Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arc, goddamnit

“Arc, goddamnit”

The last time I spoke those words, screamed them really, I was naked and dancing wildly about a campfire a few clicks south of Hancock, Maryland on the C & O towpath to DC. I had stopped in that interesting little town earlier in the day to replenish our water supply and pick up a bottle of Lignanore Terrapin White at a packy, or package stores as they call them in that part of the country.

The wine would complement the two ears of sweet corn I picked from a field the boys and I discovered just off the trail that morning. Farmers always plant a little extra for raccoons I had learned and probably wouldn’t mind us helping ourselves to a modest share of the harvest.

Our goal that day was the Little Pool campground right around the 120 mile mark, a primitive site with a pit, picnic table, and flat piece of ground for a tent smack dab on the bank of the Potomac River. Though it was late August the summer season had been kind and gentle to us and most of our three months on the trail system were slight, neither too hot nor too cold.

The breeze off the water, campfire at my back, boys at my side, a good drink, and roasted sweet corn fresh off the stalk, perfection doesn’t get anymore perfect for me. And yet my mind was caught on something and I couldn’t shake it.

Pittsburgh was more than a month behind us but a conversation I had there had crept alongside ever since. Over dinner with my future literary agent we discussed the idea of writing a book about the walk. Of course I had given it some thought prior to that evening but I didn’t want to get weighted down by it.

“One thing a great story needs”, my agent related to me, “Is a good character arc”. Now I knew what she meant despite never having published a book before. One of my favorite movies is Adaptation in which Charlie Kauffman struggles with the issue but I never really put it into a personal context.

Yet there I was 214 miles later, supping on sweet corn and swilling wine and reflecting on her words…

“What if there is no arc at the end of the walk? How does one make oneself arc? To sell a book you need an arc. The public demands that you arc. Arc me. Arc you…”

And so went the inner monologue until it became quite maddening. Stripped from all pretenses by the wine and fueled by the fire beside me, the rage I’d kept inside all those years since I lost Malcolm fulminated into a fury.

I tore off my clothes and danced feverishly around the campfire screaming at myself, “Arc, goddamnit. Arc”. As though the savage in me could some how summon the will of God.

Perhaps it was my own one act, one man rendition of Lord of the Flies. But trust me; it wouldn’t be something you’d pay to see.

Today is the three year anniversary since Hudson, Murphy, and I left Austin and although I have managed to keep my clothes on most of the time since then, that night still burns so brightly in my mind.

Looking back I guess I had hoped and prayed for, even naively believed that the walk would somehow heal my busted heart and crossing the finish line would forever close that chapter in my life. Instead, it’s more shattered now than when I started and if there has been an arc, it’s inverted.

Meteorologists say the second half, the one after the eye of a hurricane is the worst and maybe that’s why Murphy’s cancer has been harder on me than that of Malcolm's.

There’s no great quote, no profound metaphor or life lesson I have today.

Instead, I’m taking Murphy to a local Irish pub appropriately named Murphy’s to toast a pint that we’ve made it this far.

Happy third… cheers to the fuzzybutts. Long live the fuzzybutts!


hiStories of Life said...

Love this Luke! Also the C&O is such a fabulous walking/thinking/yelling path! :) here's to a pint for Murph at murph's and here's to the third! Much love, Kathleen

Solitude.Peace said...

Happy Thrid indeed! That is awesome. I laughed when reading this because I can see you explaining this story. This was a great post and so much fun to read. I can just see you and Murphy throwing back that pint!

So proud of you, your spirit is tremendous.