I should have turned the engine off! I recall feeling it rumble through the steering wheel, though I was parked aside on the red-brown gravel road heading down into a valley. But behind me I'd spotted something at the T junction, and it needed my investigation. Before leaving, I remember looking back into the cave of the interior of my van, seeing every wall covered in books, but not in boxes, as if my vehicle were a traveling library. And my largest painting, Passing Through Too, leaned up sideways from floor to ceiling. My life's work. All that I had was in that caravan.
The sound of the gravel at my feet was reminiscent of young manhood, when I'd gone hiking in the mountains. I looked back at my vehicle and smiled at my tall two-tone Dodge, orange and cream, that I'd first bought when entering Canada. It rumbled slightly at a distance as I trudged up the fifty or so yards from it to the crossroad to inspect the thing that'd caught my attention. It was a brightly gleaming silver bench. Like a Holy Grail! It radiated with brightly silvered light. Around it was a woodsy gathering of shrubs. But next to it, right beside it on the ground, was a bright white plastic bag, containing something the size of a puppy, but the bag was flapped over as though lying there a long time and flattened by the wind. And around the bag was some human garbage, a knocked over paper coffee cup, black and brown, a green cool-drink bottle as though left on its side after playing postman's knock, and ... well, a dump of human excrement.
Ugh! That had me turning!
I looked back toward my vehicle only to see, to my great alarm, it take off. I must have left it in gear! I started to run. Even as I was running I marvelled that I could; what had happened to my wheelchair? And as I fixed my attention back on the vehicle I could see it clearly, its orange body and cream top escaping from me. Somehow I could get a point of view suddenly from ahead of it. It careened toward a great pile of leaves, big as a haystack strewn across the road, but they were scattered by the weighty momentum of the vehicle. It gathered speed and so did I. I ran after it and watched as it miraculously clung to the tight corners of the mountain road as it descend. Then I lost sight of it. I scoured the ground for slew-tracks. Had it gone off the cliff?
Down in the small town the roads became black bitumen. The four way stop sign as I entered afoot seemed forlorn. No one was around. No cars showed signs of being hit. The caravan was not in sight. I recall feeling desperately worried that it might have struck someone. I really hoped it had just gone off the cliff. I felt dreadfully responsible for the momentary lapse in judgement; that so small a thing as leaving the engine on could wreak such havoc. I remembered that in
Northern Ontario, where I was first made Canadian, that's what we do, in winter, we leave engines on. But I knew this was not winter. Was the big pile of leaves not indicative of Autumn?
And then I woke up.
We should've could've might have ought to have done something plays over and over in most of our lives. Our mistakes contribute to the chaos. Paradoxically, our most carefully planned creations do so too. The past is irretrievable, except in memory. Or is it? There are theories that we are on a continuous loop, adjusting minutely, repeating over and over the life we play. To what end? Thing is, learning is the reflection, or not, and we do what we do, most of us, without an intentional harm. Certainly, I did not want to launch my freewheeling vehicle down a mountain road at an unsuspecting populace! Then again, as the old man I ran up to beside a gas station said, "You left your caravan unattended? Did you not think what harm it could do? You've got to take more responsibility, man!"
And then I woke up; again.
Yet lingering with me, most pervasively, is the silver of that bench, my responsibility, and the detritus of human offal.