It was a morning like a lot of other San Diego mornings, when I first met Jay on the canyon ridge that was the western border of my hunting territory. Sunny. A little cool. A morning dove cooing that I "allowed to live," playing God like hunters do. It wasn't hot enough to start to simmer yet, for the dust to rise, or for the grasshoppers to set into their endless buzzing.
I'd gone a little farther out that way west, further than usual, but still it was turf I regarded as mine, so when I saw some strange big kid likewise carrying a rifle, it raised my hackles a little. Some poacher, no doubt. Then I guess I saw something I recognized. I knew there must've been some interior purpose weaving those oxide red trails together as we sized each other from a ways off – we were both doing the same thing in the same place together, both of us alone. I rightly guessed my west slightly overlapped his east, the ridge having been, up to that point, our natural divider.
We started walking together, about fifteen or twenty feet apart, like hunters do, through the sumac and black sage, the slender wild oat would've flecked our socks with foxtails, if we'd either of us had worn any. We traded shots, and impressed each another with the similarity of our styles; and with very little said we discovered how much alike we were.
Each of us had come from houses that were hard on the inside, and each of us were the youngest child – but that was enough of that. As kids, we sublimated that turmoil in our lives with much greater economy than we muster as adults. Our canyon stoicism balanced and calmed the subtle sense of injustice we held under—inculcated by irresponsible adults—and inspired our joint belief that there had to be a right way of doing things. In the canyon that morning we silently agreed there was, and we would bring it back with us, into the rest of our waking world.
It was in those kind of calculated approaches where we really met point for point, right down the line, planning along the same logic, or improvising with uncanny coincidence at every turn, meeting up in the same unusual places with a kind of precise tribal karma, like reunited platoon-mates on a "need-to-know" mission. The Mexican excursions, double-dates, crashing parties, a psychogenic exploration of Mount Cuyamaca – all the events unfurled as though planned in a slightly different dimension. One where we knew how to get away with everything.
By no design of our own, we ended up working together in that crazy little ski-shop across the street from one of San Diego's last neon-façade drive-ins, down on Sports Arena Boulevard. We connived, and conspired, and ate all the good jerky, and sold a lot of skiing stuff. Why, he was even dating the first girl I'd ever fought over, at age five, in the sandbox at Kindergarten – the beautiful Marylou, all grown up.
On that particular Cuyamaca day I mentioned the sun was sky-high and raging, and as we reached that state ourselves, Jay suddenly dropped everything and took off running full-speed down the side of the mountain, bounding hell-bent through the sumac, over the saltbrush, yucca, and fountain grass, boulder-to-boulder at a flat downhill dead-run. I lost my shirt following, and by the time I'd recovered it and wheeled away back down the mountain his trail was only a light luminescent whisper, a barely perceivable turbulence in the ether, but still easy for me to follow. Like in our lives, despite all the options, neither of us could have found any other path.
The trail ended in the shade of a weathered fir tree, where a young buck had lost his antlers. Jay stood there holding them, panting, his mouth open huge, twice the size of normal, his arms, much longer than they should have been. He'd truly reverted to a Paleolithic state, covered only with dense hair in place of his clothes. At that same moment, he told me later, I'd become "a reptile"– kind of a snapping desert tortoise-man. You could say psychogenic substances are funny that way. Very elemental.
Like it was always to be for the both of us, we had to go to those extremes to lose ourselves from the world of structure, and to find ourselves, our authentic selves, our true selves – even for just a few moments there in the wilderness.
...and there never seemed to be any consequences until we each ran long and hard enough to finally catch up to.
Years later, the paths would unravel, spin off, and lead us each with the same urgency in very different directions; but in that canyon dimension where our spirits met [and still inhabit], the morning sun stays low out on that western ridge. A little further out that way west, or east, than usual.
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
doesn't make any sense.