I am 50 feet in, chained by my ankle to the base of a tree. On clear days I can see people in the street: joggers and power walkers, mothers pushing strollers, boys skateboarding down a hill. How long have I been here? The newspaper would say 9 years. BRIGHT YOUNG EXECUTIVE, 31, DISAPPEARS. I miss my books. I wish they were here with me. The sun is giving off just the right amount of light through the Hawthornes above. In an hour it will be too dark. I need to finish Moby-Dick. I need to start The Given Day. I miss Katy the most. I think she would like my beard. And our little girl, Brigid, would be 11 now. I don’t think my beard would scratch her face anymore. It’s too long, too soft. She would probably tug it to see if it’s real like Santa’s. Does she still believe in Santa Claus?
It’s lunch. I pull a Slim-Jim and Donut Stick from my backpack, which I have propped up against a rock next to me. I sit on the rock when I am tired. I have enough water to get me through tomorrow, maybe the next day if I conserve. I remember my last good meal. Katy worked hard on it all day while I was at work, resigning, taking the big leap to bigger and better things. Trading in years of selling solutions to small and medium sized companies for a job that put me in the woods. Only I’m not Henry David Thoreau. I was never cut out for the woods, the loneliness. There was something romantic about it at first. Moving leaves. Clearing ravines of the heaps of trash that people throw there. Coming home with aching muscles and resting my head in her lap. Falling asleep before the 10 o’ clock news. She didn’t mind that I was making less. I had job security. You would have to mess up really bad to lose a job like this. She and Brigid would never starve a day as long as I stick it out. I keep reminding myself that I have skills. I’ll bounce back. One year, tops!
We met in college. I ran the 10,000, she the 800. My endurance and her speed would create one hell of a prodigy we used to joke. She stopped running after graduation. I kept it going for a few more months, but my head was no longer in it. I had to grow up, become grounded, turn into an adult. But I know now that the most grounded people are those who allow themselves 3 hours every day to live their lives through the eyes and appetites of children. I could’ve spent my afternoons kicking cans and splashing in puddles. Things that would’ve kept me sane. Even if people looked at me and said, hey that guy over there is crazy! No, crazy was not letting my hair down when I had the chance.
I go home to Katy and Brigid every night. I’m so tired that I’m not really there when I’m there. Only when my head hits the pillow do I remember who I am. With my arms wrapped around Katy and the faint sound of Brigid snoring in the next room, I am home.