Cimmerian Shade

You and I, wrapped in the cloven colored sky,

Watch the beautiful twilight floating by;

And the nights shade, left over from summer rays,

Clothes a delightful dalliance.

The heat rushed into my face as I exited my car. I examined the house. It sat on a small hill. The garage and lower floor were nestled into the hillside, and the main entrance sat a top a small set of stairs. The exterior was painted a mellow green, a lilac green.

I inspected the inside of my car, mulling over what to bring in, but my thoughts were absent: they were with her. They were filled with enthusiasm, with joyful expectations. “I don’t need anything at the moment,” I thought “I’ll come out and grab it later.” The truth is, I wanted my arms free: free to embrace her.

I walked towards the house, my eyes to the ground, lost in thought. A subtle smile was perched on my lips. I lifted my eyes, and there she was, smiling coyly through the glass door. Her demeanor was excited and hesitant. She opened it and walked onto the porch as I made my way up the stairs. We extended arms and hugged; and the mightest avalanche of ephoria pounded my thoughts into a placid pool of bliss: my chest lept, my heart fluttered, and satisfaction wrapped itself around me in waves, over and over again. I rested my chin on her shoulder and my thoughts adjusted. “It’s good to see you” I said. “It’s good to see you too.”  I felt like a child all over again. If there was any doubt that I could love anyone, it was dispelled then and there. I was submerged in love: patient, pleasant, warm, kind, pleasing love. And it was all for her.

We unloaded my car, dragging in a cooler of food, a backpack of clothes, and a brown bag filled with bottles of wine.

I walked into the house and was met with wondrous woodwork, daedal designs that weaved their way into every facet of the home. This was no ordinary house built by ordinary men. This was a special house, crafted with keen skill and the dexterous hands of a lone laborer devoted to his trade. My eyes danced from once detail to the next, and then a voice appeared from below me. “Why hello there! You must be Michael!” I observed an older man with a burly gray mustache climbing up a small staircase from the lower sunroom. “Hello! Great to finally meet you Don!” We shook hands and exchanged the usual amicable small talk. A kindness emanated from him; his personality seemed shy and restrained, with only the occasional burst of light that gently escaped whenever he attempted a small joke. I complimented his home and he thanked me humbly in the most unassuming way.

She showed me to our room; I followed behind with my bags in hand while my heart danced in step.

I prepared grilled Salmon for dinner that evening, as well as a medley of vegetables: asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and pinch of parsley, all sauteed with extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. Don happened to have a “special” teriyaki blend procured from his favorite Japanese restaurant; a real treat, he says, because Japanese Chefs are super stingy with their recipes. I made sure to be impressed, and when I tasted it, I most definitely was: the glaze was exquisite. Sweet, but not overly, and it was nestled with hidden flavors of garlic, citrus, and other herbs. The dinner was fantastic: the choicest wine and salmon and, above all, company.

After dinner she casually suggested that we could take a bath, together, in the hot tub openly situated in the master suite. There was no hesitation in my response. She filled the hot tub. The rest of the night we grew in knowledge. Exhausted from the events of the day, and inebriated from the libations that loomed throughout the night, we fell asleep quite early. I awoke throughout the night several times soaking in sweat: the air conditioner was off for the evening and it was over a hundred every day the past week. I managed to go to bed, but at five thirty an alarm sounded. “Odd” I thought in my sleepy haze. My eyelids cracked and were met with blinding light. I looked at the clock confused. When the hell was it ever this bright at five thirty in the morning? Now I know why farmers manage to wake up so early. And why the hell is there an alarm for this hour? Then she turned and asked me, “I’m going for my twelve mile run. Do you want to join?” While I was unbelievably impressed and fully infatuated with her charismatic discipline, the idea of running twelve miles at that hour left the same reaction as jumping from a cliff onto jagged rocks: the possibility of my muscular one hundred and ninety five pound frame surviving such a task existed only in distant dreams. I did want to run though, but I encouraged her to go alone. She left and I explored the idea of sleeping longer but the summer heat and blinding rays penetrating through the windows prevented that option from ever materializing. Instead I laid in bed and watched humming birds court each other in hypnotic floating displays of majestic brilliance outside my window. After a short period of time I dressed myself and began my three or four mile run. The countryside was invigorating and enlivening: rolling crests of green grass and pastures reamed across the landscape. Wildlife seethed throughout the dense vegetation and open plains and soaring sky. The smells and sounds and sights saturated my senses, and I felt fully alive.

I arrived home drenched in sweat and absolutely beaten with exhaustion. After I caught my breath I journaled my thoughts and read a few chapters of Ender’s Game.

After Don prepared us a breakfast of eggs, hash browns, ham and waffles, we decided to explore the 2,700 person town or, more aptly, “village”.

We happened upon a civil war battle site named “battle of the bridge” and later discovered an estate sale auction in one of the neighborhoods that appeared to attract nearly everyone in the county, including the entire Amish community (I love the Amish!). Cardboard boxes of goods lined the backyard, side yard, and empty lot across the street. Families, children, old and young stood ’round a man dribbling words from a hand held microphone: the auctioneer. He rapped prices with a southern drawl that hung in the humid air. The occasional hand would flicker upwards and he’d raise the price, “five dolla five dolla five dolla we have five dolla do we have five fifty five fifty do we have five fifty… five fifty! six dolla do we have a six dolla now…” and slowly they’d make their way through the labyrinth of goods. At one point he stopped at a mechanical contraption and provided a brief description, “Naw here we have a werkout machine, a walking board,” and there was a laugh and commotion “or I guess they call it a treadmill.” Her and I looked at eachother and smiled with fond amusement. These little folk and their back yard auctions, stuck in prohibition, with their straw hats and thick suspenders.  It was quite a spectacle. And archaic at that.

Eventually we made it to our canoe destination on the river. Barry, as he introduced himself to us, was waiting with a canoe strapped to the top of his large old Tahoe. He was mild mannered and polite, soft spoken and friendly.  “So we have a three hour and a six hour lazy canoe trip” he said. The heat was in full swing and I imagined myself on the river for six hours, wondering if it was possible or enjoyable to canoe for that long in the heat. If anything it sounded like a challenge. “Well six hours sounds a bit long, you think if we trucked it we could get it done in three hours?” I asked. Barry’s face pulled back in distaste. “No no no! You’re not suppose to go fast. It’s called the lazy river. You want to go slow. You don’t wanna go fast, just take your time, enjoy the river. The six hour trip is definitely worth it and the best bang for your buck.” I looked at her and smiled with surrender. “Well then, I guess that sounds good. We’ll do that.” We loaded into his car and we stopped by his home while he ran our credit cards and had us sign waivers. We grilled him with every question we could muster during our short car ride with him: how he got into business, how the local economy was, what the local demographic was like, how he liked his life, where the best restaurants were located. It was only a fifteen minute drive but we were efficient with questions and satisfied with our answers.

We canoed for six hours, about 12 miles in all, in scorching one-hundred and five degree Kentucky heat. It was no joke. There was plenty of scenery to keep our senses entertained. Back woods Kentucky families posted up in the river bed in their lawn chairs, their cubicle sized shacks in the foreground with laundry lines extending from their sides. Gun shots accompanied our tour of the river. We passed the couple, rifle in hand. “A little target shooting?” I said light heartedly. “You bet! It’s my favorite thing in the world!” Her posy pink one piece wrapped over her shoulders and crossed her breasts in a deep V that connected at her belly button. Her dark roots chased after the blonde hair tied in a knot situated on the back of her head. “I don’t blame ya” I said with a twang in my voice “I’d be out here every day if I was you!” I tried to make small talk as we sheepishly floated on by. The river was pathetically slow that day, making its name “the lazy river” well suited. It hadn’t rained in over eight weeks. Though the levels were low, the water was exceptionally cool and clear thanks to the subterranean aquifers pumping continuous supplies of cool water into its currents.

We paddled the red canoed through the blistering humid heat, through the biting bugs that chased and bit throughout the duration. We talked about everything. Life. Love. Jobs. Happiness. Family. Children. Friends. Relationships. Six hours is a long time to canoe a river. And talking in the heat while your slowly growing more and more exhausted from beating the insects in between paddle strokes would be a challenge, except I was in her company, and that thought alone dissolved any penetrating distractions that would otherwise detract from having the best of times.

We had lunch on a river bank. An Amish family sputtered away from the bank in a small motor boat (Odd, I know!). A small fire crackled and white smoke rose over the river and into my nostrils: memories moved within me, memories of my youth, and camping, and my early pyrotechnic fascinations.

We pulled the canoe on shore and pulled out our sandwich bag from the dry sac. She brought the bread. As we were making sandwhiches earlier in the morning I noticed that the bread she brought was peculiar. Why? Because it was made for midgets: each slice was slightly smaller than the size of my palm. I could easily eat two or three or more of these small sandwiches. But I had to give it to whoever thought of restandardizing their loafs: they definitely make you eat less, and think twice about making more than one.

We ate raspberries with our little sandwiches. Mine was tuna. Her’s was hummus and vegetables and maybe turkey, but I couldn’t be sure.

We arrived home around five pm. Don had offered to make us his “special” Mexican burritos which, he mentioned, were quite good by his standards, and something of a specialty of his. We inquired earlier that day with the locals about where good restaurants might be and found that there were, in fact, no good resturants. Save, of course, the Mexican resturant, the only resturant anyone would recommend that we visit. We decided that we’d rather have our wine (it was a dry county!) and have Don grace us with his cooking abilities. He was making Mexican for us anyway, so why not.

We arrived home early and Don hobbled from his sun room in cartoon boxers waving his hands (or hand, since he had but one, but that’s a minor detail) and saying “Don’t worry, I’m not in my underwear!”, but it was clear that he was. He pulled over his shirt. It was backwards. “I didn’t expect you to be back so soon.” We explained how we annihilated that “lazy” river with our exceptionally intense “go-get’em” attitudes and finished slightly early. “I was only having a few cocktails and didn’t expect you to be back so soon!” Don continued apologizing. “Don’t worry,” I said “we’ll join you after we refresh ourselves, get some water and fill our stomachs with a bite to eat.” Don liked that idea. You could tell he was lonely, sharing the company of a twelve pound Lhasa Apso named Sophie. There was no significant other in his life, and none that could be guessed from his past. He was alone. Him and his dog. And his beautiful home. With no one to share it with save the wayfarers that stopped in for bed and breakfast a few times a month.

We talked over wine. Don had himself a bloody mary. We discussed a spectrum of topics, from his favorite bloody mary mix, to his travels abroad, to his real estate aspirations, and finally, at the peak of our intoxication, to his finances. He went so far as to show me all his investments and explain his savvy investing strategies. I entertained his enthusiasm.

Don soon began making dinner, but after all the alcohol, her and I faded to sleep on the couch, nuzzling close to one another. Don must have saw us while making dinner and caught some inspiration, for he fell asleep as well. We awoke several hours later to Don in a panic. “I completely fell asleep in the middle of making dinner! I’m so sorry! I don’t know how that happened!” It was a goofy scenario, as she said. All of us, tired, drunk, passing out, the dinner half cooked, the kitchen steaming, the TV murmuring in the background. How funny.

We quickly ate dinner and went to sleep.

We awoke the next day and had Don’s breakfast, but this time instead of waffles he made sourdough french toast. I was gorged.

The original caves we were going to visit happened to be completely booked due to the holiday weekend, so we engaged plan B and decided to visit two other caves, and meet her best friend at the second, more southern location.

We stopped at Diamond Cavern for the first part of our trip, and the Lost River Cave and Valley for the second, where we met up with her friend.

I drove back with her an hour north at the end of the day. My car was parked in the small town we had stayed at. I opted to ride with her. I missed her company already.

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