind a fence in an abandoned yard of an empty house that crawls past him on the right side. He assumes it’s an opossum or armadillo, but he doesn’t look to see.
Almost immediately his left turn odyssey carries him out of familiar waters as he comes to the first new street. Rather pleased with his own game he begins to wonder how so many winding roads of photo-copy houses can fit in such a small place. This thought was followed quickly by the outlandishly amusing one that perhaps the development contained more houses than there was physically room for…the mundane version of Dr. Who’s TARDIS. It wasn’t a thought that lasted long.
He keeps encountering new street after new street, left turn after left turn. Some of the roads did bend and wind to the right, but he doesn’t count that against himself as he disqualified all optionless diversions along a given road as “non-turns”, and he thanks them for keeping him from walking in circles. His logic is impeccable.
The long shadows of the intermittent streetlamps and the feeble glow of the pale moonlight do little to illuminate the darkness beneath the trees overhanging the road, and he frequently finds himself moving into and out of the light like Morse code…should anyone be watching him from above. He thinks about running at a steady pace to make his typing more legible, but that’s nonsensical. As the walk continues, he beings to feel stranger and stranger about the neighborhood’s unfamiliarity. He wonders how so much of it can be so foreign to him after living there so long.
As the last few songs on the album begin to pipe into his ears he realizes that he’s been walking for nearly an hour without sighting a familiar street. At first he wonders if he hasn’t somehow wandered far away from home. He attacked the sudden fear with logic, “That’s ridiculous!” he admonishes himself aloud as he checks his suddenly quickening steps to prove his certainty to himself. He knows that he hasn’t crossed any of the streets that border the development; he would have recognized them instantly if he had. Despite his logical deduction he couldn’t help his sudden wondering…maybe his pharmacist had given him a bad xanax. In that case what could he trust? Certainly not his logic.
“Maybe I’m delusional, I could be reading the signs wrong,”
“How would you know if I was?”
“But if I’m delusional there’s no reason the delusion should be limited to simply the street signs,” he reasons as he stops walking.
“Makes sense to me, but under that logic how would I even be sure I’ve stopped walking?”
“Maybe I didn’t even start…” he says curiously.
He had spent most of the previous evening stressing about the end of the world. Not the hysterical panic of a religious sense which never scared him much due to the leeway given by the possibility of an afterlife, but the sobering panic caused by the sinister, inexplicable, and brutally sudden end peeking out from the pages of Carl Sagan’s and Stephen Hawking’s books which had so completely consumed his attention hours before his sleeplessness set in. He didn’t know what it was about someone explaining the universe that scared him so, but he kept going back for more, as if he were addicted to that fear.
With his thoughts drawn back to the night before his heart begins to beat more and more quickly both from his growing concern over being lost, and his fear of the cruel insensitivity of the universe around him. As always he shelters himself in self diagnosis,
“Don’t worry,” he says to himself, “your heart’s beating fast both because of the anxiety and the exercise. You haven’t slept much and are walking to calm down. Not manic at all. Just let the medicine do its work. You aren’t going to die.” It was like a rote prayer to logic, but seldom did anything to help. What did help was, just as the second to last song came on in his headset, he looked up and noticed himself standing at the crossroads of a familiar street, and he immediately knows where he is.
He wasn’t sure if he had misread the sign as he came to a halt, or whether in his panic he had just not paid attention, but at that moment he didn’t care. He makes his way back to the main road that runs across the western face of the subdivision bus as he walks through the early morning sprinklers to his house something still seems strange. The water splashes across his shoes as he tromps steadily over the puddle laden sidewalk and wonders.
When he finally reaches his own porch again, he looks up at the moon. He hardly expected to find it in precisely the same position, after all he had been walking for over an hour, but as sure as he had been that the moon was waning when he left he is now doubly sure that it is waxing now. For a moment he wonders at which point he was, or is, mistaken since logic dictates the moon could hardly wane and wax in the same night let alone the same hour. The moon seemed to be a mirror image of the one that had hung over him when he left, but he decides that when he left the house he was certainly at his most agitated so it was clearly the most likely time for his mind to misinterpret. Praising the restorative power of exercise on the unsettled mind he pushes his way back into his house and declares himself cured.

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