Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Leaving the Grand Canyon…

(No, this doesn't mean I've stopped work on the new book…)

File this under the "Because you asked for it" section.

When I started work on this new book, Vicky would ask me, "Where does it end?"

My reply would be, "Whatever date I stop writing it on - that will be the end of the book." That seemed reasonable, I supposed, but I realized later that it made for a horrible ending to a book. Books need story arcs and development of some kind and ending it "Whenever" didn't fulfill any of that.

Then, a few weeks ago, Vicky and I realized what the ending should be. I should return to the Grand Canyon and face the demon I'd left behind when I went to kill myself, years ago. That's an ending!

So, we packed up the car and set off Saturday morning for my return - not realizing, of course, that Memorial Day weekend would be a pretty dumb time to return. After driving through the Monster, years ago, there wasn't a soul there. Saturday, it was packed!

We had to stop over a mile before we reached our goal, because of the long line of cars waiting to get in. Slowly, then, we progressed. I was nervous the whole - the whole trip! Mind you, I didn't think I'd suddenly get the urge to jump. (And, writing today, I can tell you with some certainty that I probably didn't.) But it was like chasing a ghost, following the trail of my own specter, that broken man who had come out here to jump over the side.

Waiting there to get in, in bumper to bumper traffic, it began to rain. Perfect, I thought. Of course, I'd be welcomed back with rain!

But, upon entering, the rain stopped. We found a place to park and we walked to the edge.

I didn't know what to expect.

We got to the rim… and here's what happened in the first, few seconds there, which I didn't tell Vicky. Like working an old wound - my shattered wrist, say - something popped inside. I felt something inside of me whimpering, weak. "Oh, god," it said. "I really wanted to jump." My guts did a summersault. But I remained okay. It was actually kind of anti-climactic. I said, "Yep. Really big hole in the ground."

I could see nowhere that I could have jumped, no precipice that led straight to the bottom. There was always some kind of slope. I would have spent hours looking for the right spot.

I turned to Vicky. "Okay, let's go," I said.

Well, she wanted to spend a little more time there than that. We took some pictures at the edge. Then, we drove to some tables and had ourselves a picnic.

I hope you'll allow me to digress for a moment to mention how great Vicky is. She's wonderful. She let me walk out to the edge and didn't once ask me if I was okay. She knew I was conflicted but didn't do or say anything to make me think she thought I was still crazy. She had faith in me. And then, she made me lunch under some wonderful shade.

Returning to the place where you nearly killed yourself is a lot like walking over your own grave. She knew I needed to do it and she had a picnic ready for me there.

Could I love her more?

After, as it was getting late, we started to drive out. We took Highway 64, south, to US-180, which led to Flagstaff. We were heading to Phoenix and I would normally take the major highways, 40 to 73… but we decided to do things a little different.

We drove on a road we'd never been on, without a map, to wherever it went. We weren't entirely sure it would take us to Flagstaff. We navigated entirely by dead reckoning.

"It's how I do most things," I told her. "Writing. Acting. Most relationships are navigated by dead reckoning."

"Even ours," she asked, with a smile in her voice.

"Especially ours! How do you think I knew to propose two months after we met? I'd been burned so many times before but there was no doubt in my mind that you were the one."

On the horizon, a massive thunderhead painted the sky with lightning - another Monster waiting for someone to pass through. But not me. Not this time.

And so we drove into approaching night, not looking back once.

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