Monday, March 21, 2011

Unseen (part 8)


Tonight I lie, with a full belly and clean wet hair, in the cozy berth of a sailboat moored in a local marina. The only smell this ship gives off is a hint of diesel fuel, so I suppose it's fairly new. The owner is in Florida visiting his mother, and his family considers his recent purchase of a boat to be the sign of a mid-life crisis; they're not likely to use his expensive toy while he's away, so it's just me, the narrow berth and the sea tonight.

Sometimes I forget just how pleasant a boat can be for a temporary habitation. I love the compact qualities of a sailboat, how every inch of space is made useful. I love the feel of being rocked to sleep by the soft, steady breathing in and out of the sea. And as always, I find and focus on the sense of warm radiant satisfaction that comes from being self-contained, self-reliant, unmoored, unseen, alive.

It took a long time to find that feeling. When I left Corey for good, I was frightened and exhausted, a shell-shocked, weeping mess. I was so green I didn't know the first thing about living outside -- I had no skills to make money, and only the sketchiest idea how to find food and shelter -- and for the first month I lived almost completely in the woods, cold, wet and terrified of being caught by other people or savaged by wild animals. Having skipped a meal once or twice in my entire life up to that point, I went from being exquisitely well-fed to being almost constantly hungry. And I stank. Even if I'd wanted to curb my desperate loneliness by going among people, I doubt my three-weeks-unwashed ripeness would have been welcome anywhere.

Then one day, following the train tracks west, I discovered a warm and empty farmhouse. The children were in school and the mother gone into town to run errands. At that point I was so desperate I didn't hesitate; as soon as I was sure the place was really empty I opened the back door, let myself into the kitchen and shamelessly raided the fridge. I indiscriminately wolfed down leftovers and cheese and milk and fruit, anything I could get my hands on, never stopping to think how the family would react when they came home and found Goldilocks had been in their refrigerator.

In fact I was so busy filling my hungry belly that I failed to keep alert, and when I heard the sound of a car door slamming outside I froze in terror. I had just enough time to close the refrigerator, stand out of the way and put a breath charm in place before the mother came in, lugging several heavy bags. Too late I realized I'd made myself invisible, but not unsmellable; the mother sniffed the air, gagged at the funky odor I'd introduced to her kitchen, and proceeded to spray a thick fog of Lysol which nearly made me sneeze. Fortunately I managed to hold the charm in place just long enough for her to move out of the kitchen, so I could slip out the front door and bolt for safety. From then on, though, I knew I had a reliable method of finding food and shelter. (Also from then on, I never passed up a chance to bathe.)

It took some time to figure out ways to get by without using magic; I never realized how completely I'd relied on the knack all my life until I suddenly had to make do without it. But somehow I managed to survive and eventually to thrive on this makeshift way of living. I discovered survival skills by experience or accident, honed them with practice. I became self-disciplined, my mind teaching my body that it could temporarily be cold, or hungry, or even lost, because I would find it warmth and food and a place to stay in a day or two. And eventually, when I was proficient enough to keep myself alive, I even found something to live for.

I know I have every reason to be proud of myself. I've taught myself how to live outside a safe harbor. I've had a warm meal and a hot shower today. I've been discreet and unremarkable in my bearing, and no one has noticed me. And tonight I rest in luxurious quarters, rocked by the sea; I should have remarkable dreams.

I just wish I could sleep.



LDahl said...

I just read this... I'm so hooked, I've gone back to the beginning to read the whole thing. You could have started the story here... as it is a great beginning:))) MMmmm... I wonder what I'll find at the real first part?

Soozcat said...

I'm very pleased you like this part, and hope you'll enjoy the rest as well! This story has definitely grown in the telling...