These words are a mash up. Tales of the road. The people I met, stories I listened to, and the loves I saw grow, all find themselves here. Mixed within these pages. From Maine to Mobile and all the places in between, where people still, somehow, cling on to the good fight. The only fight worth having.
The necessary shit. (If that sounded disdainful, it was.)
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual events, characters, persons, alive or dead or beings of Earth or the multiverse, past, present or future, is purely coincidental. Unless, of course, I'm psychic, in which case this a work of non-fiction. But I highly doubt that, I'm not that attuned. I mean if I was, I’d have won Powerball by now and been able to afford creative writing classes and a proofreader.
Be forewarned, these writings, may trigger some issue, or issues, you have. Either by the language used or it’s content in general. If you are one to get bothered by every little thing, just close it now and step away, from wherever the hell it is that you are reading this.
All the participants are of legal age in any state or country, in regards to the actions and experiences they have or go through. If someone is being breastfed by their mother, it's because they're hungry and they're still at that age that that's where their meals are served.
Everything, was aglow in the gold of the late morning sun.
The aged oak and pine, of the floors and walls, had a vibrant, musky, smokiness, that hinted of history. Awakening a sense of perseverance, endurance and a pulse rush, called survival. I could taste the fermentation of the centuries of life that filtered through this monument of grit and determination. It's incense, built on the back of my tongue, coursing my blood. A tingling that invoked a primal awareness. I felt a deep seated need to celebrate, all of my air out. With a howl. It built in my spine and tempted up quietly. Bursting forth from the top of my head. Loud of spirit but silent to the ear.
It brought back memories. It felt like, home.
There were tables and chairs made of branches and rough hewn wood. Five, big picture windows, framed a view, of a distinctly Adirondak regional scene. Directly above them, lightly arched, four invocations on stained glass, captured the essence of an early settlement's lifestyle. From hunting and fishing, to farming and harvest celebrations. The vibrant colors diffused through the room. Softly hinting on the atmosphere and the people around me. Trophy mounts were scattered on the walls. A prized moose head, the centerpiece, displayed proudly over a massive stone fireplace.
The next thing to grab my attention was the chatter. Or, more accurately, the incessant drone of strangers, thrust together in an attempt to fashion a familiarity. Thirty, or so, individual souls, danced through a maze of bodies and chairs. Seeking a bond. Of one sort or another.
It was a stark contrast, to this place, that, by it's very existence, was a testament, that bonds were not chosen or picked, but were, earned, forged and fought for.
We had been sent here, by our prospective employer, as a kind of a secondary job interview. The magazine, we all had applied to, had expanded their offices to the east coast, and brought their new-age ideology, of the weird coast, with them. They bused us up to this place, a Colonial born Adirondak Lodge, from New York City. And now, we were tasked, with divvying up our own room assignments.
Most of the cattle here, were in their mid twenties, barely out of college, and still rapped up in their petty, insular bullshit.
Yes. I am among the cattle. G&G save me.
Me? I was forty three. Had just left my photography job, at another magazine. for whom, I photographed strippers. One evening, at the proof table, I got a tickle. I had found myself doing nothing more, than documenting young women with dreams, wasting away into addictions and abuse. Changing their bodies because they didn't live up. Their money was dwindling, the audience's attention laxed. They weren't new anymore, they weren't exciting. Film at 11. I had gotten tired of it. So, I went looking for something outdoorsy, more nature based. Less industrial. Something, way outside the wheelhouse.
Which! Is what led me to this.
Now, why a photographer would need to be part of this little bit of weirdness, I don't know. Most I've met, including myself, tended to be solitary observers. But the company execs liked my stage photos, and after inquiring about my work ethic, and finding it satisfactory, insisted I attend. "It would be fun." They said. I know. As Doctor Who would put it… Run. But I didn't.
So, there I sat. On a smoothly worn bench. Watching the cliches and the cliques, all find each other, and separate themselves into little cabals. That's when, She, took my notice for the second time.
She sat on the bench against the wall, a few feet from me. At a slight angle, to my vision, to the left, fifteen, twenty degrees. Or, your eleven o'clock, if you're so inclined.
She was a little taller than the average. I'd say around five eight, five nine. A little thick of build. She sported lightly tinted, black framed glasses. A touch nerdy. Without the tape. She moved purposefully and methodical. Her attire was all business. An oversized, white cotton, button down, shirt. A black, mid-calf, Accordion, skirt. Both of which had a subtle, graceful motion, when she turned, or searched through her computer bag. Her glasses were down. She watched everyone around the room, casually. Sometimes she'd smile, other times she'd grimace. She was getting a feel for the place, and the people. When she had taken it all in, she put up her glasses, and her personal space, reached in to her knapsack and grabbed her laptop. She powered up and clicked away at the keys, getting lost in her digital world.
Clear dark eyes. Full eyebrows. A rather interesting nose. A rather interesting gaze. Her hair was shifting in waves, just below her shoulders, black with a prismatic refraction to the shine. She was beautiful, in a geeky, girl next door, kinda way.
Her back arched and she rolled the tension from her neck. She found my eyes. Hers smiled, 'hi', then turned their focus casually back to the screen.
The first time I noticed her, was on the bus. She was quiet and reserved, looking to the ground like she was in thought. Barely established eye contact with anyone. Til she sat. The couple of times I heard her talk she seemed to stutter, and that appeared to make the, barely adult aged, majority of the group, edgy. They stopped talking to her altogether, about fifteen minutes into the trip. She seemed okay with that. Not like she was happy about it, more like it was her norm. She was used to it. Been there, feel that.
The others were chit chatting, finding a fit.
I didn't fit. And honestly, I didn't want to. So I waited to see who was left to share a room with. Maybe I'd get lucky, and get one to myself, or luckier and get someone comfortable and quiet. Or not and get stuck with a shit brick.
The chaff were pairing up and the room was thinning out.
A narcissistic gust blew in, upon the heralding scent of Axe. He strut up with this, false air of importance. I think his name was Jeremy or Jaime. Whatever. He said it often, and loud enough that it sounded like you should have known him. It just made me, Not want to pay attention. He walked right past the quiet girl on the bench, right through her field, and right up to me. Why do they always pick me?
She looked up, to see who had disturbed her attention, saw him, made a face, shadowed her personal space and went back to doing her thing.
He stopped, practically standing on my boots, and tilted his head back.
"Yo. Wanna room up bro?"
Sometimes, you gotta make a choice and take your own luck. In your own hands. However that dice may turn, And I got a nudge, a big one, and it said, 'Roll. Now!'.
"Sorry. I have need, of a modicum of quiet around me. So, no. But thanks for asking... Brah."
Yes. I can be an asshole at times too. Never deny it. It's the human condition. And even if you aren't, don't deny it either. There could come, one of those days, when you find yourself with that label. Well earned. You don't know. That's the beauty of this thing we call life.
The girl on the bench eyed our conversation and hooked my gaze, catching my perception with an interested expression. I looked at her and nodded a request. She nodded back, an mmhmm.
I offered, "Joe."
She accorded, "Emily."
Two words and It was sealed. An adventure had begun. Whatever fate lay before us, it was of both of our choosing.
I picked up my stuff and went to the front desk, retrieved two keys, made my way back and presented her with one. She looked at the key distantly, then took it, as a matter of fact. Almost relieved. She gathered her things and stood up. I pointed at the biggest suitcase and held out my hand, she handed it to me with a quizzing, but grateful look. We made our way passed the reception desk, to the left, down the hall, toward the last room on the right.
"I sleep nude."
She looked puzzled, but not put off. Unlocked the door, and held it open for me.
"I have shorts, for trips."
She shyly grinned, hid her face away, and shut the door behind us.
Since this was the first day, of this week long curiosity, it was pretty much just settling in. So, I took quick stock of the room. It was a little more spacious than most of the hotels I had stayed in, during my travels. It had the same wood floors and walls as the lobby, except these walls were pickled in a mission-maple. A three by eight window, overlooked the mountains edge. I could just catch the sparkling ripples of the Hudson, and the sporadic villages and towns in the country side beyond it. The bed situation was a bit odd. One was a single, the other was a double. They both had deep maple headboards and knit comforters. And plenty of stories. They had a certain creak.
The bathroom was to the right, walking in. It's entry was at a complementary angle, to the room. It was an odd shape, but I could see it in a future home.
The decor and design, of the room, were more of a, country style bed and breakfast, than that of a big box motel. It was the second time I felt positive about my decision to come to this place. It had that hard work restful air to it.
I was just about to ask which bed she wanted, when I noticed her stuff on the single. 'Easy enough,' I thought. I placed her suitcase on the valet at the foot of her bed.
"Thhhank yyyoou, Joe."
"My pleasure, Em. You don't mind being called that, do you?"
"Nno. I liIke it. It's," she softened, nostalgic to the word, "fffamiliar."
I put my kit bag on the stand, by the wall near the double, and tossed my duffle on the floor, then I turned to take in our view.
And, I see. Her. Looking out the window.
The sunlight, touched her face with softness. It chased the shadows from her neck and illuminated through her shirt, revealing the enticing curve and slope, of a delightful set of breasts, and the feminine fullness, of a very smooth, sturdy stomach. She turned and caught me looking. It didn't look like it had registered what had caught my eye, though. She hesitated from breaking the contact. Then coyed away, turning her eyes back to the glass, and looked out, with a genuine admiration.
I turned my gaze out the window, and realized, "That sunrise! Is gonna be absolute tits."
"Mmhmmm," She agreeably replied. A hint of an amusement tittered her voice.
We made ourselves home and organized our belongings, using our free time wisely. There was a half hour orientation that started at eight. Til then, and after, we were on your own. Seven o'clock came and my stomach was rumbling.
It was four hours, since I last ate. And that was just some, beef jerky and a bag of chips. Shortly after we settled in.
"You hungry, Em?"
"Care to be my dinner date?"
She gave me an odd look, nodded, with a little tilt to the side.
We grabbed some food, from the team-builder's table, took it outside and sat on a rock. We ate, more cordially than casual. Sharing the view, listening to everything around us. The conversation was quiet and sparse. Mostly the getting to know each other banter. Without the date night uneasiness, or the empty need to impress. She was very well spoken.
Her stutter, was measured and lyrical. It was never unnerving, or off putting to listen to. Interestingly enough, I found it had a cadence. A rhythm, that made it a touch on the charming side. Enjoyable. Like it pleasurably, intermingled my brain somehow. Her answers were short. Her questions mostly, just, "Yyyou?". Hums and an eye movements were her real conversation. Her looks had a way of telling her story for her. They were warm, accepting and engaging.
With a few minutes to spare, we made our way to the orientation. After we found out what was planned for the week, no, I'm not going to bore you with it, we left and headed back to our room.
I grabbed my camera and tripod, and told her I was going for a walk, and that if she cared to join me she was more than welcome. She gave me another probing glance. Not suspicious, but puzzled. Then she picked herself up and, got the door out. We walked to the end of the property, stopping by the head of a trail that seemed to fade out across the mountainside.
I set my stuff up by an old rock wall, that looked like it could have been there since, before, the Revolutionary War. She sat on the ledge. Her legs parted delicately, as much as the skirt would allow. Looking out to the water, over her right shoulder. She looked like a woman with a lot on her mind. The weight slowly lifted as the vision stole her focus. Sitting perfectly still. Rapt in the scenery
I snapped some shots of the stars, the river, and the dotted town lights on the water's other bank. I turned my camera in her direction and took some candids. Her silhouette, against the full force of a brilliant twilight sky. She noticed that I was taking her picture, blushed and shied away.
"It was really nice imagery. The light up here just warms up the scenery. And you looked like you were at peace there. I'll show them to you when we get back."
"Ittts ohh-kay, I'm jjust nnot use, to theee the aaa-ttention."
She didn't hide, when I took a couple more. But she seemed to try and pretend it wasn't really happening. Not in an uncomfortable way. Or even an, if I ignore it it will go away, way. More of an, amused why, sort of way. Intrigued.
We stayed in silence, while I gathered my equipment, then walked back toward our room. Stopping, to scent a name, or listen to a call. There was hickory and maple coming from the kitchen, with a heavy pull of wood fired meat. There was lilac, a hint of mushroom and moss, the last remnants of rotting leaves, and the subtlest undertone of water weed.
And horse shit.
Owl, frog, deer, bat, cat. Coyote, maybe. No, that sounds, more like somebody's hound.
The hours had flown by without their normal beat. By the time we got back to our room it was late.We found our way to bed and called it a day.