Coyote Campfire

Chapter 4 Forgotten

I was forlorn. 

It had been several days and Wildey had completely disappeared. I didn’t know where to look for him, and I felt terrible, remembering how he had looked as he last walked away. All the excitement had drained out of him, and it looked like he had lost hope, lost the gleam in his eye, lost everything. Like he had lost his world. 

I felt like somehow I had killed that world and I had no idea what I had done.

Finally one day I was walking by the river outside town and there he was, sitting on a log on the gravel bar, tossing twigs into the water. Where the river went around a boulder the water swirled around and back upstream. He was idly watching his twigs float into the eddy, catch the current, almost make it back into the stream, only to get pulled back into the eddy and go around again. It looked like he’d been here awhile. The eddy was full of circling sticks.

“Hi, Wildey” I said. “I’m happy to see you. How are you doing?”

He looked at me and said, “I’m doing OK. You just kinda shook me up last time. It took me a bit to catch up with myself.”

I sat close to him on the log.

“I felt so bad about how you looked. I’m so sorry, but I don’t really get what happened.” 

“Well, you wouldn’t, how could you? I just had no idea how far things had gone. No wonder you feel so bad.” He looked at me with such compassion I almost stopped breathing. I still had no really idea what we were talking about, but that look said worlds. 

I didn’t know it until just then, but all of a sudden it felt like I’ve always been the one being compassionate to other people, and I had no idea how to be on the receiving end of this look. I hadn’t until this moment ever had anyone turn that level of spotlight on me. It was incredibly uncomfortable. 

I mean, I’m the one who’s OK here. You know what I mean? A little commiseration is one thing. But to have Wildey look at me this way just stopped my whole body.

“What’s up, Wildey? Why are you looking at me like that? I’m fine, really! You’re the one who looked like you’d just lost your best friend. I’m good. Really.”

He kept looking at me.

I squirmed.

“Kid,” he said, “I just don’t know how to get through here. I don’t know if we even speak the same language.”

I squirmed more. 

“Well, I think we do, Wildey. I mean, I understand you, right now, right? Right? I hear you. I’m right here, listening. Keep going. I’ll be quiet and listen.”

He sighed. It was obviously tough for him. It seemed like he was fishing around for words, or for where to start. It didn’t make me any more comfortable, that’s for sure. 

He looked at me.

“Tell me again, what you remember about being an animal?”

I looked at him. We looked at each other. We still didn’t have words.

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