five steps to the right and i’d be on my way into the mouth of the world.. icy sludge in the middle of the path. better to stay close to the walls of the canyon. especially with my converse sneakers and lack of grace. i climb onto a ledge and through a hole where part of the canyon juts out. i was actually more terrified working with my father, catching 4 X 8 sheets of 3/4 inch plywood on the roof of a two story lakehouse, than i am now, confidently jumping rock to rock like its mission impossible 2. jeanne and mel come out and join me, but jeanne won’t jump the rocks. smart. we look out at the canyon, take a few breaths…it’s breathtaking. yuk yuk.
a little farther down and we pass a blanket of snow to our left. it’s white and crumby, like the bottom of a bag of sour patch kids. being a few steps ahead, i look back to mel, seeing a flicker of recognition. we know what must be done. she bends, scooping the ice in her hands, compacting it with her palm and fingers. i do the same, eyeing her progress all the while. we stand, facing each other. no tumbleweeds, just the wind. it’ll have to do. i throw, she dodges. she throws, i dodge. bloodthirsty, we go for more. i load my cannon hand and hurry down the path. jeanne beside me, in my way; i grab her and move her in front of me. mel stops, waits. jeanne keeps her hands in her pockets, staying out of it, an innocent bystander. innocence, the first casualty of war (platoon, best picture 1986). a few more shots and finally, a hit! right kneecap, the white flakes cascading down her blue jeans. my sneakers and empty grace tank get the better of me and i slip on the icy sludge, bringing back my AWOL common sense: “you’re snowball fighting in the grand canyon, you asshole. watch your step for chrissakes.” my common sense has got a mouth on it.
up this morning a half hour early. i had a hard enough time getting to sleep. grab a quick shower, no soap, just water to wake me. throw on my clothes for the day, pack all my things away. gary’s late. no calls. unusual. i pick up mccarthy’s ‘the road’. only a few pages left anyway, and less to pack if i finish. a page goes by. where’s gary? ‘my alarm didn’t wake me up’ he says. ‘i’ll throw some clothes on and be over.’ i finish the road. heartbreaking. optimistic. humanity survives. a nice thought. i’m ready to go now. my trip to the airport ends with dane cook. he jokes about not having a condom when it’s time for sex. i laugh, which is a surprise; cook doesn’t do it for me. ‘kick the mean boys in the shins’ i say to gary as i enter the airport. the attendant flirts with me a bit. ‘hey wally’ says jeanne. i’m turn to see them and i know i’ve made the right decision to tag along. we joke with mel’s parents at the airport. we joke at the security line. we joke over breakfast. we joke as we board the plane. we joke we joke we joke. i sleep. las vegas is colder than i thought. a half hour at the car rental place. jeanne knows now that i sleepwalk and i have her in tears. we get the car and drive for a bit. i need a hamburger. we eat at a&w. not great, but it does the job. we myers-briggs a bit. i fall alseep in the car and wake up at the hoover dam. i take pictures for my dad; i think he’ll appreciate the bridge they’re building. we drive. we joke some more. i take the wheel. it’s fucking cold as i pump gas. we stop to look at the grand canyon before we check into the lodge. its fucking beautiful. i remember sitting on my father’s lap at the edge of a mountain in connecticut. we take some pictures then head to check-in. we set our stuff down, bust out the jim beam and coke. we eat. onion rings are bad, but the conversation is stellar. we head out into the night, more jim beam and coke and stare at the canyon in the night. still fucking beautiful. i toss a big rock into the belly of it, i can hear it go down. mel does the same. jeanne tries, but the rock catches just before the edge. we point and laugh at jeanne for a while. rinse and repeat a few times, then back inside. pajamas. i show them my mom’s memorial videos. i cry. we laugh. we film ourselves with my new mac camera. we laugh some more. the neighbors complain we’re too loud. we laugh again, silently. toothpaste. we retire to our journaling. i write this in bed in a lodge approximately fifty feet from the edge of the grand canyon. i’m happy. i miss you.