Suppose it wasn’t unfurling fingers of fire that inscribed those commanding tablets; what if Moses didn’t carry them down from the great heights of Mount Sinai; what if the great deliverer of the Israelites was a beach bum instead, and most inclined to ripping a curl or casting a net (maybe a clue here to his prowess parting the waters of the Red Sea)?
Standing on these particular shores of Kilbarri National Park in Western Australia, my eyes trace the whorled scripts in the rock, as wave after wave wash over the writing, as if turning the pages of a really big book. After hanging with this for awhile, my lids get heavy as my focus softens in tune with the music of the seas. Can a guy fall asleep like a horse while standing? I ask this because when I open my eyes, just for a moment, it is like I am dreaming and in this dream I can read the writing carved in the rock at my feet. It sets my head spinning because the feel of this prose is nothing like the way I used to feel reading Leviticus as a kid. There is nothing at all to fear in this book, no hellfire and brimstone to set me to quaking, only a strange concern springing up in me for the loss of everything I have come to believe about me and everything else in my life; I say ‘strange’ because the bulk of what I stand to give up isn’t all that pleasant to hang on to and yet I have continued to do so.
I recall a rough old codger I met in old New Orleans who said to me this: “Spending your life getting used to sharing your bed with a ‘gator gets you a peculiar distaste for true comforts in life.” Bourbon Street seems in retrospect an unlikely locale for philosophical conversation (if you’ve been there you know) about as much as this grizzled ole fellow failed to pass in my estimation for even a distant likeness to Plato. How an unlikely discussion over beers between a college boy and a shrimp boat captain fell precipitously from the heights of true love to bedding down with alligators was a mystery to me. Maybe it was how he went about saying what he said that lodged it up in my cerebrum as it did because he hoisted his brew like a punctuation, swallowing hard like it was straight whiskey, nodding his head with the satisfied look of a man who had just passed on to his heir the key to the meaning of life. “You been sleeping with a ‘gator, son; your whole life,” he told me. “So don’t think you gonna know Cinderella when she comes a’knocking.”
I stared at the empties on our table worried that I had severely lost count and with a tongue sufficiently loosened, had apparently set the tail to wagging on a dog best left asleep, divulging to this strange old coot some of the darker secrets from my past (nothing all that dramatic mind you, just a writhing heap of imminent discomfort should anyone ever get wind of it). It’s like he could see the snakes coming out of hibernation beneath my skin because the next thing he said was, “I read eyes, son. You wonder how I can tell? It’s written in your eyes.” Right then it felt like a sixteenth birthday being undressed by my first whore – not that there ever was a first whore or a second for that matter, just apropos to the setting (if you’ve ever been to the French Quarter then you know what I mean).
He slid another round across the table at me. “This’ll steady the squirmin.’” As he spoke he showed off a full mouth of teeth, the likes of which no chewing tobacco had ever seen – an unnatural observation in a south Louisiana shrimper back then. It had a calming effect on me, the radiance of his smile, there amongst all that looked typically ‘shrimper’ about him. Maybe it’s even safe to say that his smile lent him a priestly presence. What came out of my mouth next belonged in a confessional or so the judgment went down in the history book I keep on myself.
“I’ve never been to bed with anyone, much less a ‘gator.” I felt silly once it was out, but the truth ran deeper than silly; I was ashamed of my virginity (the former part, not the ‘gator part). Somehow I knew he could see it. (continued with Shore Scripts)
Nikon D90, F/22, 1/640 sec, ISO 200, Kilbarri National Park, Western Australia