Sometime around seven o’clock, I realized that the sun was going down, and that it was the last sunset I’d ever see as a teenager. I’d been sitting in my school’s computer lab, pointlessly surfing the Internet, when it occurred to me how angry I’d be with myself if I didn’t venture outside once more before night fell on the evening and on my adolescence.
I left the computer lab and headed for the school grounds, intending merely to take a walk.
I’d been racking my mind, trying to think of where to go, all the while failing to acknowledge the gnawing voice in the back of my head whispering, too rightly, that none of the artificial and blank places I frequented on this campus would be worthy or capable of concluding an era that had been so majestic, so wild, so terrible, but so beautiful all the same.
I almost missed the opportunity that came to me.
I had been strolling along past academic buildings, trying futilely to see the full orb of the sun one last time before it settled below the parking lots and concrete structures that stand everywhere here (I would not be successful). Upon reaching the University’s artificial lake, I had determined to turn around and go back to the school’s Main Building, not to waste my time along the small and unwelcoming trail, as fake as everything else about this pathetic place.
Then I realized, though, that by walking the glorified dirt road with its smattering of trees nearby for show, I could reach a sidewalk that cirlced the lake. It would be contrived, it would be manufactured, yes, but I would still get to see something.
And yet the old cliché is true: the best moments in life are seldom planned.
I’d walked past a wretched miniature cottage that you can't go inside but that stands adjacent to the water to look pretty, and had just been about to make a left towards the lake when my eye caught something.
Up ahead, across the street, there stood a parking lot like any of the countless others. Behind it though, through which showed the deep orange-gold sunlight of a day about to pass, was a forest.
I don’t know quite what possessed me to do what I did, but within an instant I had made up my mind and was heading across the asphalt to the line of trees.
Looking around hastily that no one should see me, I dove headfirst into the leaves and thickets, entering with surprising quickness a small world very different from the large one I’d just left.
The forest was my solace and playground as a child, the place where I went simply because I loved being there. In Beautiful Town, I was constantly exploring different groves and shades of wood, a habit that has not quite left me but that is now socially unacceptable.
There is something about the woods I’ve just always loved. The deep dark colors of the leaves and bark, the green of the twisting thorns, the smell of the timber dust and the crispness of the air, welcome me, perfume the air with a scent of adventure, bring me deep into their bosom. Some of my earliest stories were inspired by the woods.
I am currently writing a book, and the magic that I felt plunging through uncharted (to me at least) bits of wilderness continues to be a source of my ingenuity as I weave the tale. It is in places like that I can believe in the existence of a god, believe in fairies, believe that mystical and incredible things could possibly happen.
So I went into the woods.
I hadn’t entered a forest of any kind in quite a while, and was uncertain what to do. I retreated far enough in that the brick edifices behind me were blurred by the trees, and then I stopped at a particularly tall oak to stroke its bark, as if petting an old wooden guardian.
I slung my backpack off of my shoulders, thinking all the while how strange it was, removed my coat, and then put my books on top of them as I lay everything on the ground. I stood there just a second, expecting but still somewhat overwhelmed by the feeling of longing that poured over me, and then I fell forward and clung to the great giant the way a small child might cling to its mother in a moment of fear.
I had become, quite literally, a tree-hugger.
I found a comfort in that I can’t truly explain, standing there, my skinny arms flung around that wide tree.
There was just something about it that steadied me, made me feel better; the organism which I now touched had been there many years, longer certainly than this monstrosity of a university, and, unless the tides of commercialism and endless expansion soon swallowed it up like they had all the other vegetation for miles around, it would be there for a long time to come.
Clutching at the trunk gave me something.
I surmised shortly after this that I had to pee, and, far than a reasonable distance from any bathroom, was not about to abandon my new post for the sake of a urinal. I looked around in every direction, convinced, almost certainly with good reason, that I would be arrested if anyone happened upon me doing what I was about to do.
I’d done it many times as a child, as much for practicality as for convenience, but those two terms have been so skewed in modern times as to mean “impracticality” and “the avoidance of any meaningful intellectual exercise whatsoever.”
I am wary of the law, and so gazed about cautiously before heading over to a second tree. I didn’t feel right about possibly desecrating the one I’d just embraced so passionately.
My eyes flew about once again, scanning the air, searching on instinct for the cameras that now abound everywhere.
Can they have cameras in the forest? I asked myself. No, no, surely they don’t.
It is a statement about our society that this idea boggled me so; the notion that any area could be completely free of surveillance equipment seemed impossible and wholly out-of-place, but, unlike most things that arouse such a sense in a person, this one was accompanied by happiness.
Of course they didn’t have cameras in the forest. They haven’t yet gone that far.
That being settled, I pulled down my pants, whipped out my member, and urinated peacefully on the back of a tree.
Some people will be amused, confounded, or possibly disturbed to read this.
It is such a bizarre behavior, is it not? And yet I did it.
When I’d finished, I zipped and buttoned my pants, and then proceeded to bound about the woods free of my material burdens, which sat safely by the first tree.
At that moment, I felt as if the last five years had been stripped off of me, and, as when I was a fourteen-year-old boy jumping through the valleys and over the hills of Beautiful Town, I lost myself in a sense of quiet greatness.
I climbed atop a fallen tree, stood tall and erect, and then made my way across it, arms cast out to my sides, as I had countless times before, though very seldom recently. I derive great enjoyment from balancing in this way. Once I’d reached the opposite end, from which the stricken thing's roots were anchored and to which it still stubbornly held despite laying on its side, I sat down nimbly.
With nothing to stop me, no books to drop, no phone to answer (I’d turned it off inside of my pocket), I lay back on the felled beast, wavering for the slightest moment before gaining my equilibrium.
I remained like that for probably ten minutes or so, looking up at a blue sky framed by high branches and feeling happier and more tranquil than I had in a long time.
It seemed natural that I should be there, in accord with the laws of being that a young boy should reflect with perfect innocence and pure delight on the late afternoon air.
What could be more right than sitting in the woods while taking in clouds? My hands were musty and brown, soiled with soil, dirtied as they haven’t been in such a length that I can’t even remember the last time it happened.
I left only as the lights from the parking lot came on, their garish yellow glare intruding on my solitude.
I came up here to write this, and took a break at 11:55p.m. to go outside once more. I couldn’t bear the thought of turning twenty in a computer lab.
I prayed out there, a lovely, sweet little prayer.
I hope He’ll guide me. I’m still scared.