Disclaimer*** Call this fiction if you need to. Also, forgive any spelling errors as I'm typing this up on a laptop and I'm very not used to using one for extended lengths of time. Its gonna be long.
Thursday after work I was too tired to cook. Not in the mood, LONG frazzling day at work, and just grabbed a pizza on the commute home. It normally takes me about 45 minutes to get home from my work in downtown Dallas and after grabbing pizza, I was about 10 minutes out. Delicious pepperoni and cheezy greasy goodness smells filling the car... and I "zoned". I really don't know how I ended up passing the side street into our neighborhood, going all the way through Cedar Hill, and well on my way south on 67 headed southwest. I called my husband and apologetically told him I was going to be late, where I was, and that I had pizza. Hung up....
...and almost missed the turn on 287 to come back north.
Took the back road home through a little ghost town called Britton with a wonderful falling down Citizen's bank. I needed to be out. To feel the wind.
Fine. I can't go tonight. I have obligations. I promise... tomorrow.
Friday.. I love my job. Really and truly. I get to problem solve, firefight, and screw around more than any place I've ever been before. I'd already thrown a couple changes of clothes in a bag the night before.. so at 6, I don't think they realized I'd gone until after the smoke trails cleared from my tires. This one was for me.
South on 45. Traffic doesn't bother me that much, and I wanted to get out of the metromess before I started playing. I knew I wouldn't start really feeling things until I got into the pines anyway. I'm headed for Galveston, but as 287 looms into view in Corsicana, I swing that way. Southeast. My home. Again and again, I'm called to one area. Out in the Angelina national forest. Deep woods. As the miles speed past the smell changes. First, prairies and grasslands. Warm, rich, but dry. I can smell the dust. Oh, its still got a lot of green... it is May after all, but its a hot May. As the terrain changes, the smell changes. The feel of the air. The feel of the heat itself is lessened. Entering the edge of the forests around Palestine and my soul sings. Finally. Rest. Now it truly begins. Take a small break at a gas station cafe in Palestine, and start talking to the lady at the counter as I drink my sweet tea and relax. She seems a bit amazed I'm out here "all by my little lonesome", so far out of the way from Dallas to Galveston, and going to go camping??? Me? All by myself??
But aren't you afraid? So many things can happen on the road, and I've heard bad things happening to single women.
Then, I'll deal with them. Bad things can happen to you at home, just getting to work every day there are a thousand things that could happen. You can't spend your life in fear of what Might happen, or you'll miss the reason for life itself.
She laughed and tossed her hair back, leaning across the counter.. "So, sage of Dallas, what is the reason for life?"
The experience of being alive.
Tea finished, it was time to go. The forest, and eventually the gulf calling... beckoning.. Come. See. I pulled out into the cooling early evening air, hopefully leaving her with something to think about. I don't know if she'll ever follow, but maybe... just maybe... I have liberated another mind.
Trees. I can't stay still for long out here. I need speed in these woods. When I was a child and we would pull in from Oklahoma, the first thing I would do would be get a few deep breaths.. to smell the forest, to smell home. Then the shoes would come off, and I would run. Until I could run no more. The thrill of running through the forest, through the trees. Eventually, I would stop, then just sit and listen. It was very hard to get me inside when we were down here.
Night time in deep east Texas. Well, I meant to go to Galveston.. really! But I'm having far too much fun out here. I guess it will have to wait until tomorrow... but wait.
Over on the edge of the light.. a shape. Keeping pace with me. I've felt and seen this before. When I was a child, I would welcome them. Audibly. Mom always knew I was a bit... strange. I hadn't done that since I'd grown up, and certainly not with my ex-husband in the car the few times he deigned to come out here. But I had never been out here alone. Free to do as I would. Nobody with me to say I'm weird, strange, "cracked", or what have you. I smiled.
Hello old friend. It is good to see you again. Come and talk a spell if you like.
I feel a smile.. a warmth.. the smell of night jasmine and fresh crushed pine needles fills the car... but its not time yet. Its time to run. To fly. Speed increses, Twisty, windy, curvy roads.. The joy of flight. The closest I can come. My machine and I are one... smiling as we speed through the night, until exaustion overtakes.
Livingston state park. Suitably deep woods. Proper smells. I pull in around 2 in the morning... setting the alarm on my phone to go check in with the ranger station / park office at 9 when they open. Pull out my tent and sleeping bag ... and air mattress.... sorry folks, if you were there that night, I didn't mean to wake you... and settle in.
...and start listening. Wind. high above me in the treetops. Skittering a few wisps of high thin clouds across the stars. Starlight. So bright, so beautiful. Hearing the wind as it travels through the treetops, rolls, dips into the underbrush. As it plays with the leaves. So many scents on the wind here... and as I lay there, listening to the wind... watching it around me, the scent of jasmine again. Very faint, but it is there. Footfalls.. slow and light, lighter than a human would make... especially with the thick carpet of pine needles all around my site. I am tired, but I know.. it is time. I pull on some clothes and step outside the tent.
I've never understood why some people need a flashlight out here. Yes, it is dim, but unless its raining, the starlight is plenty bright enough to see by. Sitting on the edge of the campsite is a feline form, with its head about level with my waist. Golden eyes reflecting the starlight, and watching my every move. I take a deep breath and decide if I'm wrong about this, no mere tent is going to hamper those claws or teeth, zip up the tent behind me, and go sit on the ground with my back against a tree.
Slowly, she pads up to me. Purring deeply. Watching me still. Letting me know I have seen her before. Over a year ago, deep in these woods, in a way that I could not dismiss. Forcing me to see, and to believe that she was there. Then, as now, when I saw her, I knew.. she was a part of me... she was me. Without the constraints of work, of family, of bills. I smile and reach out my hand ... as she squarely headbutts me in the chest. As with any housecat, it is a sign of affection, but I am grateful I had the tree behind me, or she would have bowled me over. Gently now, she places her nose to my forehead and purrs even deeper. Turning, she looks over her shoulder and starts walking away. I see a faint trail, leading off into the forest in the starlight.. the nighttime music calling. Just the tip of her tail flicking, she pauses for me to follow, then starts off down that trail. All exaustion banished from my mind, I get up and start walking. Twists and turns of the path, sometimes down to the lake's edge, sometimes you can barely hear the frogs piping from the the cool black water.
Further and further we go, turning off the main trails, through a barb wire fence, and down what must have been a rabbit trail... until we stop at a clearing.
Immediately I know this place. I've dreamt of it since I was a child. I had thought I might have been here, on a fishing trip with my uncle, as that would have been the only rational way to explain the memory, but my uncle would have never fished here. It is a small pool. Clean, clear water. As clear as the best kept swimming pool.... and much much cleaner. Bubbling up from below, it is ice cold. Jasmine and wisteria climbing the pines around the clearing... creating a living curtain from the outside world. Night jasmine in full bloom, filling the area with the scent and looking like little white stars in a curtain of deepest green. She stops and drinks from the pool, and I do the same, feeling complete refreshment from the cool, sweet liquid.
Why did you turn your back on me?
I stammer and sigh. Obligations. Responsibilities. Real life. I had no choice. I was with those who could not understand. Years I spent doing what was expected of me. What others wished for me. I did it well, and I made those people I loved most, happy.
I have always been here. Do your needs matter so little, you would sacrifice me to those who would betray you for a thrill? Who could not know, could not understand, and refused to see you for you?
I had no choice. To be accepted, to be loved, I had to lock you away from me. I had to slip on those chains. I eventually broke free, but even now, I hide most of what I am. Those who would love me and accept me do not need to see everything.
Love is complete or not at all. You know this. You live by this. Acceptance is total or it is worthless. You judge people by double standards, allowing them faults and lies you could never live with in yourself. You lie to yourself and to those you love most by hiding who you are... who I am.
What should I do then? Speak my mind? Attack those who irritate me, or have wronged me? I, WE, are shapechangers.. chamelions.. wandering through time.. I know this.. I've always known. I change myself for those around me to be most comfortable. I've been changed for so long, I don't know who I am. What in god's name should I do?
Just be you. You know your own soul. You ignore your own needs for the needs of everyone else. Trying so desperately to be accepted, you lose yourself in others. Be the shapeshifter, but remember me. Remember your own skin.
Running my fingers through her luxurious pelt, I smile. I'm nowhere near as tame as someone tried to make me. Leaning back, I find I can keep my eyes open no longer, and with a parting worry that I need to check into the ranger station in the morning and that my cell phone is still back in the campsite, I drift off into slumber.
I'll come back to this later... speaking of unable to keep my eyes open any longer....