Monday, November 26, 2012

Hit the Road, Dag, and don't you come back no mo

The Exilic Art

My legs were still wrapped in wet bandages from the knees to the toes, yellow and red stains seeping through the cotton binding, sores breaking open as I walked through the ankle deep snow on the sidewalk in the night from the cheap burger joint on main street two blocks away, me carrying a paper sack of hasty dinner as I made my way around the corner past the town library to the little room I rented by the week, walking slowly and in pain to a flop house room up a flight of creaky steps and to a small iron-framed bed with worn sheets that I laid down under and rested as I waited in hope day by day for healing, for the swelling in my legs to ease, for the holes in my flesh to close and scab over so I could live again without the stench and disgust of gangrene and the fear of losing my limbs at the age of just turned 18. And as I turned the corner in the darkness of a street light dimmed by thick snow flakes that shaded me as I walked past I looked ahead mid-block on the right, to my little two story peeling white wooden house, to see the big cop kicking down a picket gate rather than taking the slight effort to unlatch it and walk through like anyone else would have done. He was followed by five or six other cops with their guns drawn, all of them rushing up the steps and crashing open the windowed wooden door that splintered as it hit the wall inside, smashing the glass, and then another cop car running right onto the sidewalk, blocking my way as I slowly walked back onto the street around the cop car now nosed against the old fence, me slowly moving in the darkness, my old overcoat flapping in the wind, me looking like some tired old man huddled against the storm. I kept on walking, past the cop cars and the smashed gate and blue and red cop car lights flashing on the snow, and I haven't really been home again for 40 years as of today. I assumed I would return home and resume a normal life once the rage had settled a bit and rational people took control. That never happened, and I have lived that long walk ever since. Never having had a home since I left, that home is my only home. I will not return. Today it is 40 years gone. Funny in its way, my name is Walker. Dag Walker. I am on the road today. I fear that I will be on the road all the days of my life and I shall never find a home of my own but the road of exile.

Every day for nearly the full decade I assumed that I would return home sometime in the coming week. But I found myself in the second decade one day with my wife back there looking at property and houses and building plans, and I went to Europe and returned to find I was being divorced. At the end of the third decade I was home again, a young woman walking with me as I pointed out this and that, my friend who had lived here and died of a drug overdose, my friend there who had been shot to death, this ugly event, and that horrible memory till I was in tears and the girl was frantic. I have not been home since. My life is the road, and all roads leads to Exile.

Today, this particular day, I live in Iquitos, Peru, where the road is literally six days down-river by cargo boat. Further still from here is a village in the jungle, and still farther, still, is a house I have never seen in which lives a girl I see seldom. She lives alone and is alone. I am alone. We are not alone together. She has a home in the jungle. I have a backpack, and it is not only red, it is also black. My pack is filled with killing tools. I stand by my pack and I look at the girl and I am afraid of who I am. In my pack I have four passports. I can be anyone I choose anywhere on earth, but I cannot be the man I would be. I am on the road and there is no home for me. There is the road. There is the art. The art is exilic.

And beyond the road and into the depths of the jungle beyond the village, not too strange to me, is the girl. It's taken 40 wandering years to find her, having had to find 40 wandering girls before her. There's no guarantee she'll have me. It could be another 40 years till I find another like her, a girl I could call home.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

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