That morning, a beautiful October day, when the weather was seventy degrees and there was not a cloud in the sky, I awoke to find in my wallet, just fifteen dollars cash. Let me add my bank account was most certainly negative, and I owed more than one person an outstanding cash debt which I had no idea how to repay. Also, the refrigerator was empty.
I packed my backpack and walked out to the strip malls. I planned on using a gift card my mom had got me for my birthday last week to Barnes and Nobles book store - $100. Thanks mom, but I could have really used the cash. There I purchased 3 DVDs and 2 books, none of which I needed but anything new seemed good at that point.
I then walked down to the Chinese Buffet. Where I sat and read one of my two new books for a bit, ate two plates of Chinese food, drank a Pepsi, and was out of there for $8.50 including tip. Upon walking out of the restaurant I was struck with the feeling of being in Florida, where I was lost, perpetually broke, and invaded constantly by sunshine and strip malls. I walked through the parking lot to the grocery store. From my back pack I pulled my Ziplock bag of change I had brought along to redeem in the Coinstar machine with the hopes it could purchase a bare amount of groceries, enough to make it through the next two days.
Turns out that Ziploc bag contained 23.35 worth of coin. I was able to purchase a catfish filet, a box of sliced mushrooms, a 2lb bag of rice, and a Vitamin Water - which I planned on drinking half way then topping of with vodka , but more about that later, and I received 11 and some change from my Coinstar receipt.
So far the day was going well. I returned to my apartment, unloaded my groceries, books, and DVDs from my back pack, and was pleased to discover that not only had I eaten a very big lunch, and made purchases I now had $17 in my wallet.
I planned on taking a hike up to the falls for an afternoon of fishing. A buddy of mine had been kind enough, at my request, to leave a couple boxes of worms on his front porch for me. So I packed my fishing backpack, my flip flops, filled my drink, grabbed my rod, and was on my way.
As was usual those days, I hid beneath my head phones and my sunglasses, listened to Kanye West most of the way as I walked first to my friends front porch, then on up to the Falls, a good fifteen city blocks I would guess. I barely noticed. Upon arriving at the falls entrance I was near exhausted and beginning to feel the effects of the vodka concoction I had been drinking most of the walk. I walked down the trail into the Falls, almost fell on a small rock on the way in. After slipping I looked down at it as if it was the rocks fault and not my own that I had mis-stepped. I stumbled further up the trial to where I could see the falls, and sure enough there were two fisherman there: one on each side, occupying both of the only suitable spots for fishing. There are certain unwritten rules of fishing etiquette. You certainly do not invade a 20 foot radius of another fisherman, especially in a creek situation, without some kind of prior permission.
I sit down on a rock, ready to simply give up and walk all the way back home. I roll a cigarette, I stand up and walk back towards the trail head and Hogs Hole, where I stop and decide that I need to at least make a few casts. I rig up, bait a worm. As I turn to make the first cast, I notice one of the fishermen, the one who had occupied my favorite spot, walking out. Seizing my opportunity, I rush back toward the falls, ford the creek in my flip flops, and make my way over to my favorite fishing spot on the far side, just beneath the falls. On my first cast into the froth, I get a big strike but miss the fish. A few more casts come up empty. I rebait the lure with a fresh worm, then land the perfect cast right into the spot I had been aiming for, in a brief patch of calm right at the base of the falls, in between two stronger currents. And of course, bang. The bobber dives. I pull up and set the hook. I feel good size on the end of the line. The drag peels as I try to real it in. I give the rod a second jerk to make sure the hook is well set, and I play the fish for a few moments. He comes closer then darts away several times. Finally I get him close enough to see a beautiful 16 inch brown trout with glorious color.
That fish proved to be the highlight and only fish of the day. I fished for another hour or so, finished my drink, packed up and trekked back home. On the way I was a struck out of nowhere with an intense sadness. Maybe it was the blocks I spent walking by so many people finishing their days, sweeping their porches, playing in their yards, walking their dogs and children, stopping to talk to friends on the street. Tears filled up behind my sunglasses. Every house I passed I wished was mine. I wished for the lives I passed, anything but my own. It all seemed so incredibly out of my reach. I found myself dodging strangers on the sidewalk, looking away when I passed them, even crossing the street at times. I ignored people on their steps and porches. Made not even an attempt at a hello to a passing stranger, and wiped tears from behind my glasses the whole walk home. I had found quite suddenly a crushing loneliness. It had been there for years, swimming under the surface. It would remain dominant, until I surrendered to Love.