Once, just one time in my life, I broke free. It was the cold that did it, I think, the seductive idea of a chill wind numbing my flesh and stinging me down to the very bone, killing me maybe, abandoned on some lonely road between here and my destination. Then again, maybe it wasn't - my rebellion lasted of all three weeks. It was Montreal, urban Montreal, that slipped me up...if it would just have been an issue of more countryside to travel though, I think I would have made it up the Gaspe Pensinula, a hundred miles up and through the turnoff to Labrador and then five hundreds miles further north to where the road ends...but the lure of the big city disenchanted me, and I took the bus (the bus, God help me!) back home
I was a college student back then, fresh from Squatting, living in an apartment in Washington Heights, with a couple of friends - actually, the sort of college friends you don't really like, just some people to surround yourselves with while you dream of a better future somewhere - (I had yet to meet my autistic blood brother, the person who would become my business partner. Some of those people were drinking a beer - others were smoking some pot - my apartment was just the right distance from campus to make it an ideal haven for pot smokers. The conversations, with one exception, were inane. The exception was a young Israeli, short and tough who had done time in Lebanon. He was 30 and going back to University to become an accountant. I don't think anyone else in the room had killed a man, and therefore he had this sort of tough Israeli mystique. A bunch of people were surrounding him, asking him questions.
I had seen a couple of wars myself, on the unarmed, get the shit kicked out of you side of things, and I had no questions for the tough young soldier. I was just looking out of the window.
Washington Heights is at the upper end of Manhattan, surrounded by rivers on both ends of it, a slum to the south, The Bronx to the North, a big green park in the middle. Washington Heights is where Manhattan becomes Hilly and Broadway - a sort of Oasis of light cutting through the dark, gloomy brownstones extending from the streets in either direction - appeared to disappear over a hill, right near the park. It gave the illusion of being The End of the City: the border zone between life and wilderness. I knew from my travels - (hell, call it what it was, I was just looking for good Dominican Food) that the road bounded alongside the hill for a while, then became a bridge, then became the Bronx, then became Westchester. More city than a man could walk out of, certainly, and even drive out of, for a couple of hours.
Still, the illusion was charming. From my window it seemed like you could see Manhattan end abruptly in a big green park. Outside the window it was cold - a thick layer of frost covered the window and obscured the view, and outside people were wearing heavy coats and the shine of the ground implied that it had been raining a little. Finally, I saw that it had started to snow.
Lord, did that start my mind going! I imagined a vast vast road, extending out of the city, where the snow melted in the building's heat before it even reached the ground, into vast expanses of great fields, wild snow, covering the field late at night - and there, in the snow, for some reason I was sure she would be waiting: the woman always dreamed of, never found.
Don't ask my why. It was a sudden impulse. I knew it wasn't true, and yet I would have let you killed me before I let you talk me out of it? So why did I announce my departure? A suddent streak of rebelliousness, perhaps. The need to tell other people that I no longer lived by their rules, even though I didn't give a damn about them
"Everyone, I said, I'm leaving. I'm going to walk to Canada."
Now, I was not given to rash and stupid statements. At least, not then. Everyone looked at me as if I had decided to urinate in the middle of the room.
"You're going to what?" asked the soldier, the first one to speak.
"I'm going to walk out of this door just like I am now and walk all the way to Canada. When I get there, I'll send you a postcard."
"Do you plan to take a coat," asked the soldier sarcastically, "or do you just plan to use your secret powers to fight off the elements."
I looked at him defiantly. If he had shut up - if I had shut up - I suppose I would have started my journey all warm and bundled, a thick heavy coat on my body, and scarves on my ears. But now - there was no way. I would have walked out of there naked. to prove a point, if I had to.
"You'll freeze," he told me matter of factly.
No, I said, I won't. But my mind was on freezing. Cold, in the north. My mind was on six foot snowdrifts, miles to the north, past midnight. I felt it like a yearning deeper than the yearning for love.
And money? he asked me?
On my person, I had two hundred and fifty three dollars.
"I'll get there, " I said, "with the money I have."
I think everyone was dumbfounded when I left. Or I may just have remembered it that way. I took the elevator down to the lobby, pushed upon the heavy latched door, and just like that, I was outside the cocoon, and in Spanish Harlem. I turned left - the heart of a fool is to his left, the heart of a wise man to his right - and in my case left was Northward. I began to walk. I reached the hill, and saw how the road kept moving, becoming a wider road, and more full of buildings. People were on every side of me, hurrying along because of the cold. I meant to walk slow, but the cold made me walk faster. Three hours later I was at the edge of Van Cortland Park - a wild place, dangerous at night, a few dozen acres of trees and wildness between New York City and Westchester County. I had no idea why I was walking or where I was going to. I imagined afterwords, that if I looked behind me, I would see the lights of the city stretched out behind me, but I was wiser than that I was Lot - and like Lot leaving Sodom, I didn't look back once..
I have never seen anyone dedicate a node to anyone else, but this memory of 10 years ago was provoked by a simple node in Rathera's day log and although I have never even messaged her once, I will if she doesn't object, dedicate this node to her.
This story is continued in The Wild Dogs of Van Cortlandt Park