I used to know a man — a ‘nobody’ who wandered lonely as a cloud that floats over the high hills of Michigan. He would always keep the ends out for the tie that best binds because when the night grow old and turn cold, he’ll become his own genie.
Whether I shall turn out to be the captain of my own life or whether my island will sink in the deep before my eyes; or worst still, controlled by another, these few pages will tell.
When he brought me the news, I lifted the body as carefully as I can – with no inexplicable bruises; I moved quite slowly towards the edge of the boat with him before his shattered hope collapsed on cold cement. He held it together until the last person jumped through the hitch rack and then he broke down only when he’s in the relative privacy of the shore.
The long endurance test had me looking awesomely weird and pale-red but much to my surprise, I somewhat had enough strength to mutter “No Gut No Glory” in what could have probably been my ‘help-me-I’m-dying-over-here’ voice.
Sometimes, I do wonder why we are so steadfast in it; perhaps it’s just the encomium that follows after each endurance test that motivates us to live to try our confidence the next day.
And this is how it all begins….
Over the quaint and cryptic volume of a forgotten lore — Mark, my best friend and the leader of our four-man ‘RAMBO’ squad suggested we go hiking on his father’s Long-John, a relic kept by Mark’s dad with the hope of selling it to the highest bidder at the forthcoming auction sales in Michigan. I record that I was told (as I have been informed and believe) that Long-John is a dirt bike that originally belongs to Mr. Ludwig; a prominent black man from the late 80’s who was lynched on his way back home from Oklahoma.
The sound of the morning bell from the church across the street announced the beginning of a new dawn moments before I gently tossed my fluffy pillow to reach for my glasses. It was a Sunday morning. The day we had already planned for our road trip, the day we took our first ride on the long-John.
And for the very first time, I smelled no smoke from the chimney nor heard the loud noise from the old factory machines before my feet caress the floor of my bedroom. I woke up in twilight to breathe the fresh air of stately earned grace for the first time in Michigan.
Mark had always been the brave one, so I almost didn’t bother to ask how he stole the bike key from his father’s room, It never really occurred to me to ask if he knew how to ride one either.
What I had perceived of Long-John isn’t exactly what met my eyes on that Sunday morning. I’ve always thought that Long-John is gonna look really sapless and worn out, but surprisingly it was still as though it was some sort of a brand new bike that was properly preserved for the European tourist that wants to learn more about precolonial war and the famous history of America’s black slavery.
Mark’s father did a great job in maintaining his secret grail except for the dirty wheels which have some few missing spokes.
Without much quirkiness, I shrouded off the ill thoughts and fear of the unknown as we rode on the Long-John. We were young and clueless, but we continued anyway till we made our way down to the mountainous road.
The pristine scene of the cathedral built on the hilltop was what amazed me the most.
“Hey, Nick, we gonna have to stop right here to take a quick picture at the gate,” he said.
“Why should we do that? This place looks so deserted” I enquired in a shaky voice.
“We are only going there to take some photos, and if we are lucky, we might just discover something really special therein.”
“I thought we are going for a road trip and not sightseeing?” I asked begrudgingly as I step down from the Long-John.
“Just go in there and take a look around, I promise we will be out of there before you spell J-A-C-K.”
Mark has always been the brain house; we call him that because his plans are always picturesque. So I obliged and followed Mark to the hilltop.
“Wait,” he said disappearing right inside the dark entrance of the cathedral gates on his heels.
The sun shone in its full glory at the entrance of the cathedral, throwing its entire ray on my shoulder. I stood there like a pack of card, still, confused and scared with different thought racing through my head. Since I joined the ‘RAMBO’ squad, I learned how to mutter “NO GUT NO GLORY” whenever I’m in distress, and this time I muttered aloud with no response coming from my friend.
I’m claustrophobic and acrophobic as well; too much for a nerd, right?
I like the sunshine on my shoulders, but the sunshine in my eyes makes my headache. I can’t see clearly even with my glasses, so I decided to go with the lesser evil.
In rapt tremor and shivery, I made my way through the pitch black entrance of the cathedral with the help of the veneer on its wall. I died a hundred times in that dark aisle before I made it to the ridge; an old canopy walk that connects the entrance of the cathedral to the porch house.
“C’mon Mark, you’re not funny, I know you’re out there” I hollered as I clutched still to the dangling ridge and sauntered till I got very close to the porch house.
“What other surprise have you got huh? Bring it on” I shouted…
Just before I could let out a heavy sigh of relief to congratulate me for fighting my fear, from nowhere, I was pushed, and then I found myself falling off the ridge.
With my body dripping wet from the lake water beneath the ridge, I raised my eye to see Pete and Kevin beaming from ear to ear as they chant “NO GUT NO GLORY.”
“Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something, and I think you’ll understand” Mike shouted from the other side.
“It was your turn to overcome your fear, the time to unveil your new self to the world, so I arraigned with Kev and Pete…” he continued as he explained the motive behind our impromptu road trip.
“We helped Kev to overcome his fear of water last month, and today we decided to help you with yours…”
“Hey, look over there she’s waiting for you,” Kevin said.
And then I saw her face, and I love the colorful clothing she wore and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair. I’ve loved her since the day our path crossed in high school, couldn’t approach her to tell her how I feel, but not anymore.
Now, I’m a believer with no trace of doubt that the little thing I did with my friends at the ‘RAMBO’ squad isn’t entirely a waste.
And with her by my side, we made it back home on the Long-John.
Once upon a dreary midnight, I dreamt a dream.
I remember I used to know a man, a blameless wight, who for a year or more was a ‘nobody’ – but with the help of his friends, he became kryptonite.