A giant comes into your field of view, with arms the size of trees and thighs that could crush your tiny little head.
“Where you are, be there,” he says. “Don’t get a written tattoo, wouldn’t that just be ugly?”
“At this point, you’ve fucked up so many times that I don’t really know what to tell you,” he adds.
Thanks, you say, I’m going to fry my brains. Then this giant, in his utter audacity, shows you off.
“I hate you,” you say after being embarrassed by his attention. He drags you out and stays by your side because you’re on his team. Despite all of your fuckery, never does he raise a hand. Hell, you can hardly even recall him yelling.
At some point, you start to grow on him, in a way you could never have expected. Those trees aren’t so big anymore and your head is so blown out of proportion that it would take a vacuum-sealed laboratory to really crush it.
You fall down, he drops what he’s doing and picks you up. He doesn’t really call — you both know that most of the time, he might not like what he hears if he did. But when you call him when you shouldn’t, he texts you the next morning.
* * * * *
It turns out he had his own arch, a lifetime of character behind him. He’s been broken before and stayed where he shouldn’t have. He’s been on meds. He’s done drugs — the whole nine yards. You find out that he dropped everything he was doing before he even met you, just to turn you from a twinkle in his eye into a buddha boy.
“How are you going to change the world?” he asks, with Colin Meloy’s music wailing gently behind you. He quietly listens as you tell him about Internet School in India, fur traders in the Hudson Bay, or how you’re going to design a Lego Charlie And The Chocolate Factory game.
He doesn’t really understand it, but he’s happy to hear you talk. He asks the right questions, just so you know he’s listening.
He quietly sets down his breakfast to explain when an object flies across open space, apparently, it can go slightly farther if it’s up against a wall. That was far too complex an answer for seven-year-old you to really understand, but he believed — that made it possible.
He laughs at you for spending $500 on a motorcycle helmet, but he lets you borrow his jacket with another guy’s name on it. He shows you Motorcycle Diaries and says he wants to dirt bike together, and he drives you to the lot.
You come to know him, just as you’re finally leaving him.
After so many years of what felt like a constant disappointment, you see the lines on his face, and the strain in his body. “I need to start running,” “I’ve been going to the gym,” and you’re happy for him. What he doesn’t know is that those arms, smaller now, could still lift your whole world.
He tells you about seeing Signal Hill.
“Who’s that?” you ask, “They play at Lower Deck,” he says. He doesn’t know much about where you are now, but he knows the Lower Deck and he always makes sure to ask about it.
His marks are all over you — in the jacket you wear, in the music you listen to, in the way you talk. He was the first one on your team, the one who told you to never pick a fight and when to sit down. He shows you that you don’t have to be a broken monster and that you can still be a hero. That you can sail around the fucking world, no matter how fearsome it is.
There is no rock that can stop that force, and it’s there when you need it. When he drags you out of bed to go retrieve your forgotten bike, a thief disappears before you’ve even noticed him, but he saw.
Does he know the stories you tell about him? Does he know that without his endorsement, you never could have found the courage to sign on? That he taught you what hills to die on? Forever towering over you, forever on guard. An impossible standard, but one he’ll keep expecting you to reach because he knows you can. Whether it’s Sailing to Philadelphia, wailing in a whale’s jaw, or getting Up the Junction, he’s behind you. What more could you ask for?
COVER PHOTO: The Grand Canyon (Lennart Sikkema/Wikimedia Commons)