I expected as much. He could only spend so time many pal-ing around with an old fart like me before his hormones kicked into overdrive and demanded pacification.
After a week or so the photo stream started up. Pictures of a group of young men and women out drinking and eating. Close ups of cute girls. Then closer up. Then things that only should be seen in anatomy textbooks or I don’t know. The Kama Sutra.
That’s not fair to the Kama Sutra, though. The KS is a book on the art of love. Drawing an analogy between Peter’s relentless pursuit of a new GF and India’s famous book on the art of lovemaking is like trying to make an analogy between a George Bush Jr. speech and a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. They’re both Americans giving speeches and both are juniors, but that’s about it.
Getting Peter’s photo history was like a big cat (or dog) sending me updates while he was out on the prowl. Random chickee-poos he would meet somewhere or who would walk into his web—I mean store—and he’d chat them up and then—bingo! Hello Jungo!
If I sound a little bit envious then I apologize. Because I am way more than a little envious. (sigh)
Peter was on the prowl. He even stalked the perpetually grumpy co-ed who worked the counter at the gym. Usually when I interact with Chinese—male or female—I get them to smile because, hey, I speak Chinese pretty well, and I crack jokes with them. Not this cara de piedra. Nothing I did did any good. She looked at me as if I had just raped and killed her grandmother. No scratch that. That’s not accurate, because that would mean she emoted. There was no emoting coming from her.
She treated me like a damn gnat that had landed on the screen of her big Samsung cell phone. Moreover, she couldn’t really be bothered to shoo it away. I would stand there, my head just over the counter, level with her eyes, and smile my nicest friendliest dirty uncle smile.
No response. Cough cough. Extend gym card and 50 kuai deposit for the locker key. Long drawn out sigh from her. Snatches—snatches—card and bill out of my hand and throws the locker key onto the countertop. I say hello, please, thank you, good bye, every time. And I could never get any kind of, any kind of, the Chinese say, 人情味兒 rénqíng wèi’èr , warm human feeling. And that was it. She had none of that. She was one cold mama. Yeah, I wasted not a little grey matter wondering why she didn’t like me. It really bugged me. I saw this girl almost every freakin’ day. She can’t spare a polite smile?
I mentioned this to Peter and he said, “No, no. She’s really nice.” I did notice that when I came in with Peter she deigned to look up from her phone. At him. I still did not exist and fumed in my non-existence.
She not only looked at him but actually went out with him (albeit briefly). He sent me pictures of her and him smiling. Smile. Ing. And having a ball. I don’t know that they actually balled, but that would be purely incidental. What was amazing was seeing a smile on the girl’s face. She was transformed from surly lazy counter-bitch into sweet, angelic, pixie Asian chick. Whatever Peter has, we oughta bottle it up and sell it. The hell with Viagra Cialis whatever.
Anyhoo, since Peter was lost or out on the hunt, I was not about to stop going into the woods to practice archery. It was May and rainy, but the weather was gorgeous in between the storms.
In April, the trees began to sprout their leaves. Little by little your vision into the distance diminished. As the foliage grew in, the bare trees lost their stark appearance, lost that spindly pale bone-flesh feel, and seemed to swell with life, with power, with green. I know that is impossible. Trees don’t get fat, but it seemed that way. The air was so fresh, I swear I could smell the oxygen wafting off the leaves. The forest floor was soft wet and spongy from the intermittent rains. Yet above me around me the trees penetrated the air with their new green velvety palms and leafy fingers glistening with raindrops. The sun was not cold, not hot. Not even masculine. The sun gave off a feminine light. She was naughty and sweet, gentle and ticklish, falling between the branches and leaves, to drop at my feet like a prankish child, rebound quickly and dance off elsewhere. The winter forest had transformed into a place of magic, populated by elves and fairies and wood spirits. Sadly no Hobbits were anywhere in sight. My Hobbit was back home sulking over whatever it is that Hobbits sulk over. The irony is not lost on me.
So alone in the forest, but very much not alone. Solitude, but not solitary at all. The beautiful blue-tipped and white-tipped crows were telling jokes to one another. Squirrels gamboled in the leafy network of branches. In the distance a dog yapped happily. She had found a friend.
I love the forest.
I love stepping away from the cold grey dirty city and entering the green bosom of nature. In her I feel at home. And I, American Zen, have never felt at home in any place made by man. Never in any city or town or village. But in the forests, in the woods, in the mountains, in the jungles. These have been sanctuaries, all too brief, but they have been refuges from the blight of mankind, from the pain and worry of dealing with the human things, the man things, the woman things.
In many churches across the world I have seen beauty, man-made beauty, architectural psalms paying tribute to the glory of god, but I have never felt god. Only in nature have I felt that divine power, that masculine feminine fullness, bountiful and dangerous and limitless.
For a little while anyway.
For a little while, I tramp into the forest, am enveloped by the forest, blocking out the skyscrapers, shutting out the noisy construction, scaring off the fearful anxious human things, and I am left alone-but-not-alone with a crappy wooden bow and two cheap arrows, a homemade target stuffed with old baby clothes and a greasy seat cushion.
I nock my arrow. Breathing in, I pull back on the string, pulling it to my lips. I feel the finger-tab touch my lips.
My eyes line up with the center of the target. I feel more than see the arrow lined up with my vision.
The trees whisper all around me, scattering the sunlight children, who dance and laugh and play in the pale shade of the trees. One of them jumps onto the tip of my arrow and as I exhale, releasing, she rides the arrow through the green air, splitting the shadow and the light, riding true, riding straight, riding into the heart.
I know peace.