Jan/Feb 2008  •   Spotlight

Leaving Earth

by David Bulley

Photo by Steve Wing

Photo by Steve Wing

Dearest Margaret:

Though, when you read this I will still be alive, nevertheless I wish for you to regard this letter as my last will and testament. This morning I heard on the news, half of a small town was frozen to death in a freak storm. They said the atmospheric pressure was so high, it seemed as though it sucked the heat right out of the valley resulting in near instant temperatures of more than 90 below zero. It never snowed, but the resulting winds caused snow drifts in the downtown high enough to cover the people. This awful thing I heard, the gruesome tragedy and all I could think of was, lucky them.

I know you will do right by our children, Margaret, so I bequeath them nothing special. They are both in college now so don't need me anymore anyway. I've never been one for heirlooms and keepsakes. You keep everything. Even, when the police find our camper truck in this rest area, keep that, or sell it. I don't care. I withdrew one-thousand dollars from our joint account, and then destroyed my ATM. It's all yours.

I owe you something, darling, before I walk off the face of the earth. So I will tell you last Friday you broke my heart and I will never recover and I can never live with you again. I don't know if it is better or worse: you have no idea you did it. But Margie, I could have beaten him.

How that day began like any other with your little reminders of household duties, "It's Friday don't forget the trash. Did you pick up your socks? You know how you forget" all the things that might be annoying if I knew what they meant, but I just found them endearing and I suffered them and I smiled and did as you asked.

And then, in our store, the thief came in brandishing his weapon. I see him so clearly in my mind, his tweed coat which seemed out of place, his puffy cheeks and shock of gold blond hair. His nightmare blue eyes, and their glint as he grabbed you around your neck, over your shoulder one hand grabbing your breast as the other pointed his snub-nosed .38 into your temple.

Just now a young girl has snuck into the back on my camper. I'll turn the truck on and the back heater. I'll try and make it warm enough to last the night for her. She looks like a young movie star: a waif. She tempts me, to draw me back into the world. I could father her, which she must desperately need. I could use this camper and drive away with her and be her father and give her some instruction and chase away her boyfriends from our trailer we will rent in California while waiting for her to become a star. But no. I can't be tempted now. When I finish the letter I will walk out and away.

Margaret, why did you do it? He screamed at us, he threw you into the corner and waved his gun with frantic energy for me to follow. I rushed to you and held you and then he turned his back to clean out our front display case. Right then, at that moment, I knew I could have rushed him! You don't know it, but I had to rush him. "I can take him now," I said as I rose to charge.

You shook your head and said, "No!" with vehemence.

"I said trust me Margie. Please trust me."

And you grabbed my leg and would not let me go. I almost punched you then, my wife, my betrayer. I understood you never trusted me. Never. I do not mean the lie I told during my seven year itch thing. I don't mean the lie I told as all married couples tell lies, those tiny things that make life easier. I mean on this basic level, this fundamental thing, this once in a lifetime life and death situation and you trust the feel copping thief over me! You held me so tightly, desperately clinging to my leg, preventing my action, ending my life.

I knew then, though it took the storm for me to comprehend, I no longer fit into our world. That all of these years and you loved me and indulged me and fundamentally never trusted who I am.

In two seconds I will leave this rest area and walk the entire Appalachian Trail, from this Georgia rest stop to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Then I will walk back. Then I will walk until I rest and then rest until I walk and so I will spend my days in solitude and in peace. I will listen to the earth, and I will try to learn magic. And if I do learn magic, I will heal myself. And then I will walk some more.