My daughter is fascinated by all things aquatic. I think she has a preternatural memory of swimming in a primordial sea, and wants to return to it. Perhaps the ancient ebb and flow of amniotic fluid offers protection from the hard realities and temporal rules of a more rigid, defined-edge life. It was a remarkable day, a point of reference as was the day of her first period, when she grew tall and strong and brave enough to venture out past the breakers at the beach. When porpoises arch by barely a shell’s throw further out, she wants to swim out to them, and continue with them, half in/half out of water on their peripatetic parade parallel to the coast. Where do they go when perpendicular?
Back home, my daughter wanted to go fishing. I had obtained the correct license, and we dredged up the tackle box, assembled the rods and reels, and picked a spot to wet our lures. She chose, not based on water temperature, likely feeding streams, time of day, or water depth, — nothing that would result in barbed metal piercing a fish cheek or swallowed whole into a trouty stomach irreversibly — but rather based on swimming pleasure. The fishing paraphernalia was merely a guise for her to be with the fishes, to transform herself into a lure with no hook. She wanted to get wet and go where they go, to follow the “fresh water porpoises.”
I saw Teiresias walking along the grass facing my car on the opposite side of the river road a few hundred feet ahead. I turned the car around to park near the daughter-chosen spot. We pulled onto the grass beside a bridge over a creek that fed into the Toe River. I looked back down the road, but Teiresias was gone. Just as our car made tracks, our feet bent grass blades over, imprinting our perpendicular path toward the river. Lures affixed, we marched into the stream, or rather I hurried to catch up to my daughter, who was already casting in the middle of the river. The creek water closest to the bank was cold, and the warm river water further out was welcome. The water made deep gurgling sounds as it was heaved aside by rocks, rushing jet engine sounds as it was folded into narrow chutes between rocks, and piled up in splashing choppy sounds on the slower waters of the eddies below rocks. We set our territories and cast out our lines, and began the wait. As usual, nothing happened. I moved upstream against the current, then cut a perpendicular path across the sandy, smooth-rocked bottom to mount a boulder. From this vantage point I thought I could see the fish, or at least my lure, better.
The wait got the best of my daughter, who trudged back to the tackle box on the grassy shore, laid down her rod, and half slogged, half swam upstream to my boulder. She was much more alive, fun-loving, aware of the elements around her, now that she’d been freed of having a win or lose test — catching a fish — placed upon her. She was giggly, splashy, vocal, though not verbal. This was not helping the fish-catching off my boulder, but I had been getting more pleasure from watching the imitation fish lure dodge and weave and flutter in the current beneath my boulder, than straining over my inadequacy as a food provider, so I went with it.
Suddenly, my daughter stopped, turned upstream, and said, “Somebody’s over there,” pointing to the bank below the road. I looked and saw two red pieces of cloth snagged on a tree trunk and limb. “I don’t see anybody,” I said. “There’s a green and white tent,” she said, still pointing. A tree obscured my sight line, so I moved off the boulder. There it was: a little camp down the bank from the road in a thicket that could be seen only by train engineers, canoeists, and fishermen from the opposite side of the river. We looked at each other. “It’s that old man,” she said. “Teiresias.” “What’s he doing there?” she asked. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s the freest man in the county.” At this we both heard a loud cackle, pierced by a gleeful euphonia, then cut off, replaced by the gurgling, jetting, splashing river.
Teiresias, sans auto, had gone perpendicular to the road, down the bank, and set up a fixed point of operations. He no longer needed to travel to escape; he had gone, almost literally, underground, hiding in plain sight — a purloined letter. And my daughter had found him, swimming with the porpoises.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012