Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing Assignment Five: Where Were You Last Night?

It's 6AM and I'm just about ready to head out the door. I do the final pat down: keys, wallet, phone. I grab my pre-made lunch - quinoa, kale, apple. Shelley's on a health kick this month. Fingers crossed for Meat-Filled March.

As I double back for my Transit card, I pause at the creak of the screen door swinging open. Flapping shut.

Adrian's home.

And at such an unGodly hour. I check my watch and note that I have about fifteen minutes to spare before running into the Late Zone. I don't want to ask though. I don't want to know where he was.

The range of answers to this posit -- Where were you last night? -- fluctuate from the mundane to the laughable to the downright unbelievable. And I'm damn tired of wasting my time with them.

Last week, Uncle Addy (Shelley's grandfather's brother, if you wanted to get technical) had spent a wild Sunday night on Mars with a few of his Martian buddies from the War. Throwing back beers. Cracking dirty jokes. And reminiscing about the Good Ol' Days until they dropped him off on our front porch around 4:45 AM.

I hear him drop his keys on the front table and briefly contemplate bailing out the back door, when my phone tweets from my pocket. Curse you, tell-tale device! I silence it but it's already too late.

"Nessa! That you?" There's a jovial tone to his greeting. Last night was a good one it seems.

Lately, and more frequently in the past few months, he has come home grouchy and frustrated. The work he has been doing on his supposed "Doomsday Device" has been hitting a maddening number of speed bumps. He elaborates to Shelley on the specifics and - bless her heart - she takes it all in with patience and grace. She's exponentially more tolerant of his fantastical fabrications and maybe, to a degree, this empathy is one of the many reasons I love her.

"In here Addy!" I beckon, grudgingly. "But I've only got a few minutes," I warn. "Can't be late today."

One morning, I got ensnared in a forty-five minute recounting of a night with the Mole People. Introduced by a mutual friend, Uncle Addy and Grunther (of the Solum Clan, royalty among those who live below the surface) had evolved into great friends over the course of the years. Not often did Addy get to visit the Mole Underground, but this particular evening, he had been practically dragged under to help mitigate a heightening conflict. Considered an impartial judge, he was enlisted to settle what seemed to me a simple bar argument. I didn't retain the details of the whole mess but it culminated in exchanged blows, broken bones and a good deal of blood and dirt. My boss didn't care about the details either and I ended up shorted the hours and stuck with the grunt work for the day.

"Not a problem." He smiles as his form appeared in the doorway. "Nothing but good news today." He winks at me and I try my best to put on my cheeriest face.

I hope for one of the rare mornings when he tells me spent the night reading a novel and drinking coffee at the 24-Hour Diner around the corner. Maybe Poker Night with his College buddies. Or perhaps catching a double feature at the Drive In Theater. The normal evenings were less and less these days. Adrian seemed to spend more time on other planets, underwater, beneath the surface. Shying away from the rest of us. Retreating from us. Tiring of us.

"And no need to worry about time anymore." His face is serene. Almost eerily calm.

Maybe today will be another yarn about his Time Traveling buddy, Lana. My favorite will always be their trip to the witch trial era of Salem. A native island girl, Lana had mastered the art of fire spinning at a young age. With the magical flick of a lighter, Addy lit up her fire poi and Lana bewitched the whole village. Bright trails lit up the area around her. Mesmerizing intertwined circles and hoops danced in her orbit. Too stunned to even believe their eyes, the villagers stared in awe. Tales were born that day. Legends incepted. When the flames receded, Adrian clapped a long slow clap striking clear in the dead silence of Salem. Lana bowed low and long. And again, like magic, the two disappeared.

"It's finally done," he dreamily whispers.

"It?" I inquire. "The Doomsday Device?!" For once, I am struck kind of incredulous. Will this be the last we hear of this particular peculiarity?

He merely nods in response. His face still frozen moon-faced.

I'm deciding whether to delve further into this new mystery or bail as originally planned, when I feel the first tremor. It's short and sweet like an aftershock. Like someone shaking the chair you're sitting on, then letting go.

It's then when I decide to head towards the door. He's too dazed for conversation and now's my chance to escape. As I step toward the exit, a bigger quake hits. This one is longer than I've ever felt. Seeming to get worse with every passing second. I grab the counter to steady myself and as the minutes pass, start wondering, When will it ever end?

I glance over at Uncle Addy and he's still smiling. He's mouthing words at me. But I can't make them out.

A bright light appears from what seems like nowhere. Yet everywhere. It flashes long and intense. Everything is white. Everything is hot. Everything is bright bright BRIGHT.

My retinas burn and I can't make out anything anymore.

Except that smile. That eerily serene smile.
And his moving lips.

"It works."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Australia: Hiking The Falls

It's still early in the park. 

We pull into Canyon Overlook and there is a fog still nestled lazily in valley. The mist tickles our faces. We are standing in the low laying clouds of Springbrook National Park.

As we begin our walk, ours are the first footfalls on the trail today. The day yet to fully awaken, the trail still damp from the night's rain. Our shoes squish over the damp leaves, mud and twigs underneath us. It's the perfect time for a hike - the weather cool, the air crisp, the valley almost completely our own.

At the top of Twin Falls, the waters of the mirror rivers slide swiftly over slick mossy rocks. Clear and cold. Bursting with great speed as it topples over the edge and falls fast over the steep cliff. We twist down the switchbacks and take in the tall tall trees. The canopy sways as a breeze steals through. The forest is alive with the symphony of various fauna. A Kookaburra trill tricks me into thinking there are monkeys in the trees. The cicadas echo each other as they communicate across the rainforest. Surroundsound nature.

At the bottom of the falls, I ask Josh, "Is that the only way to go through there?" I pronounce the last word with almost a second syllable. "They-ah." The Australian accent is rubbing off and I can't help but emulate. 

He smiles and nods as we both take in the path that winds right underneath the falls. It's not directly flowing onto the footpath, but there is a good spray veiling it. 

We're going to get wet.

"Here we goooo!" he cries as he dives under. I catch that impish twinkle in his eyes as he goes. The first few drops catch me off guard and I pause, getting a bit wetter than if I had just gone full on. Then I run, careful to not slip as I traverse under the cascade. "I don't like this!" I yell as I run under, laughing as the words flow out of my mouth.

On the other side, we are moist and the breeze brings goosebumps to my arms. We trek onward.

The sun begins to peak through the clouds and small rays poke amongst the canopy of the forest. The colors brighten. The greens intensify. 

The hike begins to head back and, ironically, this incline includes stairs rather than switchbacks. My favorite. Even though it is beginning to get muggy, the day is still young and we are thankful that this uphill is so much more pleasant than yesterday's: The never-ending stairs, the scorching sun.

"What temperature do you think it is?" I ask Josh, who has just removed his shirt.

"It's hard to tell since we've been walking," he stops. "I'm always hot so I can't estimate correctly." We pause as I catch my breath. "Maybe 70...?" 

"That sounds about right." I take into account that I am so much less hot than him right now. "It feels on the edge of humid. But still cool." We continue on and upward for a relatively easy return to the car park.

The Canyon Overlook has cleared up significantly since we had first arrived. The sun over the valley emphasizes a plethora of shades of green that I didn't even know existed. 

Our car is still sitting solo when we return to it. We hop in and prepare to start the day, satisfied with an early morning trek. 

Good morning and good bye, Springbrook Park. It's been swell.