This past winter, I saw the hooded oracle, Teiresias, in a newcar — well, a different one. It was a 30 year old Subaru wagon. Before the air bag, before anti-lock brakes, before all-wheel drive, before the Berlin Wall came down, this car was new. Now it served the Prophet of Entropy in Yancey County, making his appointed rounds. Though I never saw him drive it, I would see it in the mornings, parked in the grass by the Toe River bank. The driver’s door was swung open, but no one was inside. The first time I saw it, I guessed he must have stopped to relieve himself out of view down the bank.
But there it was again the next morning in the mist rising from the river, door open, no driver to be found. The grass blades had erected themselves, obliterating the path the Subaru had made the day before. It had not moved for a whole day. Maybe he ran out of gas (a serious shortcoming in a grass-cutter), and had walked the half-mile to O.C. Whitson’s General Store to pump a gallon. But Jane had not opened up yet as I drove by, nor had the rural carriers backed into the loading dock at the P.O. yet. Nothing was open, offering him shelter or renewal. [Maybe this is the price of wandering in the wilderness.]
On the third day, almost Biblically, he materialized. As I drove past, there he was, asleep in the front bucket seat, door swung open still. I wondered if snakes and raccoons had considered sleeping with him — and demurred. I assumed sleep: his mouth was open, head laid back on the headrest. I slowed down to see if he lived; still no evidence of gasses escaping his lungs. He must have heard the change in tire-sing and engine-rev, because his eyes opened wide and hard, like someone who heard a bobcat scowl in the night and the campfire had gone out. But he did not otherwise move. He did not close his mouth. He did not look in my direction. I guess knowing it was still this world to which he woke was enough.
Just this past week I saw him again. It was raining on the river road — a good hard spring downpour. I saw this hooded figure walking beside the road, facing oncoming traffic on the other side. The figure had a poncho over his head, but he was not wearing it as a tailor might have conceived the garment. It was piled on his head, unfolded, though the folding had not produced anything rectilinear. It might as well have been a bundle of newspapers or a sheet of tin roofing that had blown and landed on his head, all without apparent notice by the rain-soaked bearer. As I drove past, I saw that it was the face of Teiresias. There was no Subaru in sight, or parked back down the road. He had been reduced to pedestrian wanderer. The disintegration of the universe was proceeding unimpeded. I waved at him through my rear view mirror, hoping he could see the hand silhouette. There was the usual —no response. He had long ago ceased taking pleasure — or pain — in being in this world, yet he could not find the road that led out of this county. And now his hopes of paradise were further diminished: his circle of wandering grew smaller and slower without a car.
I still waved. He once lived at the bottom of the ocean which is now only a desert.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012