Friday, March 8, 2013

The Long Sleep

The last few days have been sleepy and quiet ones around these parts. The massive fire raging across the southern part of the Union and into UAS territory has burned itself out with minimal loss of life. Helped that a storm system moved in and dropped rain on it, not so helpful that the same storms moved north and dropped snow and ice on us.

We've mostly kept indoors this week, as you can imagine. It has been a few years since we've had such a long and sustained bout of cold, and our people have taken advantage of the fact by constantly searching out clusters of sleeping zombies and killing them while they're inert. Small teams, but determined to clear as much of the county as possible. It's March now, so I guess it's spring cleaning come early.

I've spent a good amount of time working on the survival manual, though at this point much of the work is editing and reducing entries to bare facts. It's written in a sort of shorthand by necessity; in order to pack in as much information as possible, grammar and sentence structure have been treated as suggestions rather than rules. K and I have made our best effort to keep the thing intuitive to read and understand. We're actually in sight of finishing the first draft. It might be a few months yet before it's a done deal and archived where we can distribute it, but the sense of satisfaction is there.

Even more than me, Big K seems satisfied. I work with the guy every day but he's no less a mystery to me than when I first met him. We have a good time and work together well, but I couldn't begin to guess why he feels so passionate about the survival manual. The manual is a good thing, of course, and may save lives down the road if people find themselves in the position where they need it. But K's dedication the project is almost scary.

I've said before that there seems to be something in his past that drives him, and I wish I knew what that was. We've all got our demons. I think it would help him to talk about it.

The frustrating thing is that he's a fun guy to be around. Maybe a little more detail-oriented and fussy than I am (the precise speech and hunched manner of an old librarian is hilarious coming from a six-foot-six dude who could have been an NFL lineman) but never boring or uninteresting. As long as we're in the present, K is just like anyone else. More somber than some, but far from the depressing wreck I was six months ago.

I mean, he's teaching me to play chess. Not that I don't know how the mechanics of the game--my mom's ex-husband and I once played a game that took several months to complete--but K is teaching me the actual game. It's the difference between knowing the rank of hands in poker and understanding the probabilities involved along with learning betting patterns and the like. Knowing the rules is a different beast from knowing the game itself.

And as I think about that sentence, I realize that when it comes to Big K, I only know the rules. No one here, even the people who came with him from North Jackson, know his game at all. Suffering is an intensely private affair, and if he hadn't given me permission to write anything about him I want this post wouldn't even exist, but I think in this case life would be better for K if he started dealing with those things. Like the Beatles said, "I get by with a little help from my friends..."

But I don't push it with K himself. He's a friend, now, and a good one. I worry constantly that my effort to help him will make him angry and push him away. If he can live with it, so can I. It's just that I hate seeing people I care about deal with their pain alone. It festers in you if you never bring it out in the light of day, and letting those dark memories sleep for so long inside you only makes them stronger, more destructive.

And that's the last I'll say on the subject for now. I won't push any more.

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