They say God has a plan for everyone and everyone’s life is special and God protects people. But I remember someone was in a car crash at my old church and the preacher said it's a miracle they survived, and it’s a miracle God protected them. But the people in the other car died. That fucker never talked about them.
GoD’s WaYs ArE BeYoNd OuRs AnD iT WaS JuSt ThEiR TiMe.
But let me ask you, is it God’s plan that the people in the other car died? Or that some little kids in Afghanistan have their limbs blown off by drone strikes? Or that some of those kids — even younger than kids — babies! — are trafficked and literally fucked by greasy old men and tortured and then die? Shut the fuck up with all this God’s fucking plan faggot shit I swear you sound like a fucking retard moron!
Mikey had wound himself up, and I was trying to listen, but the redheaded girl fishing around in the stream had a halter top on, and that little bit of ever-so-slightly-chubby pale belly and navel exposed, with her nipples hard from the cold water, had my attention divided.
I know man. It’s fucked up.
The girl’s hair was long and pulled into two thick, copper-colored pigtails, shining in the sun. We were sent out to the stream to observe wildlife. I can’t remember what exactly anymore — bugs or samples of algae or something — to look at under microscopes and then draw. Busy work. But we were taking a break by the waterfall now and my attention was on that bright white flesh and her big, beaming smile. That girl was afraid of moths. I remember because we had to go into this whole display room full of butterflies and moths pinned to styrofoam behind glass, and she started hyperventilating. She hugged the wall like a petrified shadow, and made a conscious effort to keep her eyes off the displays.
I wondered if something bad happened to her in the past that was associated with moths.
You’ve got these fucking idiots who say we can’t trust our own logic because we need to trust God and not ourselves or other people, but it’s always the preacher who tells you that. So why should I trust him!? I mean how stupid do you have to be to believe that!
There was no reeling Mikey back in now.
What we were doing was this two-week college biology course held at a kind of nature center retreat in Smoky Mountain National Park. The deal at our school was you could either do a whole semester of this biology course on campus, or take two weeks hanging out in the woods looking at copperhead snakes, listening to bats with special headphones, and swimming in streams so clear it felt like paradise. Well, minus the crippling depression.
Plus the professor allowed beer and guitar playing around the nightly campfires, so for me and Mikey there really was no choice. Sit at a desk for months on end — or waterfalls, beer, and... well, nipples. The lectures were nearly impossible to stay awake in after all the fresh air. Not to mention the good, home-cooked meals served in the cafeteria.
I remember we stopped at a Burger King on the way back. I remember after that immaculate two-week soul cleanse of no internet, bracing raw oxygen and wholesome food, seeing an old lady working the fryer — caked-on makeup melting off her saggy jowls, bright red lipstick on her putty-gray, dejected face, tired eyes like soft marbles — I wanted to run back to that nature center and live there forever.
The girl who was driving, Amy — who had casually asked everyone right when we left if we’d tried anal sex before — couldn't figure out where we were at one point. This was before everyone had iPhones and all that shit so we were drifting around the border of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio in a kind of endless loop. We had been driving the same roads for almost two hours and had to go in circles over and over to get back to the exits we recognized. Everyone was getting tired and hungry and pissy. Except for the anal sex girl (she said it was “alright” when she and her boyfriend had tried it), who was pretty cheerful and emotionally balanced.
I finally lied and said I knew the way, and to go this direction and it worked. The truth is, I didn't know the way, but I did recognize that the four of us in the car were confusing each other, and the doubts were making it so that you couldn't even fuck up properly. Sometimes that's worse. At least if you fully fuck up, you can fully correct it. But put a "committee" in charge of solving something, and welcome to hell, my man. So through my bullshit confidence we finally got back on track.
Anyway, that trip is where I met Mikey. He had shaken a tree above me first thing in the morning on the first day, and drenched my still-shitty mind. I had about a two-week hangover (hangovers can exist outside of time constraints sometimes) from the Asheville thing, and the cut on my hand from the metal sign was still sore and just crusting over — my brain a bitter prune yelling at an even more dejected soul.
Plus I had spent all my money. I even sheepishly borrowed some from my sort-of girlfriend to buy a six-pack for the nature trip before they dropped me off. She was not too happy about that. I don't blame her.
I told Mike to fuck off, and he just laughed. I didn’t know him and was genuinely pissed and confused about the cold morning shower from the tree. But something was kind of refreshingly shocking about it. There was no feigned politeness. He started to take an interest in me too, just because I listened to him, I think. It’s not easy talking about killing cops, so he didn’t have many friends. Actually, I had never even seen him at the school before.
But what I saw was a kind of primitive awareness that I was drawn to like a magnet. He was kind of one with those copperhead snakes under that metal sheet at the nature center, and the babbling streams, and the massive trees. Raw and embarrassingly simple. He was a human.
Talking to him about asshole preachers and what not, I started to feel more free and uninhibited. At least, in this tiny part of my life. It seemed like I was supposed to meet him. Like the calmness of watching a setting sun after a tornado has ripped through your town every day of your life for the past twenty years, never letting you catch your fucking breath. And now, suddenly, it's otherworldly calm and you see this big orange ball blazing silently in the purple sky. Warm and bright and calm as hell. “You're doing okay. You're gonna be okay. I love you."