Flashback: It's Come To That

This is what I wrote the last time I was here by the ocean.

It’s been a long night because Bro got into the grease from the washed out frying pan, originally from the caribou, and it gave him diahrrea all night. So every couple hours all night long I’ve gotten up, walked him out to some grass, and waited while he shat. Now it’s morning and it’s eleven, earlier than I normally wake up, but I’ve been awake for a while so it all evens out, right?

I take Bro out one more time, walk down to the beach and squat under some pilings to pee with him. The ocean has been here and left her seaweed, long ropes, sea monsters, and rosey strips strewn across the beach. I’m careful not to pee on any of her markings. No disrespect here.

In the van I cook up some broccoli and kale and eggs and masala paste that I got at a going-out-of-business cheap stuff store. It’s hot. Really hot. I remember the first time I had Indian food my girlfriend laughed and said I was holding my lips out from my mouth all cute. A year ago we were an us and we were in the desert and it was my birthday and we had chili and chocolate cake with Darcy and Darrin and I bled through my skirt. Now I’m a me and I’m laughing at myself in my van, drinking water and brushing my teeth to stop the burning.

Down on the beach I practice standing in the rocks. My sacroiliac joint is all swollen up again, even though I think I popped it back in last night. If you stand right the whole world spins, but even if you don’t stand right the whole world is moving here. Bro finds a stick and I throw it. I worry he’ll go in the ocean and get disoriented and not know which way is back to me. Twice now I’ve had to go in rivers after him, and if I went in the ocean after him we could both end up in China, bloated corpse left-overs from a game of fetch. The ocean doesn’t go one direction like the river. You never know what way it’s going to go. I throw the stick anyways, away from the ocean, and I guess I’d go in after Bro, too.

There are long ropes of bull kelp (I think that’s what it’s called) washed up on the beach. They are brown and orange and soft and transluscent and dried. I’ve read that you can chop them into pieces and bake your appetizers into them, like ready-made sushi wraps. They look like earth worms and sea serpents to me and I’m afraid of them even though I know they can be reduced to sushi.

There are shells too, broken and whole and all around. If I lived in a house I might take some, but I live in a van and don’t have space for such things now. A year ago, in Washington, my girlfriend stole shells from a no shell taking zone at a beach that was a park. In the middle of the night, I woke up and stole them back to the ocean. She never noticed, and now I wonder if anyone would notice if I stole their toys back to the earth in the night.

Between the kelp and the driftwood and shells there are pink and red veils. Like rose petals, or guts. I squat down to look at a pile of them. They are translucent, bloody, and stinky with thousands of layers. Exactly like intestines, deposited on the beach. Maybe this is what I’m afraid of, the guts of us all, washed up by someone unpredictable.

Suddenly there is a noise, a great noise, and a fighter jet speeding over the horizon. I run and run and run. Bro wants to stop and pee, which I think makes it true what Darrin said about people being afraid of bears but oblivious to the cars and fighter jets about to mow them down. Of course it turns out to be a friendly fighter jet, just practicing at blowing people up and not doing it for real. Bro was right. What was I thinking?

I write in my journal and watch the sun creep down from the sky and the fog wrap itself around the mountains, and then the clouds and wind come whipping in and it is night. The moon is big and so is the ring around it. Snow, my father would say, two days. I howl at the moon and sing it a song about love and falling apart and coming together. This far south, it could be rain rather than snow. It’s so warm here.

I make caribou and eggs and kale for supper and I go to an open mic night at a bar where I let a man buy me a drink. I forget, though, that regular bars aren’t strip clubs, and I can’t say “thanks for the drink, wannadance? Okay, I’m gonna go make some money, seeya.” Instead you’re stuck with some drug dealer from Portland turned clingy Alaskan fisher man all night long. (Get this: he actually said to me, “you don’t seem like a stripper to me, you seem like a real person.”) At least the music was fucking great.

Later, I stand on the beach in the dark. The waves are almost as tall as me when they crash, and I strip my shirt off so I can feel the spray. It’s cold. I’m alive. The ocean goes on forever and ever and ever, with all of our guts wrapped up in it.

When I get back to the van I take some ginger in a jar and walk up to the little bar on the spit for hot water. There are two men there, an old one from across the bay and a young one from Portland. They ask where I’m from and I tell them I live in a van.

“Oh,” the old one says, “van camping, then?”

“It’s really van dwelling,” I tell him.

He laughs, straight faced. “Oh, it’s come to that, has it?”

I suppose it has.


  1. Tara as an avid photographer, what I’ve just read has created the most poignant photo in my minds eye. I am awed by your ability to create emotional images with your words.

    Pondering, pondering, pondering…Laurie

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