for Ruth Baumann



She had been gone a couple of hours when she sent me a message saying she'd fainted at the student health center. I smoked a cigarette, thought about it for a minute and sent one back that said I was on my way. I threw on something that I hoped didn't make me look too much like an out-of-work carpenter, got out to the truck, and called her. She said they had drawn blood to run some tests, that everything was fine, she was okay, just blacked out for a second and hit her head on the floor of the waiting room. No big deal. I asked could I bring her back to my house for a while to make sure she was okay, she said yes, once the nurses let her go.

I had been thinking about work, or making art that day. Another morning spent thinking. Outside was spring and cold and the sky was blue and clear. I had mostly been thinking about her. She was the only thing I didn't worry about. I thought about the blood pulsing through her, that maybe they had taken too much of it at one time. I didn't like the thought of that.

There was a water line broke or something under Broad street there, with guys in yellow down at one end of the block and a hydrant gushing torrents at the other. I parked in maybe a half foot of fast moving water that ran quick against the curb, hopped it and made for the entrance of a large building that hadn't been there when I originally left town. I had my phone out when I went in the big double doors and met her coming out of the elevator, her eyes blue and clear like anything that was ever blue and clear. I realized I didn't give a damn about what our chances were anymore.

She was a little shaky, and I walked her to the truck. I laughed and mentioned that even if I wanted to carry her, she wouldn't have let me. She agreed. I unlocked her door and noted the impromptu creek of cold water flowing just at our feet. She said that the health center had no water. The small stones embedded in the road shone cold and clear and brighter than anything. I helped her get in the truck and together we went home.


It was already late in the day when I blew out of Boone. I picked up 421 and made for the Tennessee line. I knew those mountains, in that I recognized the general rhythm of the curves and the general direction I was heading, but I didn't know anything other than I would not stay in Boone. The bike was running fine, and I was not too tired but everything was wrong. I had spooked myself earlier that day on the parkway after I blew a couple of turns. I had been gravitating to the latter half of a Nine Inch Nails album on my headphones. Trees and houses and North Carolina flew past me, I was eating up road but I was very conscious of the fact I was afraid. It occurred to me that I wasn't sure what I was doing or where I was going. I was a long way from home. It felt like too far out, too alone. I was troubled by the idea that perhaps I had unconsciously come down here to die on a mountain.

I spent an hour of this in country I had never been before. There was a juncture in the road, a small town, maybe Mountain City, I don't remember. I pulled into the gravel lot of a empty laundromat, used the bathroom, got out the map and smoked. I bought a coke from inside, drank it and ate another trail bar, trying to lose the thousand yard stare. Two old men in folding chairs on the porch to a cinderblock building next door regarded me and my machine. I was strung out from the road, heartbroken and afraid. My phone had no service. The sun was blazing pre-dusk orange, edging close to the ridge of mountains. I decided to head more North than West, pick up the interstate outside Abingdon and make for home, something like four hundred miles. I would curl my boots back under me onto the rear pegs, lean down on the tank and run it wide open all night. I could ditch maybe at Tom and Laura's in Charlottesville if I got too tired. I would not go back to Boone. Because I felt like I had to, I dialed up the song that matched the sound my head was making and got the bike back on the road.

I rode it fast out of town on a straight empty road that opened onto miles between two vast fields. The machine thrummed along beneath me. The familiar ache in my shoulders came right back. Everything immediately looked alien again. It was getting cold. The song I'm talking about has only drums and vocals with a strange desolate synthesized noise throughout that sounds like exactly like despair. The only lyrics I can recall are "and I am still inside you." The song's name is "Home."


Crawl Back In

Hammer in skull I am waiting to return your suffering.
In my mind I see you distant, broken and lost again.

When you come back I won't know you.
We won't fit right like it was before.
Time is truth, hard and cruel
and my heart has turned to stone.
I crawled back in, I am hungry,
I made sure my traps are set in space.

We had been standing on these tracks,
all the winds never called us back.

We laid so long, eternal night, in my heart it never left.
I'll stand here, you go on, when you see me I'll be gone.
Every road brings us on the past is never forgiven it is atoned.


Excerpt 2

...I was giving Henry a bath one night when I asked him if he remembered when I was very sick and had to go away to get better. He said he did remember. I told him that I was still sick and had to move out in order to get better. He asked me when was I coming back, would it be in a couple days? I said no. He asked would it be in a couple months or a year? I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I didn’t think I was coming back, but that I would get another house close by and that he could come stay with me whenever he wanted. That it was going to be like his friend Rowan, a mommy and daddy in two different houses, and he seemed okay with that. I promised him I would never be very far from him. It was sometime during the first week of April, 2008. I did my best not to cry when I explained this to him.



...I don’t remember what else we did that day except take the kids down to the river. The house we had bought is very close to what is almost a cliff that overlooks the tracks that line the James. We went down to the river and coming back, ventured to the end of the dead-end road across from us. I had my daughter May-may in the backpack, where sits the oldest house in the neighborhood, a massive old brick colonial, vacant for years. We discovered old overgrown gardens in the woods just past the steel barricade where the road ends, and just below the house found a huge pit, lined with massive boulders with a center that almost looked to be excavated for some reason. It was a good twenty feet down. There was a small grotto of trees in the center and a narrow passage out at the very bottom. It was strange in the purest sense. It was as if we had stumbled onto an ancient ritual site. We decided it was too dangerous to climb down into it with May so we headed home. Coming out of there I realized my entire perspective of our little neighborhood had been altered. Everything I thought about where we lived seemed changed somehow.

I am writing this down so that I can remember it, because almost a year later, most of it seems forgotten to me somehow, and I don’t want to forget. I’m not sure how the dates line up exactly and I’m not sure how important it is that I line them up. I think I am the only one involved who remembers it all accurately, if anyone else even thinks about it at all anymore. To remember it now, it seems to have its own texture. It is painful yet somehow not unpleasant to think about.