Thursday, December 12, 2013

License plates

Jamison was the last person to debate God's existence with me and now he's dead. Each night before he slept he would kneel and mumble a series of words I didn't understand while fingering a string of beads. He would talk while we watched the fire and ate whatever we could find.

He said God was watching and this was punishment for lifetimes of indiscretions. I laughed at his big statements and threw stones at the fire. He chastised me in a gentle way like a father would scold a child, looking at me down his face and that massive beard like a white, puffy cloud.

Nietzsche said God is dead. So is Jamison. This isn't a question I care to debate. God being dead or alive is irrelevant. I'm still here regardless of empty words screamed at the sky in the hopes of absolution.

The sun is pale yellow and cold as it rises. Our relationship is hopeless in winter. I can't stare at it for more than a few seconds and it doesn't heat the world around me more than an inconsequential amount. Even when I do stare, its outline lingers behind my eyelids.

The fire always goes out in the night. I must rise and add sticks to ensure I don't freeze. No matter what I do, no matter how much fuel I add, I still rise with ice crystals gluing my sleeping bag to the ground. Dew settles in while I sleep despite my best efforts.

I rise and roll my bag and continue along broken highways rich with history in the form of abandoned cars. I find one or two every couple of miles, like they were part of a long, steady caravan that petered out. Each is rusted and long since picked over by scavengers looking for metal or drops of gasoline or padding.

The best cars still have their license plates. I collect unique ones that I find by punching holes in either end of the plate with my knife and stringing them together before putting them in my pack. I only keep the truly exceptional ones.

I have one from Oregon with a tree on it, because that's where I lived before most of everyone died and I hit the road. Then there's the California plate that's deep blue with sunflower yellow letters. It's seemingly unremarkable, but reminds me of my dad's old Honda Civic. He lived in Redding and I visited him in the summer. He left that car parked on his lawn until it killed all the grass under it.

The last plate is one given to me by Jamison before he died. It's from Hawaii, which surprised both of us because it's so far away. He said he found it on the remains of a fancy car, a Mercedes carefully brought over the Pacific but ultimately ruined like all the rest. It was nice of him to think of me, despite all of our differences.

I like the Hawaii plate specifically because of its rainbow. I imagine it still on the car, a little slice of joy amid a sea of ruin and rust. When I think of it like that, no matter where I am it makes me smile.

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