As I sat and sipped another cup of coffee, I noticed a rumbling outside. Eager to see what disturbed me from my mind's endless ranting, I raced to the door to discover a gentle rainstorm had enveloped the entire countryside. My heart wrestled with the notion to dash out and dance naked in the rain as my lover and I used to do in days before, but my body reminded me that my lover is gone, and I am but an old man, regretful yes, but not so that my heart lies as my body, fragile and in decay. It soars as I once did.
Joyous to see such a storm, very rare here in North Dakota, I sat back down at my desk, took one long sip of my now lukewarm java, and began writing something, anything that reminded me of days before. I have nothing but time.
Some days before I was informed of my brother's demise in North Africa. He had long been a supporter there of various local regimes, courting the favor of communist rebels that he had managed, through guerilla tactics and later pure genius, to place in power. He at last had to come to terms with the military might of rival governments, but only at the point of a bayonet would his revolutionary spirit finally be extinguished. My filial ties beckoned me to the memorial, but I could not in good conscience mourn a man who did so much to hurt so many. As I write now may the devils tear his immortal soul asunder.
I spent many an hour at this table feverishly writing in my diary, hoping more to soothe my memory than to jog it. The storm began gently, ended with a huff and left never to return, and so I slept. A man with no friends or living family to speak of spends many a day in the coziest of beds, content to nest in feather and cloth in place of a warm body. I was certain that when I arose, I would wake to a mild morning with grassland as far as the eye could see, and I would seat myself at my desk and take up the pen once more. And so I did.
After a brief breakfast, for an old man has little time to waste on menial tasks, I swung my front door wide open and gasped at the wondrous morning as I did so many times before. As a self-admitted transcendentalist, I never once tired of the natural. City dwellers might say, "Well yes, old man, the grass is as green as it was yesterday, and the daisies are as bright, and they shall be so again tomorrow." I can coarsely reply to them, "Well sir, your city is filthy, it was less filthy yesterday and it will be even more so tomorrow. Sometimes it is good to have consistency in life." Breathing this air has given me longevity in life, and if I am grateful for anything it is that. It will be me, my little plot of land, my home, and my diary for the balance of my days. To my diary then.
As of yet, dear diary, I have failed to mention my sweet Annie to whom so much of my mind is devoted. Granted my memories of her are jagged at best, full in the middle with many gaps around the edges. Know that I loved her best but could not deny my duties. We met at an Army ball just before my deployment in the War. My father was a military man, and so it was expected that I would either follow or take up the plow. I chose the way of the warrior, but you must understand such a notion was not the ideal that it is today. Vagabonds were the stuff of the military, and I was the commanding officer of such a group. At the ball I was shy and more focused on the times ahead than finding love or at least a brief reprieve from Army life. It was with my coaxing that she and I ended up on the floor dancing slowly. I cannot recall what drew her to me or why I began to feel pangs in my heart, but that very night she lay beside me in a shoddy hotel room. Granted that was not enough to consider her the woman that I remember her as, but there was something else, an attraction far more than physical, that we both shared and embraced. I spent the next two weeks with my Annie, and as we talked, laughed together, shared every tender moment, I soon realized how deeply my love ran for this woman. As many in the military often do, we had a hasty wedding with no one but wanderers as our witnesses. I departed soon thereafter, and as I boarded the train in tears, a deep searing pain overcame me and I knew. I received many letters during my tour, but after a time that I do not recollect they stopped. I was to learn in letters from family and acquaintances that she had died of the fever weeks before my return. Her last words were of her love for me. I have never held another.
I would not want anyone to think that I am a cold prude man for never having loved again. I had many loves afterwards, but the joy and warmth which caused romantic tendencies were gone from me never to return. I returned from the war a much decorated artillery officer, and I took it upon myself to stay into the military and retire with honor. As fate would have it however, that was not the case. In one of the most tragic events I can recall in my long life, I was to forever change. It was the summer of... suffice it to say it was the summer, my mind grows foggy with the weather. We were practicing routine artillery drills when a cannon that was under my charge refused to fire. I ordered a corporal to investigate at first but curiosity won the day and I chose to look instead. What I did not realize was that the cannon had a delayed reaction to the powder being charged, and as I looked on it exploded forth with all the ferocity that such a piece could produce. Being beside the damned thing and not in front I escaped with my life, but the explosion that ripped through the earth like a torrent dislodged my left arm from my body. I had been made a cripple. Looking back I am sure I wanted to die and very much thought I would, but the modern medicines of the day saved my life. I am grateful for my
life and do not regret the service to my country.
I did speak of service to my country, yes; one idea often leads to another. Many of my fellow naturalists have scoffed at the notion of service and patriotism. I have always believed, and I suppose it was instilled in me in my youth, that fidelity does not begin nor end; rather it encompasses the whole of our existence. Be faithful to those who bore you, your parents, your God, your country, and everything in it from the smallest plant to the largest oak. Many of us have forgotten such a broad notion of fidelity, and I can only hope that it does not do great harm in the future.
The daylight wanes, and with it comes the sunset. Whenever death is ever mentioned, especially by those of the cloth, the waning days of life are often referred to as the sunset. It is the time before the drawing down, that much is true, but the one thing they never mention is how beautiful the sunset is, the colors that surround you with such majesty that you cannot help but stare into it and thank God for such wonder! Yes the morning is young and inviting and the day is bright, but the sunset!
I speak of death as if I were to meet it soon. I must admit there is a weariness to my bones but my spirit is as alive as it ever was. There is so much time to reflect back on days when it was not so, the days of my youth, my rampant alcoholism and violent mood swings. As any man who was accustomed to having all of his limbs intact, I was at first frustrated about my present situation. No former friend or colleague could console me; no preacher could make me believe that somehow this was part of the plan. I was ready to believe that it was society in general who had done this to me, that somehow there were all of these nameless faces responsible for my loss. I turned to the bottle, whiskey, rum; whatever I could get my hands on really. Any money I had left over from my father's will went to supporting my dangerous habit. How did I break myself free from that habit? Hmm... difficult to say really, I believe that the habit broke me more than I broke it. We all reach a crossroads in our life I suppose, a point at which we know we can either travel to salvation or destruction. I chose salvation, but why? Dear diary, this is a question best left unanswered, at least for now.
At any rate I returned to quiet North Dakota after much travail, and it was quite a desolate homecoming. The story is almost cliché these days, I returned to find my family home in a shambles, I had no living relatives that I knew of, and I had no one that even remotely remembered who I was. The one thing I did have was my uniform, and that spoke volumes. I was extended every gentle courtesy that the humble townsfolk could offer, I was given shelter, food, and everything that money could never purchase. I had no gold to speak of and yet I was surrounded by this great wealth of human kindness. It was always my stubborn way to tend farm as best I could, but I lent my military knowledge to any who cared to learn. I soon realized that I was the town gaffer, a wealth of knowledge about the lands beyond. Many approached my doorsteps, and for a time I was most content with sharing a cup of coffee and a story with them. Unfortunately for me, rumors began to circulate about my assumed ties to Communist sympathizers and I had to flee to seclusion. We all know how these things get started, and what a mess it makes! Garbage begets garbage and before long there is too much trash to clean by oneself. It is often said that once a label is applied its adhesiveness is without question. Many clearly sane people have been deemed insane and the only ones who know the truth are themselves and those who are insane! Such was my case. Despite my protestations to the contrary, those once gentle folk were swept up in the rumors of the day, and with no living soul to plead my case I had no choice but to surrender to their will. What a blessing it was to leave that town and enter into my hermitage, I do not regret it in the day, but the night is something different. I get nostalgic at times of those days when I would entertain visitors at great length by the fire. These North Dakota boys had mostly never seen the lands outside the Dakotas, and the cowboys only had the plains. Now I have my cottage, but never think that I am bitter, I parry daggers thrown; I do not speak them. All is as well as it has ever been. I think I shall retire for the evening.
Dear diary, I could have sworn I almost lost you! I searched my bedroom and poured through my papers only to discover that I left you where I always do, right here on my desk. That was a queer discovery. It does seem of late that I forget more and my mind does wander more than it used to do. It must be the cobwebs that result from a lack of good reading material.
At any rate, I awoke to another glorious morning. I used to keep track of the days and weeks until I reasoned that it truly did not matter. What do I have use of such time? I know day, night, and the seasons, and that is plenty for a man to know. I can tell it is harvest time in my little corner of the world. The air cools rapidly and there are caravans about that I would never see pass this way before. The harvest is yet another metaphor for death that I relish in. It reminds me that we are indeed chosen. At harvest time the actual crop for harvesting is always plucked or shorn away from that which is not, weeds and so forth. That which is actually harvested is ripe for the picking and good produce to be distributed, more or less, and so the idea that we as people succumb to the reaper's harvest fills me with the utmost joy at knowing I am that which was planted for use and not that which will be tossed aside.
Every now and then during this time of year the occasional curious passer-by stops at my doorstep. Sometimes he is looking for rations for the journey ahead but more often than not he is wondering what an old fool such as myself is doing out here by himself. They typically ask me how long I've been here, to which I reply, "As long as I can remember." They seldom appreciate the humor. The truth is I do not recollect the day or time I moved here. I was younger than I am now and yet I could not say how young. It is more to the traveler's mind than mine that trouble comes, for no man needs to know when, all he needs to know is why and how. It would not have made the difference when I came here, but the circumstance is everything. I offer these weary farmers and merchants a little comfort, coffee and biscuits on my best days, and they have never asked for more. They rest for a while and then are on their way, but I would like to think that they took a part of me that was good with them. For better or for worse, they are gone by season's end.
We all feel better with a bit of coffee in us, so allow me to pour another cup. I sometimes wonder, when the cupboard runs low, whether or not I shall sup again, but by God's grace I never want for coffee. I have beans like the Hebrews had manna, but unlike them the Promised Land was simply waiting for me when I arrived. To tell you the truth I did not build or help construct this home in any way, it was a gift I imagine. Uninhabited by its owner for some time judging by the shape it was in when I stumbled upon it, I took it as my own and nursed it back to health. Yes, if there was ever a crime I plead guilty to it is theft. It was a shambles as far as the interior, webs and nests were spread all around and there was a horrible odor, indeed the stench of death emanating from the basement here. Whoever left this place in such a state left it in a hurry as all of their belongings including stores of food were left where one would expect them to be. Ironically I found a copy of the Manifesto with various other writings by Marx scattered about the bedroom and this desk. It appears I had taken the dwelling of a Communist! I had taken it upon myself to repair what a man in my condition could repair, and I helped myself to what rations I could. That stench, however, is still unaccounted for.
Dreams, horrible dreams plague me oftentimes when I lie in my bed. I did mention I possessed the coziest of beds, but I am not always the soundest of mind. Lately gruesome images have crossed my mind only in slumber, and I fear to commit them to paper except for the relief it brings me. In these visions, so called because they appear to me as real as if I were watching the events unfold, I see myself only it is not myself. Never would I imagine such a devilish look on my face. With an axe in my one hand I coldly approach my victim. He is lying in bed and he appears almost in state. I approach the bed and with remorseless strength I plant the axe in his skull. I do not wince as I drop the weapon, drag the body step by step down to the basement, and that is all. What does it mean?
Dear diary, I begin my morning as I always do, and yet there is a sense of dread that follows me at every turn. These dreams become increasingly violent, and my once nocturnal reprieve has become a nightmare. Where do these images come from? As for myself, I wish only peace upon myself and others but my mind betrays me at every turn. I shall take solace in you and in my willingness to embrace the remnants of my life with all the vigor of my youth. Now that I have come to it, a question needs to be answered still: why did I choose salvation over destruction? The truth is that I chose both of them. I have made much of my coffee swilling, and yet I know now the stench of liquor that rises from my bed sheets is none other than my own. I am at once not myself and more myself than I have ever been. I have since discovered my Manifesto notes and my calls to arms for the Revolution and I am filled with nothing but contempt for myself. Coming to terms with who you are is made impossible when confronted with such a dichotomy. These memories never left me; they were in essence a part of me that lie hidden in wait. It lies hidden until it needs to be revealed, such as at the head of an innocent man's bed. Dear diary, I shall be going now. God's judgment comes and comes swiftly. To those who read. Samuel.