Part 6 of a sporadic saga. Part 7 is here
There was still some daylight floating around when I hit the intersection at the bottom of Bear Butte. A Beye, Silversmith, had disappeared, along with his blue awning, his beautiful jewelry, and his supernova smile. The moon was up, low in the eastern sky. It was a day or two shy of full, but the “face” was visible, peering down on a pointless Earth with it’s plague of oblivious inhabitants.
Those were the words that came to me, and I knew it was true. I knew it as clearly as I know I have a heartbeat.
We are oblivious.
We all had been oblivious, but I was given a chance to see something. What had I just witnessed, up there on the Butte? What was I supposed to understand? I closed my eyes and thought about everything I had just experienced. I wanted to chisel it into my brain, every finite detail. The emotions, the physical sensations, the fear, the anger, the cold….all of it. Remembering was suddenly important. Understanding would come later.
I don’t know why I knew this.
I opened my eyes and found the moon staring through the windshield. I stared back, my mind on fire, my chest drowning. Gradually the face of the moon became her face. Her eyes, and her smile, the smile she so casually hinted at, just before the bullet changed both our lives forever.
I had a sudden urge to scream.
This is hard for me to admit. I pride myself on being self-aware. I had never questioned who I was. I understood and accepted my abilities and, more importantly, my limitations. No matter what my public persona was, I had always, always, been completely honest when I looked in the mirror.
For the first time in my adult life I doubted myself.
It’s not a comfortable feeling.
I decided that questioning my own mental stability was probably a good sign that I hadn’t lost it yet, but I knew I was on the edge. The words of William Blake came into my head. “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”
I was a heartbeat away from becoming an emotional black hole, and I was very tempted. At least it would be a resolution. I had lived for nine months as a vagabond, with no destination, no desires, and no future. Every night of those nine months I had laid my head down somewhere, trying to sleep. And every night sleep, if it came at all, was worse than being awake.
I mashed my forehead into the steering wheel and squeezed my eyes shut. Whatever that experience was, up there on Bear Butte, it was a meant to be a catalyst. It was meant to rattle me, to force me into a decision. I saw Mary, with her beautiful wrinkled face and her gold flecked eyes, and I heard her whisper, “Go to Bear Butte. It is lele wakan.”
Lele wakan. She knew I needed this. They both knew. I saw her husband, floating on the hill at Wounded Knee like a conjurer, and I heard his words, too.
“You’re on your own, Veho.”
I thought about how easy it would be, to let myself go into the abyss. A passage from Thomas Hobbes came into my head, a quote from “Leviathan.”
“Passions unguided are for the most part mere madness.”
I thought about that for awhile, as the engine idled and the sky grew darker. How much longer can I live “unguided?” Will I know when I cross over into madness? Am I already there? What happened to all my other “passions?” What happened to laughter? Why have I never shed a single tear?
Out of nowhere, I heard the refrain from an old Warren Zevon song.
“The hurt gets worse, and the heart gets harder.”*
Is that what I want to live for? A hard heart and a worse hurt?
I slammed the car into “drive” and kicked the gas as I cranked the wheel to the right, feeling the gears shift as I built up speed.
The moon, wearing her haunting, melancholy smile, followed me through the night, far out onto the plains, until I finally veered off the road and stopped, seeing nothing but dust in my headlights. I turned everything off and curled up in the back of the car, wrapped up in my sleeping bag.
I was awake for a long time. I had a lot to think about. All I could do was think, for there was surely nothing to look at, in the startling darkness, except the icy stars and the cold moon, creeping across the night sky like an obsessive stalker.
* “Accidentally Like A Martyr” words and music by Warren Zevon