Sabina, getting ready to leave for an obligation, took a moment drink me in. I was bedecked in shorts, my hikers, a pullover, a t-shirt, and my camouflaged cap with a lizard stitched on it. I was placing things in my pack and it really was no secret what I was doing; a walkabout.
Research, is how I rationalize it; travelers the world over have been given to asking me about trails in this part of our Sahel and it behooves me to be in the know. I always promise Sabina I'll have a miserable time without her, but she doesn't believe me for a second. Outside of perhaps Whistler-a canid quadruped verses a hominid biped-such exercises are my bits of solitary time these days. She knows I've always enjoyed walking; be it within the borders of the greater metroplex or off in the bush.
"If ten years ago, someone said to you that you'd be such an avid outdoorsman, what would you say?" This is an old bit of dialog between us, being part joke, part rhetorical question, and part mathematical formula.
"That they were probably smoking crack through a lightbulb," I replied. My stock answer. "Fuck, me five years ago most likely would recognize the me here and now."
Five years back was when we were up on a picnic. A lark. That's when I decided I wanted to move to this funky little mountain township, and she told me if we could figure it out, we should do it. A romantic might have done a shruggy-thing, like a girl first falling in love. I haven't got a romantic bone in my body, but I might very have fallen in love with Sabina all over again when she said that.
Ten years back, I was heretical Tibetan Buddhist bookworm who spent late nights in coffeehouses or on downtown street corners chain smoking and watching the eking and scratching comedy, tragedy, drama, and irony of a species of half-bald monkeys that call themselves Man. I was dying my hair burgundy, because the first manifestations of gray, when I was twenty-five, just would not do. There were not as many tattoos, and the nose ring and hoop in my right earlobe were still a little bit off. I utilized public transportation and had walked the length and breadth of the metroplex more than once, and sometimes just for something to do. Still, my getting out into the bush was heading back out into the badlands of eastern Colorado to visits my parents. The mountains were something that made the sunsets striking and occasionally foretold of incoming storms, nothing more.
I don't know what I'd say to me from ten years ago. Or even five. Of course, depending upon your philosophical bent, the whole me thing is a phantasm anyway. There is no you or me only a moment in which the untrained mind tries to affix labels to make sense of said moment. However, such tangents are better reserved for late night rants over too much coffee and too little sleep where the parties involved are far too impressed with their own intelligence.
Thankfully, the ability to manipulate the quantum and go back and speak to ten years ago me is nigh on impossible at our current level of understanding. It would be bedlam otherwise. You know we'd all be doing it with years gone ghosts of ourselves. A bunch of if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now revisions of such absurdity that would make Douglas Adams-if he wasn't quite dead already-cross his legs and blush.
It doesn't stop the mental exercise, now does it? Sometimes, I think I might tell me that there'll be times of nostalgia for those late nights in coffeehouses or on street corners, watching, reading, and chain smoking. But something about walking would make smoking not so fun. That there'd be a girl; a friend, and a good one at that, for quite a few years at first, who'd become something quite more, would be willing to jump off the end of world with me, sometimes being more aggressive about getting up the hill. I cannot think of anyone else crazy, tenacious, or gullible enough to have joined me in what is either the grandest of adventures or the greatest of follies.
"Will we have found enlightenment?" I imagine the me from ten years ago might ask. That heretical Tibetan Buddhist bookworm half-aspiration.
"Bah! Anyone who thinks or says they're enlightened clearly isn't!" I'd snort. "But we both know that, now don't we?"
It's a curious mental exercise, which can degenerate into solipsistic circle-jerk if one is not careful. As much amusement I get out of that inquiry between Sabina and I, it really doesn't matter; the me of ten years ago is ten years gone. The me of here and now is in the here and now, and, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, here and now is all I've got. Everything else is a memory or a jack-off fantasy.