Finding Billy Rudd

March 8, 2016

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Finding Billy Rudd

         My fingers ached with unbelievable cold, my feet bordering on frozen. Cold wasn’t the right word to describe the feeling; it was nothing when compared to the battles I felt grappling inside my body, deep gnawing pain, unrelenting, demanding as much attention as the cold appendages left to freeze in this foreboding place. I could do nothing but trudge forward, perhaps to die or worse, survive and suffer my demons, which held onto me like pitch from a pine tree.

Looking down the deeply cut gorge, I began to wonder what I was doing here; why did I agreed to this without questioning him? Was my mind so muddled that I didn’t understand what I was getting into? Get away from temptation; I heard those words and they made sense at the time. They made sense because he had said them, my only friend, surrogate family. Those men peddling their poison in the alleys weren’t my friends; they wanted money and didn’t care if I lived or died, a necessary evil. Whether I stole to get the cash or stripped my savings didn’t matter to them. But now nothing was left except the pain.

Finding this dubious retreat was another mystery, a blur of uncertainty, my brain addled by the dispute raging in my body. I wanted to turn back but back to where? Those cheap hotels in the crappy part of town, I couldn’t even afford a room. The worst part, those places were too close to the evil I needed to escape. Was I to end up like so many others on the street, a cup in hand, begging for change? The thought disgust me, yet this would be my life if I continued down the path I set foot on.

Speaking of paths, this one lead to a frozen hell, white and shades of gray offering no comfort. Here I was, dressed like some fucking Eskimo, the trail littered with stones, causing me to stumble every few steps. None of this wilderness was familiar to me; perhaps it seemed that way because of the struggle in my head. There were options to be had, if one thought about it. To lie down and die would put an end to it all, though some tiny bit of me wanted to survive. Survive for what, though?

The snow started when I left my horse at the opening of the ravine. It wasn’t much at first but grew and blew hard within the two hours up the crevice. Had it been two hour; did I wind my watch? Mountains and forest littered with waterways filled each step of my journey; snow deepening as I pushed toward my sanctuary. There wasn’t a living soul for miles, the scene void of humans, which was possibly better given my sorry state. I was tempted to turn back, retrace my steps, hoping the devil in my head could be erased by the promise of one more fix. I would have too if my horse hadn’t taken by my guide, returning to the ranch many miles away. This trek into the frozen hell was to be my salvation, whether I knew it or not.

This was the right direction, the only according to the man I didn’t know; he pointed me towards the split in the mountains, a stream gurgling its way toward a lake we left below. No need for a map, one trail lead through the gorge, no alternative routes to decide on. Every cell in my body confirmed how hostile this place could be, wild and unforgiving, waiting for me to make a mistake, a broken leg or ankle meaning death. I slipped and grabbed my way through bashed and bruised, though I felt nothing. Was it my soul pushing against the elements seeking promised comfort; I had no idea. No one in their right mind would want to be here, in this isolated place, the cold and rain threatening, inhospitable. But this was supposed to be my salvation, or so I was told, the path I was going to have to tread for the next year to get clean.

Being alive is not simply physical existence but a state of mind, a decision to persevere the senseless struggle we have started, finding some great meaning for it all. At this point, I was still straining for that meaning, elusive, nothing except a collection of words thought out by some armchair philosopher. There is the distinct possibility meaning doesn’t exist and I will perish in the womb of the wilderness. Yet something inside holds on, telling me there is a purpose and I am found in the end.

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