Sep 28, 2009

In between mountains

He always smelled of natural cigarettes and body odor. At parties he juggled sticks he set on fire. Everyone assumed this was because he was from Europe, except at home, where he was the boy who'd gotten lost in America.

He never said either way.

He read Plato and Arne Naess, but erratically and idiosyncratically, and some days not at all, choosing instead to go sailing on a little tiny duck pond that was surrounded by suburban homes, spending the whole day out there, nude and burning a deep, deep red. He was older than the other students, having served some time as peace keeper. It was in Somalia, or Bosnia, Botswana, or maybe he was just stationed in Switzerland -- it made him older and took a few years but wasn't otherwise clear. It was really hard to imagine him as a peace keeper. It was really hard to imagine him as a student, or a teacher, or anythinlike that. It was hard to imagine him as anything actually.

The stories about him were anecdotes that don't come together but only increased like cells endlessly dividing or as bright beads seen in sliding, symmetrical mirrors. He might have been a hippie or a neo-hippie, if anyone ever asked him to say, a Beat Buddhist, teahead of time, a person in a Pynchon novel or an anachronistic actor at Burning Man. Everyone assumed it was just that he was European, though, except at home, where with names like Swen and Olga, Andrij and Bodashka, they wondered what circus this America was.

On Thanksgiving Day he drank in a bar on State Street, and he met a girl who said she was a gypsy and from a family where there were only women. She said it was ancient and always they only had girls and it was a secret world of women. He thought that was amazing and believed her and believed gypsy witches would hang out on State Street, in what was a cover band bar.

He used to talk about sailing south, hitch hiking from port town to town down to Argentina, where there was a wedding, and then he'd come back up again. It wasn't clear what he was looking for. It wasn't clear what this was, or what continent should carry the adjective. Or was it older. Or newer. He wanted a vision of something of the open sea and to talk to llamas and squat on Hopi land, reading rocks. It was something of a cipher, and a cliche, if cliche can account for confusion, and he never felt like he needed to say what he was looking for or if this was just joy, or being lost. It seemed to everyone though that this was something from a world from before, like a caravan of monotheist men looking for a better land in some big-B better way, and also something new, something people always come to America to do, like the mountain man who said he wasn't lost, but said, very satisfied, he just didn't know which mountain was which for a few days.