Thursday, August 11, 2011
Part Five, or, The Night Bigfoot Appeared
The tent was small. Much smaller than I had anticipated.
My sleeping bag and Curt's barely fit into the space. I had brought along a bag of snacks my Mother had mailed to me. I spilled the contents onto the floor of the tent.
Curt lifted up the first item. It was a slipper. A single slipper. I shook my head and took it from him. "I don't know why she does that. It's like she forgets I have two feet," I said, throwing it aside. I glanced at what was remaining.
Two bags of salt water taffy; an umbrella; four packs of fiber tablets; a Richie Rich and Archie comic book as well as the newest edition of the New York Times Arts and Entertainment section; one piece of bubble gum; a copy of Rona Barrett's Hollywood (with photos cut out - my Mother liked to cut out the photos of actors she didn't like); toothpaste but no toothbrush; a crumbling, homemade muffin, poorly wrapped in thin Saran Wrap; a handmade towel made of my favorite colors, red and blue, with the tag 'Made With Love By Your Mama' sewn into the corner and a piece of purple paper folder over many times.
Curt grabbed the tiny piece of purple paper and slowly opened it up. He had to lean into the light coming from a lone flashlight in the corner to read it.
"Dearest Sonny Boy," he read. He looked up at me and laughed.
I sighed. "Weird, I know," I said.
"No, no. Not at all. It's nice," he said, staring at the paper a moment longer than necessary. I knew what he was thinking. It was written across this face.
I had learned some time ago one of the advantages of having a bipolar Mother was that I was able to tell what people where feeling before they knew what they were feeling. Came with the territory when you're always on guard to be attacked. It's the primary reason I've been able to hold jobs my entire life keeping strong personalities happy. I understand their needs. Of course, the dark side is I used to spend years being what other people wanted me to be to keep them happy.
Curt's eyes brimmed with sadness. He had told me on our walk back from Chapel Rock his Mother had left he and his Father when he was five years old. His Father had died three years later and Curt was relegated for numerous foster homes until he moved in with this Grandmother when he was twelve. He told me he missed his Mother even though he had no clear memory of her. Images of soft hands touching his face, a high, fluid voice, long flowing black hair - snips of memories was all he had.
Curt continued reading the note. "Dear Sonny Boy...hope you're keeping your nose clean and staying out of trouble. Here are some good things to keep you busy. Sorry about Rona's mag. That damn Ryan O'Neal was in the whole thing and you know he can't act. I snipped him out. Snip, snip! Ha. Lord, your Mother is losing her mind. Days are hot and long here. Your Father won't stop complaining. I swear he acts like an old man. He's gonna be loads of fun in our old age. Well, gotta go. Making a pie tonight. Will be thinking of you when I slurp it down. Don't miss your Mama too much. Watch your back. Love, Joyce and your Mom."
He looked up at me with an amused expression on his face. I felt my defenses rise. He was going to do what my Mother did. He was going to make me like him and feel good and then he would reach into me and grab my heart and squash it. I started to sweat and my felt my body shake.
"It's nice she does this for you. Sure, she's kinda loopy, but it's nice." He gently folded the paper in his hand, leaned towards me and put the paper into the pocket of my country western style cowboy shirt.
We didn't say anything else as we gathered my Mother's Box of Curiosities and put them aside. It came time for what I dreaded most -- getting ready for bed. I quickly glanced over at Curt. We both lay on our backs and swiftly took off our pants and jumped into our sleeping bags.
It was cold. We both laughed as we shook our legs to warm up. I could feel the tiny rocks under my body. Curt said it felt like he was sleeping in one of the beds he used to have at a foster home in Texas. "I swear to God, those people live to sweat. Nice family, though. They tried to act like I was their son, but...". He trailed off, his eyes downcast as the pulled the zipper up and down on his sleeping bag.
Curt told me he loved the dark. He said when he was moving from foster family to foster family, nighttime was the only time he could sneak out and be alone with the night sky. He said it didn't matter if it was snowing, raining or clear as a bell.
No one had ever asked me where I wanted to go. I wasn't sure how to answer. It seemed such a simple question but I couldn't get the answer out. "California," I said, my voice cracking. "Los Angeles. I like Los Angeles. I went there once with my Mom and Dad."
"I live in San Diego," Curt said. He looked down and picked up a small rock off from the edge of his sleeping bag. "You could come see me. If you wanted."
He didn't look up as he rolled the rock between his fingers. "I've got a girlfriend in San Diego."
My stomach pitched. I nodded and muttered, "Uh-hu."
"So what I'm saying is I'm not sure I like boys. Like...like, like."
"Me too," I said. My tone was so high I knew if there was a pane of glass in front of me it would have neatly cracked in two. "I mean, I'm not gay or anything. I have a girlfriend too. Her name is Erika. She's really nice. And sexy. Very sexy."
Curt half-smiled. He still hadn't looked up at me. His eyes were trained on the ground. "The thing is, I wanna do what we did on Chapel Rock again. If that's okay with you. But it's wrong, right?"
"It's wrong, that's true," I said. "But if you want try again I wouldn't mind."
Curt nodded his head and looked up at me. He leaned forward. He hesitated and held my gaze. Then our lips touched.
When Curt pressed his lips on mine, an image immediately flashed in my mind. It was from the most boring movie I have ever seen, Dr. Zhivago.
My Mother and Father took me to it when it was re-released at a giant movie theater near our house called Northgate. It was a movie, so of course, I wanted to go. But little did I know having to endure three hours of people yelling and screaming in the snow and in concentration camps and on trains about God knows what -- the movie bored me to such an extreme it was the only movie where fell asleep thirty minutes in.
I woke up to the terrifying image of a watery-eyed Omar leaning in for a big kiss with Julie Christie, an English woman my Mother said had lips "...bigger than a Pacific Northwest trout. You could rent out space in those lips."
The music was boring and sad and, of course, nothing interesting was happening except that Omar was leaning in for a kiss with Trout Mouth Julie. My Mother was crying madly, tears streaming down her cheeks, staring at Omar with an expression that made me more than a little uncomfortable. My Father looked at her and laughed but I could tell he had no idea what to do with my Mother when she became this hysterical.
I watched as Omar and his purple lips leaned into kiss The Trout and that's when I saw it. Julie's tongue. I leaned in closer. She pushed her tongue into Omar's mouth. What? Her tongue? That can't be right. Why would she push he tongue into his mouth? Was she a spy and Omar the dumb lug who was about to be double-crossed? Did I miss something when I fell asleep?
After the movie ended (thank God for small miracles) I couldn't get over Julie and her tongue. Why did she do that? It didn't seem terribly hygienic, and frankly, really dumb. But then I started to see it everywhere. On TV, in magazines, in the movies, even in Rona's magazine! Tongues everywhere!
Erika, the girl I was dating in high school, had only kissed me four times. And each time we never, ever used tongues. But clearly, this trend was sweeping the nation. So when Curt leaned into me, I did what Julie would have done. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. And then, with great force, I shoved my tongue into his mouth.
Of course, I missed and instead of landing inside of his mouth, my tongue landed on top lip. But that wasn't all.
I had also shoved my tongue straight up his right nostril.
I wanted to die. Die right there. Cut me open and let me die. Please.
"You put...you...you put your tongue...in my NOSE."
After twenty minutes of non-stop laughter, we calmed down. Somehow, we found ourselves lying side-by-side holding hands. The air was hot inside of the tent. We were sweating. Curt turned his side, facing me. I did the same. He leaned forward. "No..." he said, smiling, pointing at my mouth.
I laughed. This time, despite the flutter of excitement and fear rising in my stomach, I leaned in, and holding his gaze, pursed my lips and very carefully pressed my lips against his. He sighed. I did it again. His fingers roamed between my fingers. Our feet touched each other. A jolt of fear raced through me. I couldn't catch my breath. Curt stopped breathing as well.
We stared at each other for some time then when it became too difficult to stay away, fell asleep. The last thing I remembered was how Curt's blond eyelashes reminded me of the dandelions which sprouted in our back yard in the summer. Everyone said dandelions were weeds and nothing but a nuisance. But I always liked how the wind would pick them up and lift them into the sky, floating, free, like tiny people on their way to a better place.
It was late when it happened.
I jolted up out of my sleeping bag. My heart thumped in my chest. I couldn't breath. My heart was beating so fast I was sure if I lifted up my shirt I would see it pushing against my skin.
I had heard something moving behind the tent. Something in the woods.
Over the past few months I'd been having a terrible time sleeping. My nightmares were vivid and horribly intense. They all stemmed from a movie I had seen on TV my parents made the huge mistake of allowing me to see. My Mother told my Father, "Mike shouldn't be seeing this. It's a disgusting subject matter." She was right.
It was the original TV movie, Helter Skelter. Now, you have to understand, on the West coast, Charles Manson was Lucifer incarnate. We were terrified of him. Despite the fact we lived in Washington state, Charles Manson was still on the West coast. It wouldn't be hard to get to Seattle. And Manson wasn't a fictional character. He was a real man with real followers.
Ads had been blasted for weeks about the movie. There were disclaimers everywhere saying "For mature audiences only". Same principal when marketing guru Spielberg slapped Jaws with the tag line "May Be Too Intense For Young Children." He said it was to protect kids from the movie. Yea, Steve. If that helps you sleep at night...
The first part of Helter Skelter was all procedural. Sure, Steve Railsback was disturbing. Yes, he looked and acted exactly like Manson. I hated him but he didn't infest my dreams. Not yet.
It was the second part where all hell broke lose. There is a key scene where the prosecuting attorney is talking to one of the women who was involved in the Sharon Tate murders. As she talked about what took place, an image filtered onto the screen. It was diffused and meant to illustrate what the woman on the witness stand was describing.
The image was vague and hard to see, but I could see it plain and clear. It was shot in a very grainy, documentary-style way so it appeared as if it was a home movie. Absent was the gloss and lighting I'd come to expect from big movies. It was the exact right choice for the movie but the exact wrong choice for me.
I watched as Manson's people chased their victims in the dark, tripping them and then plunging giant knives into their backs as they screamed in pain. This was real, I thought. This happened and this was real. Someone did this to someone else.
I was horrified. I felt cold and sick to my stomach. My Mother looked at me as I watched the movie. She looked at my Father. "Nice, Lynn. Real nice. The kid's traumatized. Happy now?" she yelled as she scooped me up and took me into the kitchen. "Let's have some pie, how is that? Pie always makes everything better."
That night I didn't sleep a wink. I remembered in the movie how Manson said it was "...so easy to kill people. They sleep with their windows open. They're so trusting. So I'd cut open their screen with my pocket knife and go into their rooms and butcher them. Summer time is the best time to kill."
I knew Manson would come into my room. I knew he would cut through my screen and kill me and my family. I heard noises, I saw shapes -- I had to go to a child psychologist. No kidding. I was a wreck.
So when I woke up in the tent after hearing a sound not a hundred feet from my head, you can bet your bottom dollar I was ready to shit and pee my pants, all at the same time.
I sat perfectly still and listened. The sound had come from behind the tent. Not in the woods but outside of them.
I looked over at Curt. He was fast asleep. He snored lightly. I wanted to wake him up but I was afraid to. I tucked myself back into my sleeping bag, closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep.
That's when I heard the sound again. It was close. Very, very close. This wasn't in my imagination. I was hearing this. I was really hearing this. Something was walking towards our tent. Pebbles scattered. It was something big, I could feel it. And it stank. Like old shoes and body odor and something rotting.
That was all I needed.
I reached over to Curt, grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled as hard as I could. Curt's eyes flew open. He started to scream 'ouch' when I slapped my hand over his mouth and pointed outside of the tent.
More angry than concerned, Curt glared at me and then followed my finger to the mysterious thing I was pointed to outside of our tent. He frowned and pulled my hand from his mouth.
"What?" he said in a rushed, deep whisper. He was pissed. Clearly, my hysteria got the best of me. Pulling a handful of his hair probably wasn't the most effective way to wake him up.
"There's something out there," I said, leaning into him, my voice barely above a whisper.
He looked at me with the same look everyone gave me when they were about to humor me. Like I was a cute little baby who couldn't figure out which end of the pacifier to put into my mouth. That look always made me want to shove my fist into people's faces.
"Mike," Curt said in his normal, melodic voice. "There's nothing --"
A huge shadow fell across our tent. Curt looked up at it and then, the smell hit him. A look of astonishment crossed his face and then fear. Utter fear.
We both froze as we watched the shadow slowly pass our tent. We could hear it. It was huge, moving with purpose but in no hurry. Whatever it was was big. Very big. Curt reached out and grabbed my hand. His palm was sweating.
It stopped. Right next to the tent. Curt crunched my hand in his. The smell was overwhelming. Rotting flesh, old and putrid. Curt gagged.
It made as sound. Sharp air, the sound of sharp air exhaled. Was it sniffing us?!
It resumed it's trek past our tent. We sat a still as humanly possible. We listened, craning out necks.
I knew why I had survived Orca. I knew what my reality would be in a matter of seconds. I wasn't meant to die like Bo at the mercy of a vicious killer killer whale.
My reality was as plain as the palatable fear on Curt's face:
We waited, our body's rigid as stone. I tried to pull my hand from Curt's but he wouldn't let go. We waited...and waited...and waited.
It was in the water. It was in the water! I knew why it was in the water. "It's bathing itself before it kills us. It's a blood ritual," I whispered to Curt.
Curt didn't hear me. He was shaking like a leaf.
Curt swiftly unzipped his sleeping back and in one fast, fluid motion jumped into mine. He was cold and sweaty at the same time. It was like sitting next to a Popsicle on a hot summer day.
He snuggled into me. We wrapped our arms around each other and didn't move a muscle.
We listened at Bigfoot splashed in the water, the Flesh Eating Ritual going on for a very long time. I'm not sure how much time passed until it was done. That moment is still extremely vivid in my mind but hazy as well. I remember how Curt burrowed his face next to him and how my body hurt from holding so still.
The splashing stopped. We both knew what was coming next. This was it. This was the end. I would love to say I knew this would be my only chance for true happiness in life and that I took advantage of this awareness and kissed Curt square on the mouth, but alas, the only thing we wanted at that moment to live to see a new day.
We heard it walk out of the water and methodically stomp up the shore towards us. By now we were ready to scream. I was finding it hard to focus.I felt like I was going to pass out.
Our arms intertwined. We were one person. One very terrified person.
Slowly, it worked it's way past us and to the woods. We heard it as it stomped across the pebbles to the forest...and then it was gone.
Curt and I waited a solid hour before we started to relax. The adrenaline was slowly leaving and in it's place a deep relaxation. Curt and I laid down on my pillow, our faces facing each other. He kissed me gently on my lips and this time, I had no problem returning the kiss. He ran his hands over my back and I did the same to him. For hours we lay in the sleeping bag, kissing and then falling asleep and waking to kiss again.
When we awoke in the morning, we were both deeply intertwined, our hands tightly together, arms and feet intertwined. Morning light filtered into the tent, casting a bright, deep orange on Curt's face, bathing his hair in a softly growing glow.
"I guess we should get ready for breakfast," he said, kissing me once, then twice.
I didn't want to leave. I had never felt so warm and relaxed. I had never felt so right and wanted. As long as I could remember I had wanted someone to love me and want me. Not the Mike who could make people laugh or who could compliment them so they felt good, but someone who wanted me, to be with me and hold me. It was the most complete I had ever felt and I never wanted the feeling to go away.
Please don't leave me Curt. Please stay with me forever.
"Yea, that sounds great. I'm starving," I said. Curt nodded and gently eased out of my sleeping bag and opened up the front of the tent. A blast of bright, cold summer sunlight filled the tent. Curt looked out at the water beyond, at the sun gently stroking the sea, a blend of water and bright light. He closed the flap of the tent and turned around and looked at me.
"One more can't hurt," he said as he leaned forward and pressed his lips very slowly on mine. I kissed him in return, felt his hands on my neck, over my body, on my arms, tasted this breath, tasted him as he pulled me into him and sighed a low sigh, feeling the vibration the sigh made in his body, how warm his body was against mine and how right it was.
We dressed, stepped out of the tent and prepared to to tell everyone about out encounter with Bigfoot.