we were just trying to survive.


yesterday, ross called around 10 a.m. to tell me that they had a "crimp" in their plans. his friend, hannah, ended up in the emergency room because her eye was infected. a bug got in her eye, and she hadn't been able to get it all out. "ouch," i said. "is she alright?" "yeah, she should be fine," ross said, "but we won't be able to pick you up for another couple of hours." i used the delay to start reading one of emily's books, kurt vonnegut's a man without a country. i waited around and didn't eat anything all morning. finally, around 1:30 p.m., they showed up. i met ross by the chain-linked fence, and we exchanged high fives. emily's dog, omar, looked like he wanted a high-five, too. "cool dog," ross said.

hannah introduced herself and removed her sunglasses. there was a big yellow stain around her eye. she told me that she had lived in maine, new hampshire, pennsylvania (maybe), and some other states that i don't really remember. she went to oberlin college with ross. we started driving towards ellensburg. it was cool to be in the backseat, as i had a view of the cle elum river and all the trees. the car belonged to hannah, and it was messy. i don't understand people. from about 21 years of age until they are 37, everything about their lives is complete chaos, disorganized and trashed. since i already feel that way on the inside, i try not to reflect it outward.

ross said i could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if i wanted to. he had a jar of jam and a jar of peanut butter in his green bag. around 3 o'clock, with ellensburg still 82 miles away, i opted to make some. the bread, though, was an oval sourdough, tough to cut. ross handed me his big serrated knife, and i tried to make pb&j sandwiches as best i could, all the while trying not to contribute to the mess.

finally, we got to ellensburg, exit 3, thrall road. the rafting people weren't there, as we were four hours later than our original reservation. there was debate among the three of us, as we decided whether or not we should do something else, since it would be difficult to inner-tube down the river and then have to walk or hitchhike to get back to the car. i volunteered to drive them up the river and just pick them up when they were finished. i did this mainly because i didn't have a wet suit (jacob said the yakima river is essentially "glacier water"); i didn't have swim trunks; i didn't have a life-jacket, and i didn't have the ability to swim.

turns out, it was a good thing. an hour after i dropped them off, they showed up at the car. i was listening to van morrison's astral werks, and i've yet to hear anything past the second song. "hey you! what are you doing?" ross barked menacingly. actually, i had been sitting in the car, drinking his ginger ale and eating his peanuts. i also removed my shoes and socks (which i hadn't changed in two, three days), and i was just taking it easy. he told me that he had a terrible time. "i flipped over like five minutes after getting in," he said. "after that, we were basically just trying to survive." on the drive back, he pointed out a little spot in the river, where a small island had formed. "that's where hannah almost died," he said.

the girl who rented out and received the rafts was a big awkward blonde girl. she told me to pick ross and hannah up at a campsite called big pines. i looked at the girl and thought to myself, "big pines." it wouldn't be hard to remember. ross asked her how to inflate the tubes. she showed him how. he struck me as an into the wild kind of guy, so i was surprised that big pines had to show him how to do it. i was also surprised when he told me that he had only gone fishing two or three times in his life. "ever catch anything?" i asked. "yeah, a fish about this big," he said, holding his hands only a few inches apart.

i drove the three of us back to seattle. the two of them seemed exhausted and a bit frustrated that their inner-tube adventure had instead turned out to be nothing short of a near-death experience. it wasn't the calm, warm, beer-drinking, laid-back adventure ross had hoped it would be. i told him kayaking in westlake would probably be a better option.

since he rode shotgun, we caught up a bit. he told me that he, too, was unemployed for a few months after our americorps year. he ended up watching deadwood episodes and collecting unemployment. "it's tough," he said, "i would just sleep and get depressed." i told him that yeah, that's pretty much how it goes. luckily, though, he found a full-time gig for a salvage company, and he actually enjoys the work. he gets $14.50 an hour with full benefits, and although the work is physically demanding, he said that "being exhausted at the end of the day is more satisfying than feeling tired after a full day in an office. after being in the office, i get tired in a really insidious kind of way," he said. i said i understood.

i told him about my career test, my shitty teaching job, my year of doing nothing. i admitted that i never feel like the type of person who gets to carefully weigh his options. most other people get that, but not me. it's always been that way with me. acceptance to one college. and then i grabbed any job offer i could get my hands on. "why do you think it's like that?" ross said. "i don't know," i answered, "i guess i just don't set many tangible and realistic goals for myself." he said that when he interviewed, he wanted to be honest. he wanted to say, "i want this job so that i can buy food and pay rent. and i'm scared that i won't be able to find a job if you don't give me this one." he mulled this over for a bit. "but you can't really be like that, you know. you have to act confident and basically say, 'i know where i'm going, and you (potential employer) are nothing but a stepping stone on my path.'"

my cousin rich used to prep me for interviews and put it the same way, quoting from swingers: "just act like you don't need the shit, and they give you the shit for free."

3 comments:

EasilyEntertained said...

Dude, your formatting is all messed up. Are you using a mac?

Daily Logue said...

I'm sorry the tubing trip turned out so contrary to expectations. You can't swim? You should work on that. Seattle could get a tsunami.
It's weird that if the trip was really a survival threatening type of one that they didn't warn you at all. Seems negligent. At least it made for a good story.
For what it's worth, I'm pulling for the carpentry internship. I see it making you the happiest. I don't see the peace corps really being a happy experience for you.
But I guess you could write a book about it. Yeah. Oprah would read that.

kate said...

So, James, I just realized you applied for my job at the law school ... I was just going through applications and saw yours. If it helps, I'll put in a good word ... we've already done a few interviews but might do more. It's your standard admin job but with cool people ... not a bad place to be stuck while making other plans, I've found ...