The Scared Sacred Journey Part 2

scaredsacred-poster

1999 – France

It isn’t long before I enter the city of Marseilles. A second wave of sadness hits me, the memory of another loss, just two weeks earlier. It was here that my girlfriend, Angela, had made the decision to leave the project, to return home. I remember the train station, the pictures in the photo booth, kissing away our final moments together. “Am I making a mistake?” she asked. I had said no, because the decision was already made. The plane ticket was bought.

For the last two weeks I’ve been asking myself, again and again: why didn’t I say yes. You are. Don’t go. But I didn’t. Instead, I walked out of the station into the noisy city of Marseilles, searched out a café and ordered a Croque Monsieur. It was horrible. White bread with cheese on top and an ugly slice of ham inside, done in a microwave. Sounded better in French. I forced myself to eat it, then trudged down a long stone staircase, into the little red car and out onto the highway. Alone. A primal moan emerged, wracking my body. My Inner Voice offered it’s usual level minded take on the matter, which irritated me immensely at the time, but eventually I’ve come to realize it’s true: she did have to go. This is my mad journey. We’d failed to make it ours.

Now I’m alone, racing towards the Italian border, the project at risk. I plunge into the darkness of a long tunnel cutting through the French Alps, self-torturing loops of regret orbiting through my brain. My gear’s been stolen. I’m alone. I don’t have enough money. I’m alone. I can’t replace the gear. And did I mention? I’m alone. As I approach the Italian border, a new tension strikes: I’m afraid of customs. I couldn’t afford insurance for the Polo, and I’ve heard that to be caught uninsured in Italy means a large fine, or even imprisonment. I anxiously peer through the wavering headlights, expecting to have to face a customs officer at any moment: “Your papers please?” But I burst out of yet another tunnel, pass by a small sign surrounded by EU stars that reads, ‘Italy,’ and that’s it. I’m in a new country. I pull over at a money changer’s to get some Italian cash. I say, “Bonjour.” The teller replies, “Bonjiorno.”

Tunnel after tunnel through the Italian night. The toll is steep, ten dollars to go about twenty kilometers. But the road is hugging the coast and there are no alternative routes. Eventually I find an exit, readying myself to pay close to one hundred dollars in tolls, only to discover that there’s an open gate. My pulse stutters as I think of my uninsured state of being, but poverty forces me to be daring. I braze on by. Just past the gates, a number of motorcycle policemen in black with baggy pants are at the side of the road, writing up tickets for cars they have pulled over, perhaps for doing what I have just done. I keep glancing at the rear view mirror, anticipating wailing sirens and flashing lights. But no. I’m through and have just saved a hundred bucks that I don’t have. Excellent.

I find myself in Imperia, a groddy town on the Italian Riviera. It’s a bit whorish, a little seedy, not all cleaned up like the French Riveria. I like it already. I pull over to take a break. As I step out of the car I notice a pair of Italian loafers sitting on the curb. They have holes in the bottom, but fit perfectly. I walk down to the seaside, feeling all Italian in my new shoes, the beginnings of a replacement wardrobe. I wish they hadn’t of taken my razor though: my beard is getting itchy.

A meditative statue of Mary faces the ocean, arms outstretched, blessing the sailors. I pause in front of her, breathing deeply, allowing this icon of Mother Love to calm my mind. Out on the pier, men cast fishing lines into the sea with a soothing whizzz.

A young couple are pushing their child along in a wheel chair. His mouth is frozen open, his body paralyzed. Their son. I study his still features as they wheel him along the boardwalk. He probably likes it down here, by the ocean, even if he can’t show it. It puts my problems into perspective. What do I know about suffering? Nothing.

When I come back to the car, there’s a cop writing up a parking ticket. It must be a ‘No Parking Zone.’ I didn’t understand the Italian signage. I watch him from a distance, waiting for him to finish writing up the ticket and leave. He begins meticulously writing notes while talking on a mobile phone. Oh God: he’s probably calling a tow truck. And I can’t stop him, because of my insurance problem. He moves down the street, but remains within sight of the car. I contemplate leaping in and making a getaway, if he would just turn his back for a few minutes. But that would be crazy.

A few minutes later a tow truck arrives. I stand watching as the men get out, lower the jaws from the back of the truck, open them wide, and clamp down viciously onto my innocent vehicle.

Good-bye car. Just let it go. Goodbye the last of my belongings. My small library: ‘God in all Worlds,’ ‘Call of the Dervish,’ ‘Fire Under the Snow’ and ‘Kundalini Yoga for Beginners.’ Gone. A box of special objects collected in each of the Scared and Sacred places that I’ve been to so far. Let it go. Too much collecting, too much attachment. My shoes. Oh. These Italian things are falling apart and no good for hiking. Need shoes. Tent. No more camping. Stove. No more cooking. Oh no: my journal, stored inside my palmtop. I search frantically through my handbag. I have it! And my passport, and my bank card. I even have a pocket-sized I Ching. So it could be much worse.

The drivers climb into the cab of the tow truck, raise my car up into the air, and drag it away. My brain numbs as I watch my little red VW evaporating into the depths of the Italian legal system.

Gone.

I feel light headed, surreal. Estranged in a strange country with little more than the shirt on my back and a pair of shoes with holes in the soles. Which aren’t even mine. Now what?

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1 Comment

  1. It’s gripping! You should publish it! It would become a HUGE bestseller and a cult novel. And you would be more famous than Jack Kerouac. Can’t wait for the next chapter!


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