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The Grizzly
by David Norris


Life does go on after the death of a relationship. Inevitably, vestiges and patterns from the prior life exist, but it's a new life. For most of us, the painful period we go through is one of tremendous growth. After the fog clears and we become sane again, it is like a movie where the frames are accelerated--fast motion--and then the learning begins.

I remember the Grizz, how he maintained his dignity at a time when I had lost mine. I also remember another time, when I reflected on how I had lost it before and was determined not to lose it again. He was my model. I bear him in mind today as I ride the blue Saemaul Express train into the ancient city of Kyongju, Korea. Somehow the tombs of those old dead kings buried under the huge grass-covered mounds make me recall times I thought I had forgotten.

Grizz went up in a lot of airplanes, but he didn't come down in many. He was in the 82nd Airborne, a tall, lean man with a heavy reddish-brown beard and large, crystalline eyes--cow eyes, only they were blue. He was a bit of a philosopher and could stretch a story out for half an hour. He was never a man to find himself in a hurry about anything. He was an exacting man, a precise man, who drove a vintage red Corvette, a bright yellow Datsun, a screaming blue Kawasaki, and an off-the-road, dull-gray Yamaha dirt bike.

He also had the woman every man I knew wanted.

And he lost her.

Grizz and I both drove from one side of the United States to the other. He and his beautiful wife in the yellow Datsun, my wife and myself in our little red Chevy II. We were on different time schedules. I had the whole summer off because I had quit my job and I planned to circumnavigate the United States while trying to decide what next to do with my life. Grizz had just two weeks and he wanted to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

The four of us rendezvoused in Boulder, Colorado, by a stream at the foot of the Flatiron Mountains, and that same day Grizz and I climbed to the top of one of those Flatirons. We lay on our bellies with the Continental Divide at our backs, clinging to the edge, looking out over the rolling plains toward the mile-high city of Denver and all the distance we had covered on our way to that spot. I had been on the road a month by then and had seen upstate New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Bar Harbor in Maine, and I had even tried my hand at French in Quebec. I had seen the mouth of the Mississippi and had tried to quiet my wife one night when she had a nightmare while sleeping in our tent at the foot of Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

He and his lovely wife had driven straight to Boulder from Richmond, Virginia, in less than 48 hours--this included stopping in Ohio to do a valve job on the Datsunís aluminum engine. Grizz was the finest mechanic I ever knew; whatever he put back together was better the second time than it had been the first.

When we woke the next morning, we saw it had snowed overnight, so I said, "Let's go south to Arid-zona; it'll be warm there!" We drove south to Arizona and camped that night, the last day of June, along the north rim of the Grand Canyon. When we woke the next morning, there was snow on the ground again!

"Farther south, I suppose." He grinned.

We made it to the Grand Canyon, one of those overlooks you always see in the photographs, about five o'clock that same day.

I don't know if we were ahead of schedule or behind schedule. It had taken me a month to get there; Grizz and his lady, only four days. I stood there awestruck by what I saw. Grizz said nothing. After maybe two minutes, his wife blinked her beautiful blue eyes and said, "Okay, I've seen it; now, let's go."

And we all left. Three days later I lost Grizz in a sandstorm between midnight and dawn in the Mojave Desert as we drove west from Las Vegas. I looked for him, but only half-heartedly, for I knew we had different agendas. I didn't see them again until I returned to Virginia in the fall. We shared photographs of our adventures and swapped tales; after that, both our lives got busy and somehow we drifted apart. Then one day I heard that she had left him.

He never said a word about it, he never lost his composure. He stood tall and straight and silent like a marble statue, and he never mentioned her name again. And neither did any of his friends. Nor did we ask questions; we knew better. Oddly, it seems now, we didn't talk about it among ourselves either, except for once, when somebody mentioned that she had remarried and was living in the wealthy West End of the city. As for Grizz, he quit his office job and went to driving big trucks for a living. Twice a day he makes the run from Richmond to Norfolk, leaving early and coming home late. It seems he has never been happier with his work.

My job has kept me moving too, taking me from the West to the East and back and forth again. One year, I averaged three countries a month: Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, back to San Francisco and Virginia and then back to Japan to the Philippines to Japan to Korea, a circle of places rippling outwards like rings from a stone dropped into a pond. For some, time is the healer; for others of us, it is the world passing beneath our feet. Lost in constant motion, our eyes on the horizon, we can't afford to turn our heads and look back.


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Read more of David's stories at USADS on these pages:
The Ants
Sometimes We Just Have To Let Them Go
55 Minutes Past The Hour

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