Category Archives: Story

I Walk For Love Part II

“What are you walking for?”

I looked around and saw a woman smiling and eyeing my backpack. I had just finished the 2nd to last day of my walk and was explaining my journey to a curious bystander. She must have overheard the last bit of our conversation and missed what I was walking for. I opened my mouth to say what I had been telling everyone this whole trip… “For Haiti!”…. But as I began to say that, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and memories of the trip. While Haiti had been the backbone of this walk, it had turned into so much more. I took a second to consider how to best word what I was feeling but then realized there is no good way to explain it.

How can you say that I walk for the love of the outdoors. For the feeling that everything I see during my days on the road is all mine. That I walk for the opportunity to meet new people and make friends with the most unlikely people. For being serenaded by the cutest little girls or for tastiest strawberry cake in Tennessee. That I walk for catching snakes, the feeling you get as you watch a sun set over a golden field, or the way water tastes after 32 long and tiring miles. I struggled to think of the way of saying that I walk for finding the brother I never knew I had or for the anticipation of seeing my girlfriend again. That I walk for home-cooked meals and copious amounts of chocolate milk.

She gave me a look that said, “Helloooo… Did you hear me?!”, so I tried harder to think of what to say. But the same feeling came over me. How this walk had been also about never wanting to take another step at times and for the feeling of believing that I could walk on forever. For the pain of losing a loved one and the joy of releasing baby sea turtles in the ocean. That the reason I continued my walk was learning to turn negative situations into positive ones. That everyday I get to share a sliver of my experiences with 10,500 people who are genuinely interested in it. That with every step I took, someone in Haiti would be able to take a drink of clean water. That I walk for becoming part of a stranger’s family and for the time alone. How can you say that I walk for the idea of doing something so simple that any of us can do it, it’s just about taking those first steps.

She was now staring at me with a look of humor and confusion. She looked into my eyes and I knew she understood that I was searching for the right words. I could say that I walk for Haiti. I walk to try to make the slightest dent in the battle of world hunger. That I walk for the idea of helping others while experiencing a personal, life changing experience. But how can you wrap all that up into one sentence with the slightest chance of having someone even begin to understand what you’re talking about. What way can you say it to embody all those experiences and emotions. And with that, the answer seemed so obvious it made my face flush and my heart skip a beat.

I looked at her, smiled and said, ” I walk for Love.”

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Walk On.

*This blog contains explicit language. It is not a habit of mine to write blog entries packed full of swears, but I felt it was important to keep Brandon’s dialogue true so his feelings could be fully felt.*

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“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.

Walk beside me and be my friend.”

~ Albert Camus

“Hey!… Hey!! Hey, look at me!”

I glanced up and saw a guy about my age standing up from his seat and waving over at me. He had sandy blonde hair, wore a light blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. I paused on the busy sidewalk outside of a cafe where ten or so tables were packed full of people reading their papers and talking over coffee. I took out my iPod earbuds and looked over at the man yelling at me, giving him a small smile.

“Hey!” he said, “Aren’t you that idiot I saw on the news last night?” He laughed and the guy sitting down at his right chuckled. The girl to his left tried pulling him back down into his chair but he just pushed away her hands. A few people looked up from their papers and glanced between me and the guy.

“There are a bunch of idiots on the news, buddy. You’ll have to be more specific.” I retorted and to my relief a few of the bystanders gave a chuckle. The man just slowly sneered and I knew I should have just kept walking.

“Yeah… Yeah, you are that fuckin’ idiot walking for them fucking Haitians.” He gave a laugh and looked down at his buddy, who gave him a feeble smile and then took a drink from his water glass.

“Brandon!” the girl to his left hissed. “Don’t! Just leave him alone.”  The guy, Brandon, paid her no attention and his sneer broke into a wide grin.

“If it isn’t Forest Fucking Gump. A fuckin’ retard walking across the country for a bunch of idiot people who don’t give a fuck about any of us.What do you say to that, Forest?”

An older man to my left scoffed and almost everyone else sitting at the tables had now turned their full attention to our conversation. A very large muscular man sitting at the table between me and Brandon had a strained face and I could tell he was holding back his words, but for what side of the argument, I didn’t know. I considered for a second then said, “I say… I don’t understand why you care so much. I’m not asking you to like my cause. And it’s not like I’m taking money away from anything. The people who donate to my cause do it because they want to. So, I say you don’t need to like it, but you should work on showing a little bit of respect…”

Brandon laughed and the girl rolled her eyes at him, giving up on trying to make him sit down. When he finished laughing he turned his eyes back to me and I gave a little start. His eyes were fire and his smile had turned back into a sneer, though this time it was icy. Menacing. “Is that so, Forest. Retard Forest. You’re a fucking idiot to think walking will make any kind of fucking difference. You’re raising money for those fucking Haitians when it should be going to our own country. You masquerade behind that fuckin’ mask of yours, calling yourself an American, when all you care about is getting rich by using those brown folk across the sea – who, mind you, don’t give a fuck that you’re doing this for them – as an excuse to get on TV. Don’t you see you’re fucking wasting your time. The New’s time. America’s time. How about you help out America. Do something worth while. How about you walk your ass around the country for the oil spill, huh?”

The moment I had decided I was going to walk across America to raise money for a different country, I knew I was going to meet some negative feedback. I considered changing my cause early on because I thought maybe I could get more support or donations for a cause closer to home or for one that more people cared about. But I realized that I cared about the people in Haiti and that was a good enough reason right there. Over the nearly 100 days of walking I’ve gotten some flack from people about my cause and that I should take care of my own country first. I’ve tried my best to explain that doing any kind of good should still be considered good. Or that God doesn’t have borders or boundaries when it came to helping people out. Or that they themselves should start up a little charity themselves and raise some donations for a cause that they’re passionate about. Usually when I said any of this they just laughed or turned away, but I felt I always got my point across. Now, 5 days from finishing my walk, I had encountered a person who would not change the way he felt no matter what I would say. I could making the most compelling story for my cause and he would just spit at it. He had situated himself into a tight corner and there was no way he was going to go back on what he had originally said. No way I could change his mind, so I tried to accept that and walk away.

“That’s a good point, man. So I challenge you to do something for a cause that speaks to you, like the oil spill, and raise money for it.” I knew it sounded stupid, but I was done with this conversation and by the looks of it, the muscular man between us just about had enough of it as well. I gave the cafe patrons an apologetic smile and turned my back on Brandon and started walking away.

“That’s right, fucker! Run away… Run, Forest Run!” Brandon laughed. “Or should I say walk away, Forest, walk away!”

I heard the girl try to calm him done again as I continued to weave in and out of the cafe tables towards the sidewalk ahead.

“None of it matters!” Brandon shouted after me. “You’re a fucking waste. You’re all alone and you’re a fucking waste.”

I stopped. My head was buzzing and I could feel my anger reaching boiling point. I turned around a looked at Brandon who was still standing in front of his table, sneering. I noticed the girl and guy who had been sitting with him were walking down the street in the opposite direction, throwing glances back over their shoulders.

“What did you say?” I asked. His last comments had for whatever reason stung and he knew it. His face lit up with the satisfaction that he had finally got to me and his sneer turned into one of those evil smiles that were reserved for only the most sinister villains in the movies.

“I said nothing you’re doing matters. No one cares about those dirty fucking brown people, or their country No one cares about your walk. No one cares about you. Haven’t you noticed that no one is walking with you? It’s cause no one fucking cares. You’re a fucking retard. You’re all alone.”

“A man is never truly alone…” came a voice coming from my right, “unless he himself believes it to be so!” I looked over and saw the older man who had scoffed earlier now rising out his seat. He must have been pushing 80 and wore a blue shirt with blue shorts and bright white socks that came up to his knees. My heart leapt and fell at the same time for the old man. While I couldn’t believe that this old man was standing up for, I felt like he didn’t realize that clever lines like that one didn’t have the same impact in fights these days as they may have fifty years ago. He gave me a small smile as Brandon burst into laughter.

“Oh, I was wrong, Forest! You aren’t alone. You’ve got stupid old geezers with you as well!”

The old man scoffed again and I noticed he was swaying back and forth trying to keep his balance. Resting against a chair next to him was a walking cane and I could tell he was trying his best to stand his ground without it. The old man then chuckled and pointed over at Brandon. “It looks like it’s you who are alone now, son.”

Brandon looked behind him and noticed his two friends were no longer with him. He just shrugged and said, “Whatever. They feel the same way as I do. Everyone here does! I’m just the only one who has balls enough to say it. Everyone here thinks you’re a fucking loser!”

With that the muscular man exploded out of his seat, still not looking at either me or Brandon. A vein in his forehead looked ready to explode and his face blushed in a deep red. His mouth was thin and in a small frown. He then looked at me and I gave a step back. Then he looked over at Brandon, who still had a smile wiped across his face, but the heat behind his stare had faltered. Finally the man said, “Not everyone here feels that way.” The three of us stood there, looking over at Brandon and for the first time in the conversation I felt myself swell with pride. I suddenly felt like my 10,000 Facebook followers were right behind me. That my family and friends were at my side. That all the people who I had met over the last 100 days had my back. That not just one, but two countries stayed steady beneath my feet. My face, which had crumbled into a sad and sorry look, now beamed with appreciation and I stared into Brandon’s eyes which were now hastily sweeping the faces of the people staring back at him.

The patio was absolutely quiet and everyone looked between the old guy and me, the muscular man and then Brandon. Finally Brandon puffed up, his face contorted into a grimace full of hate. “Well believing that is what makes you guys so fucking dumb.” He spat at the ground, turned on his heel and marched after his friends. For a few seconds no one moved a muscle. Then the muscular man glanced over at me, his face still stone cold and for a split second I could have sworn he gave me a small wink. He then sat down, sipped his drink and stared ahead. I noticed everyone else was still looking at me and I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. To my right, the older man asked, “You headed up the street there that way.” He pointed and I nodded. “Great!” He exclaimed. “You can walk this old man to his car!” He gave a chuckle, left a few bucks on his table, grabbed his cane and then took my arm.

We passed by the rest of the tables and a chatter ignited from them the moment the old man and I got onto the sidewalk. We walked down the street where we introduced ourselves to one another. By the second block he had me laughing and the thought of what just happened started to sink below corny jokes and the warmth of the sun. We walked another two blocks until we came to a dark green car and the old man propped his cane up against it. We stared at each other for a few seconds before a face of concern came over his face. “You don’t believe him, do you?” he asked.

“Believe what?”

“That you’re alone.” He simply replied.

I considered for a second and then said, “Well, I believe that I’m not, so that makes it so… right?” I gave him a smile.

He smiled back, just a little, and then continued to stare at me. Finally he said, “I have a better saying, I think…”

I laughed. “Yeah?”

He cleared his throat, looked me straight in the eyes, then said, “While a man may find himself alone, he never truly will be if his friends reside in his heart.”

His eyes were brimming with tears and I couldn’t hold back mine from doing the same. Finally I stuck out my hand and said, “Well… What do you say then, friend.”

He laughed, grasped my hand with a strength that took me by surprise and said, “I say… walk on, Jordan… Walk on.”

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And So I Will

January 27th, 2010

I loosened my tie as I stepped outside into the blistering cold, the wind blowing my gelled hair into a style my mother would never approve of. Another interview over and done with and no where closer to obtaining that elusive “career”. My father’s words echoed in my head, “If not anything, with each new interview you gain that much more experience!” I have gained so much experience through these interviews that I could be the one sitting on the other side of the table asking all the questions. And as if my four year college education and degree didn’t give me enough experience for these very, very entry-level positions. But seven months since graduation and over 1,200 resumes sent and applications filled out, I was not even one step closer to having a job.

As I got into my car to head back home I felt my face burn red from my frustration. If there was one thing that I prided myself on, it would my work ethic. I’ve always worked hard at the jobs I’ve had, even when I worked as a janitor cleaning toilets with a grimy toothbrush. I didn’t like it, but it was my job and it’s what I had to do. And now, a college degree under my belt and with ambition spilling out my ears, I couldn’t even get a potential employer to give me a glance. I lacked the one main thing they were looking for: direct experience. Never mind my education, my six years in customer service, and a nicely prepared resume; I just didn’t have two years experience working in the exact field I was applying for. And forget the question “How is one suppose to gain this experience, when no place is willing to give the experience?” Those are questions, you apparently, just don’t ask.

Thirty-five minutes later I pulled into the drive way and entered my home. On the table was a stack of bills: phone service, rent, heat, health insurance, and enough student loan forms to fill a filing cabinet. With my savings account nearing the red, the pressure to start earning an income had never been greater. The recent job denial stung my mind and I began to pace around the room in anger. I don’t even want to work any of these positions I’m applying to! Jobs that college graduates usually secured were now going to the older candidates who had been laid off from their previous jobs. I’ve had to resort to applying to positions in coffee houses and yogurt shops. Positions that I could care less about. Where the only point to getting it would be for the paycheck. I want to work in a field that I at least somewhat care about, doing things that make just a little difference in the world and fills that space in your heart with pride and ambition. Something you work so hard at but you wouldn’t have it any other way. A job like that was no longer even on my radar; it had been bumped off as I filled out the countless applications to low paying, and even lower satisfaction, positions.

I shuffled into my bedroom and sat in front of the TV. Nothing interesting on. Typical. My eyes wandered over to my closet where I could see my hiking bag and a freshly folded stack of laundry. The idea of packing up the essentials and heading out the door onto a grand adventure, leaving behind all my worries left my mind as fast as it came in. I knew running away from my problems wouldn’t solve any of them, though it did have a strong appeal. I peeled my eyes away from the closet and returned them back to the TV. I switched channels until I came across the local news which was covering the recent earthquake in Haiti. As I watched the videos of the tired and hungry survivors and what were left of their homes I realized I was in the perfect situation to help! I didn’t have a job which left my schedule wide open. I’m in great shape and have always enjoyed hard work, especially if it’s helping others out! This was the one thing that I could do with my time and effort to really make a difference, not only to Haiti, but to myself as well. Then and there it was decided that I would go down to Haiti with one of the relief organizations to help the people in need.

I spent the next few hours pouring over the internet and creating a list of major organizations and non-profits that were providing relief to Haiti. I grabbed my phone and started calling the numbers. I navigated through the automated message like a sailor in the sea. I spoke to operators, to volunteers, to project leaders and anyone and everyone in-between. Not very long into my phone calls I started to realize a reoccurring trend. Once again my lack of experience was weighing me down. All the organizations required their volunteers to have at least 2 years of natural disaster volunteering experience. I couldn’t believe it. All I wanted to do was help and I was being turned away, just because I had never had the opportunities to gain the experience needed to fit the guidelines.

I sighed as I hung up the phone with the second to last number on my list, once again being denied a volunteer position. I was urged to donate money to the organization but explained how I didn’t even have enough money to buy groceries for myself. I picked up my phone and dialed the last number on my list. After minutes of listening to automated messages and pressing a series of buttons I was on the line with an operator. After a few minutes it came clear that this organization was no different; no experience, no volunteering. In a last fit of desperation I asked the woman on the other end of the phone, “Can you just tell me… How can I get down to Haiti to help?” After a moments pause she simply replied, “You can always walk.” And promptly hung up.

I stared straight ahead as my mind buzzed. The frustration of the conversation, the day’s interview, the months wear on my ambition and hope burned my brain and ripped at my heart. But suddenly a deafening silence came over me as I turned my eyes back to closet. The pack and clothes were still there. I noticed that a few feet away from them my hiking shoes were sitting side by side, seemingly staring up at me, ready to go. In the desk drawer my map and compass called to me. The TV flashed images of starving children. Wreckage and debris. Slowly, a smile crept across my face as I replied, “And so I will.”

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Farewell Forests… My Old Friends…

A thought suddenly popped into my mind today, so suddenly that it stole the air from my lungs. I was walking along highway 1 towards Jupiter, FL and I realized that today would be my last day of walking alongside forests or any other kind of wild countryside for the remainder of my trip. To you, it may not seem that big of deal, or it may even sound like a good thing! But for me it tugged at my heart. The majority of my 93 days of walking have been alongside an old state highway with towering forests or vast fields on either side of me. I grew accustomed to swatting away insects, the smell of roadkill (not saying I like the smell anymore than I used to), and long days of not seeing any sort of business or building. I had watched the pines of the north turn into the palms of the south. And now I was trading it in for cheap motels, burger joints, and an occasional building taller than 4 stories.

After today, I start to walk along the part of the Atlantic’s coast where each city bleeds into a larger one until finally, Miami is born. I stood on the side of the road when that realization hit and looked ahead. About a mile ahead I saw cars glinting in the sunlight at a busy intersection and large colorful balloons floating in sky overhead… undoubtedly attached to gigantic American flags in a used car lot. I then turned around and looked at the Jonathan Dickinson State Park I was leaving behind. It definitely wasn’t the most beautiful forest I had ever walked through, but this being my last of the trip, it looked beautiful.

I almost produced a tear when I thought about how I wouldn’t ever again during my journey wake up early and start my walk in the foggy mist on a lonely highway, with only the morning birds as company. Granted, I knew many more forest walks awaited me in my life, and not along side of a road to boot… but all the same, it was an end to a chapter in this journey and I hated to say goodbye. A flock of pelicans flew east overhead as I took in my last truly fresh breath of forest air. I gave one final look, said goodbye to my old friend the forest and then turned south, stepping into the final miles of my walk.

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NOgurt!

As my day ended I reached around to my pack’s side pocket and pulled out my water bottle. Empty. I smacked my lips, which were dry, flaking and cracked. My mouth was as hot as an oven. As the evening sun radiated against my face, I tried to clear my throat but it turned into a raspy dry cough. I looked over to a small strip mall off the side of the road and saw a line of small businesses crammed in next to each other, ranging from a cellular phone dealer, a minute gym, a gold for cash shop and at the end a small frozen yogurt shop. Its red neon light was ablaze and suddenly a creature inside of me stirred, then sniffed the air. I was hungry. And I wanted yogurt.

I crossed the black sea of a parking lot and came up to the little shop. A few small tables with chairs sat neatly on either side of the entrance and a flower-pot wafted a strong scent of pollen, intensified by the afternoon heat. Though the store’s name and logo was printed across the door, the shop didn’t show any indications whether it was open or closed. I tried peering in through the windows, but they were tinted black and I couldn’t see through them. I cautiously opened the door and an electronic chime sounded far off in the back of the shop. I peered inside and saw that the whole place was empty, including behind the register. I walked in and looked around. There were a dozen small metal tables with matching chairs scattered about and each ones surface was spotless. The floor was that annoying black and white checkered patterned and I suddenly felt a little warped. I glanced up over the counter and began to read the different flavors of yogurt they offered, their prices and all the different candy assortments I could add… the more expensive the more unhealthy. I shuffled over to the counter and yogurt freezer and peered at where normally big metal bins of different flavored yogurt would be held.

Instead, the bins were completely empty and I looked over at the register and saw that the drawer wasn’t even in it. Right when I started putting two and two together I heard someone humming in the backroom. Their footsteps grew louder and I quickly looked over at the door, trying to decide if I could make it out of the shop before whoever it was came out from the back. But just then the backroom door opened and a young asian woman came out, holding an arm full of yogurt cups. “Uhhhh…” I said, wanting to make my presence known as soon as possible in an attempt not to startle her. But that did just that and she screamed a blood curdling scream and tossed all the red and white cups into the air. She took a step back, frightened and clutched the counter behind her.

It was this moment where I noticed a big sign overhead that read “Grand Opening On July 1st!”. She continued to stare at me, uncertain of my intentions. I opened my mouth to say something like, “I’m sorry for startling you, Ma’am. My name is Jordan Dibb and I came into your shop to get some of your finest fro-yo and have only just realized that your store is closed!”. But when I began to talk, the dryness of my mouth and throat made me wheeze a bit and all that came out was, “Yooogurt!” My voice cracked when I said this, making it go very deep towards the end of the word. I sounded like Frankenstein.

“No!” the woman shouted, but she still seemed fairly afraid. I tried to clear my throat but began into a coughing fit and I held up my hand, hoping to convey an “I’m sorry” gesture. I opened my mouth to try to explain again, but my words got caught up in my throat and all I was able to cough up were, “I… want..ed… YOGURT!” I coughed out the last word so loud that even I was taken back. This sudden outburst seemed to give the young lady some strength and anger flashed in her eyes. “NO!” she repeated and took a step at me like you would to intimate an approaching tiger. I took a step back, my hands still raised and still coughing. “No!” she shouted. “No, gurt! No-gurt!! Nogurt!!!”.  She had a very thick accent and as she shouted her two words started to blend together in her anger.

She started towards me yelling, “Nogurt! NOGURT!” and waved the remaining yogurt cup in her hand. I tucked my tail between my legs and ran towards the door, all awhile trying to clear my stupid throat and apologize for the mixup. I sprinted out the door as one of the paper yogurt cups flew past my right ear. After the door shut I heard the lock bolt tight and the lady behind it talking fast and angrily in a language I didn’t recognize. My throat finally cleared by the time I reached the side of the highway and I continued along my way. I glanced back and saw the roadside sign for the yogurt shop that read, “Tasty Yum Yogurt”. I was suddenly overcome, for just a moment, to buy a can of spray paint and write over those words with “NOgurt!”.

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Music.

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.”    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sky overhead clouded over as I neared my last few miles of the day. A long stretch of empty road through a deserted village laid in front of me and not a soul could be seen, except for a young boy sitting on his shoe shine box. Sweaty, tired and on the verge of death from boredom I slowly plodded down the lonely street. Its at this point in my walks where time seems to stretch and a single mile seems to go on for infinity. Its times like these where I start to believe I’ll never end my day’s walk. As I came up to the young boy I noticed he was whistling and tapping his foot. When I passed he gave me a happy nod and I could hear him quietly humming a tune. Amazed that he was so upbeat even though he had the dirtiest job in town, I asked him how he kept from getting the blues. He just grinned and said “Getta rhythm!”

With that a drum beat issued out from my iPod, its sound seeming to fill the air around us. The boy jumped up and started to strut down the street. I followed. Every few steps he gave a little skip in his step and twirled once or twice. I suddenly noticed that my backpack had magically disappeared, leaving me light as a feather. A guitar riff started in as I looked up at the cloudy sky over head and gave a frown. The young boy and I glanced at each other and then faced the dark gray mass, inhaled deeply, and blew away the clouds. A sun appeared from behind them, stretched, and gave us a wink. “Well hello, Mr. Blue Sky!” the young boy yelled up and the sun beamed. As the song entered into its first verse we danced down the street as a few people stuck their heads out of their houses and began to sing along. We crossed Abbey Road with four gentlemen dressed in suits as woman named Lucy floated overhead, littering the sky with diamonds. I asked one of them how he was feeling and he replied, “I feel fine!” “Me too!” I said. For a few seconds we saw life in technicolor as we convinced ourselves that we were indeed, very busy people. From my iPod’s audiobooks emerged Harry Potter and Edgar Freemantle. As Harry conjured jets of colorful sparks, Edgar painted the most beautiful sunset where seashells bloomed into roses.

An uncontrollable happiness had now spread over me as I started to dance down the street, a few onlookers joining in. We passed an elementary school where a banner read “School’s Out For The Summer!”, except that the words “For The Summer” had been crossed out and replaced with “Forever”. Kids spilled out into the streets and threw their homework into the air, laughing and doing cartwheels. The teachers threw out all the rules and began to smoke and kiss in the parking lot as “A+” papers fell all around them. One teacher asked what kind of music this was and another shrugged, replying, “I dunno, but it’s still rock and roll to me!” A considerable crowd had begun to accumulate behind me as I sang the chorus and danced moves I never knew I had in me. Overhead a house supported by thousands of colorful balloons passed by as an elderly couple held hands and reminisced about all the stuff that they had done. The house dropped in altitude just slightly as 99 red balloons detached themselves and floated away in the summer sky.

As the second verse started in, and more people fell in line behind me, my heart gave a jump and then leapt out of my chest. It grew arms and legs and then turned into the most beautiful girl who had ever possessed my heart. We kissed as a burning ring of fire encircled us, but we swore we didn’t start it.  “Oh! It is love!” someone nearby exclaimed. We passed by Strawberry Swing, a building labeled “Feel Good Inc.” and then a pool party where hundreds of people swam and sang, “Holy guacamole, we’ve got chips!” The crowd behind us grew into hundreds as we all started into a dance routine. We all dance and twirled, leapt and tumbled as a petty poet sang to a courtesan on top of an elephant’s head. As the second verse slid into the second chorus I rose my right arm up into the air and then brought it down onto what had been an air guitar and heard the deafening reverberation of its strings sounding through the street. We came to the town’s center square where a large stage stood and crowd of thousand stood before it, cheering and swaying. I jumped onto stage and sang the chorus as the guitarist sporting blue suede shoes to my right moved his hips in a way that made all the girls swoon. I handed my guitar to Tom who sang a few of the chorus’ final lines, “And everyday I wake, I tell myself a little harmless lie…”

I dove off stage and surfed through the crowd. I met up with my girl and we clasped hands and laughed as we floated through the masses. As we entered the middle of town square, and the song entered its space-like interlude, the crowd threw us onto a large trampoline, where we began to jump higher and higher. We jumped so high that we left the town down below, floated past the place where soul meets body, through the vanilla twilight and emerged into outer space. We saw a rocket man and Major Tom being swallowed by infinity’s limits, with the earth below them, drifting, falling. As they floated weightlessly they both sang, “This is our home… We’re going home.” As they disappeared we spun and twirled, we wore the stars that turned on our lives and kissed in a way that made the galaxies blush. As we kissed planet earth turned slowly and I thought about how love’s been good to me. We walked on sunshine and talked about what a wonderful world we live in. As the song neared the end of its bridge we began to fall back to earth, leaving behind such great heights.

We were free fallin’ as we passed eagles who were flying through a hole in the world. As we drifted down to earth the stars overhead became explosions in the sky and we landed on the ground as the song’s final chorus burst into action.  Thousands of people fell in behind us and began to sing along. A skulk of three foxes darted between our legs, chasing after red rabbits. Through the door’s of a nearby church, a large gospel choir dressed in maroon robes spilled out into the street, singing the background vocals. A heavenly voice filled the air as the hills surrounding the small town came alive with the sound of music. The energy in the air had such an electric feel that we all felt like electric eels as we sang and twirled in slow motion. We turned down the final long stretch of road which was lined by hundreds of excited onlookers. We paraded on as marching band appeared from out of alleyways and their brassy music bounced off all the buildings. We passed a turnoff for Margaritaville as someone threw me a large conducting baton and I lead the way, high-stepping through the streets, giving my step an extra bounce here and there. Fireworks exploded overhead and the elderly couple released their thousands of balloons that filled the sky, their surfaces bending the sunlight into rainbows. As spots of colors swam across our faces and the streets, my baton turned into a orchestra conductor’s wand and I handed it off to Mr. Williams. He gave it a wave and the marching band turned into the magnificent Boston Pops Orchestra as the climax of the song began. Horns blared and a timpani thundered booms as I approached the end of the road.

A portly man – the town’s mayor – was standing in front of a doorway that stood in the middle of the street, the words “The Whole Wide World” written across its top. He was holding a large poofy pillow where a shiny key lay. I took the key and then looked back at the street behind me. The parade of people had stopped and were now singing the last words of the song. Fireflies filled the air as dancers spun and everyone began to wave their hands. The orchestra’s horns swelled and the drums began to crescendo. The brown-eyed girl gave me one last smile as everyone stared on expectantly. I turned back to the door, unlocked it with the key and entered it as the last note sounded. The instant the door shut the song ended and the world became completely quiet. My pack had returned to my shoulders and I turned around to find an empty street and a cloudy sky. My heart threatened to drop, but I then saw the young shoe shine boy down the street, tapping his foot. I smiled, pushed “repeat” on my iPod and walked on as the sun appeared from behind the clouds and the world turned into my own, once again.

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The Man And The Shell.

I wrote this journal after meeting an older man who was obviously homeless. He passed me on the road and I asked him him where he was headed. He said, “Home.” I asked him where home was and he simply said, “Where ever you make it.”

Frank opened up his eyes and for a minute seemed to forget where he was and why there was a heavy sinking feeling in his heart. As he coughed and rolled over in his bed, his eyes fell on the manila folder sitting on the bed stand. He frowned. Untangling himself from the sheets, he threw his feet over the side of the bed and slid them into his slippers. Before standing up he snuck a glance to the empty side of the bed.  The scent of flowers filled his mind and he quickly looked away.  His heart began to hurt.  He picked up the manila folder and scuffled across the floor. Not giving a second thought, he threw the folder into the trash.  A corner of sheet of paper slipped a few inches out of the folder in the trash, revealing the single word –  inoperable.

Frank changed into his old jeans and white T-shirt, put on his shoes, and made his way into the kitchen.  He drank coffee at a small dinner table, his eyes glazing over as he stared at the empty seat across from him.  As the scent of flowers over took him again, he got up and dumped the remaining coffee in the sink. Zipping up his jacket, he grabbed a small backpack and headed out the door.  He walked down a small beaten path between two rows of trees, strapping the pack onto his back as he made his way onto the beach.  He found their rock and sat down upon it, staring at the morning sun as it slowly creeped into the sky.  His heart gave a jolt and he clutched his chest, as if keeping it in and restrained.  As the waves crashed, Frank’s thoughts drifted. He did not want to leave behind this rock and those waves. They had discovered them and didn’t want to think about some other schmucks claiming them as their own. He frowned again as he felt something bump into his bare feet.

A small hermit crab had been scuttling across the sand and was now making its way around Frank’s foot. It’s shell was old, scratched, and faded.  A few feet away, the crab came upon a much larger, shinier shell. Slowly, it crawled out of its old one and disappeared into the larger one.  For a few seconds the crab could not be seen, until finally its pincers and eyes protruded from the opening and it began to crawl away, the shell glinting in the sun. Annoyed that the crab thought it could just take what it wanted, Frank bent down and picked it up.  The crab snapped its claws menacingly as it slowly retreated to safety within its shell.  If it thinks it can just pick up and take with it whatever it wants, so can I, thought Frank. He stowed the crab into his jacket pocket.

Frank looked down at his feet, which were covered in sand.  This was the place where they had first kissed. It was theirs. It is mine, he said to himself.  He bent down and grabbed a handful of sand, then placed it in his backpack.  He began to look around for other things he could not bear to lose.  That row of trees had provide them with years of shade and relaxation. He plucked up each tree and placed them all within his pack.  Frank began to collect everything which had touched their life. He grabbed the birds they used to watch and the crickets they used to listen to and placed them in the bag upon his back. He grabbed their favorite movies and books, the rocks in the rivers and the pond they once had swam in.

Frank’s legs began to waver as he added more and more possessions into the bag on his back, but he kept on.  He snatched up flowers and waterfalls, caught airplanes in the sky.  Their old motorbike was hastily added to the pack.  As the day went on, Frank walked through the world, picking up almost everything as he went.  As the sun began to set he pulled down the scarlet clouds, which clung to the sky like cotton balls on a rough surface. As the stars began to shine, Frank ripped down their favorite constellations and stowed them within the pack. He caught the waves and then the setting sun, shoving with all his might as they squeezed into the pack.  Zipping it up, he slung it over his shoulder. He could now barely move beneath the weight.

By this time the world was pretty empty and all that remained was the ground he stood on and the moon.  As he stood up on his tiptoes and reached for the silvery moon, he heard a soft cry from behind him.  He turned around and saw a young boy who had his arms wrapped around his legs, crying.  Frank asked the boy why he cried. The boy didn’t answer, but Frank began to look around; he hadn’t realized how much he had taken and placed in his pack.  Somehow, they had seemed to touch everything in their lives, which was now all packed away into Frank’s pack.  Taking the young boy’s hand, Frank began to empty the bag’s contents. As each item was unpacked, the boy looked in amazement as Frank showed him how to use each one.

Frank taught the boy how to skip rocks on the river, how to identify birds as they flew. The boy learned how airplanes stayed in the air, how to read a map, and the joys of reading a book in a tree’s shade.  Frank put back the sun and the clouds and taught the boy how to enjoy even the smallest moments in life.  They flicked stars back up into the heavens and Frank taught the young boy about constellations and how to wonder.  The last firefly flitted from out of the pack and the last pebble of sand fell back to the earth, and finally the bag was empty.  The boy, now exhausted from the day, turned and headed back home, leaving Frank alone by the rock and the sea.

Suddenly, Frank felt a pinch at his side. He plunged his hands into his jacket pocket and pulled out the hermit crab, who snapped its claws disapprovingly. As he set the crab back down onto the sand, Frank realized he had been wrong about it. The crab didn’t take what it wanted, but made do with what it was given. And when the crab’s body outgrew it’s shell, a larger one was needed. The sea birds sang as the crab disappeared around the rock where Frank now sat. He took off the pack and set it down onto the sand. He no longer needed it. Frank watched the sky open up into a beauty he had never seen before as the scent of flowers filled the air.

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