This is me in 1963.
This is me in front of the World Trade Center.
This is me in 1845.
This is me getting a note from a passenger pigeon. The note says "Start dating Emma."
This is me and Emma sitting on our couch, two years later, in love.
"What's up," I say.
"Nothing," she says.
"No what's going on? Is it your family?"
"No, no I just don't want to talk about it."
"Is it the money thing again," I say.
"It is, but I don't want to talk about it."
"We are going to figure this out, I'm going to get more business and things are going to get better."
Someone has to be the optimist.
"I know, I'm just the one that has to look at the bank account and pay most of the bills."
"I can do that," I say.
"No I don't mind doing it, it just takes a toll on me sometimes."
"We're not doing so great, I know," I say.
"No, it's going to be OK, we're gonna be fine this month, we just have to try and get a little more business."
The best thing about hypertension is the eternal summer that your heart pumps constantly onto your skin. Whether I am under dressed for the winter, or just stepping out of the shower, I am never cold. The worst thing about hypertension is the constantly not thinking about getting a stroke. Because if I think about getting a stroke I get much closer to getting a stroke.
I take this group to see a duel between General Lancaster and Big Deer that took place in Wyoming. I've done this a few times now, with groups who really want to see the wild west, because it is a relatively unknown battle, and because there are plenty of places to hide.
That's a group I took 10 years ago over there on the hill, hiding in the small patch of trees. I look so young, my face so soft and innocent. That's another group peeking out from under that porch over there, that was five years ago.
This is me going back and kissing Emma at her high school prom because she told me that she didn't have a date that night. She later told me she did remember a strange phantom kiss.
This is us in the hull of a steamboat, it was the first time, ours and mine, but not hers.
This is me popping up here and there in my own life, looking around and taking pictures, and then leaving.
There are a lot of catch-22s when you have high blood pressure. I can almost guarantee that if I go to the drug store to take my blood pressure, and I see my numbers, my next numbers would definitely be higher if I ever dared to take them.
We are up in the attic of the general store, sitting on boxes of bullets and dried meats. From here we can see the battle better than I've ever been able to see it before. I have been getting braver, and in turn closer to the action every time I've come here.
Children are the chaos in my life. They are the variables in any trip, and the ones that find trap doors and secret rooms.
In one of the secret rooms I once found an envelope with my name on it and a note inside that just said "Ignore what I'm going to say later, stay with Emma." I assumed it was about my girlfriend.
My sex drive is gone when I have high blood pressure. Blood is being pumped to my brain, adrenal glands, and face, instead of the more erotic zones of my body. I have no use for a stolen glance at a breast's profile when I need to figure out how much I can spend on food for the rest of the week and not run out of money. Emma's hands caress distracted arms in a fruitless effort to get me to stop thinking about work. My blood pressure is an almost direct indication of how much I can do in life. It's like a Richard Yates novel all in two numbers. If my body can't handle the stress of a job and a girlfriend, how will I ever be a great man?
Sometimes when I don't have anyone booked I'll go back to prehistoric times, when men used their stress to great ends. There is one chase I go to often. A man, shorter and uglier than the ones today, sneaks up on a tiger, larger and scarier than the ones today. The man's heart must be racing, his blood surging to his brain to help him make decisions. His leg muscles pumped with oxygen, ready for anything that might happen. He takes his spear and stabs the tiger in the side, maybe where the heart is. The tiger whips around and bites right at the man's side. I've seen this so many times I have memorized the fast motions that the man does next: he tears the spear out of the tiger while spinning around his body to confuse him, all while darting his eyes to find the nearest tree. With his heart pushing thick blood through his veins to assist in clotting in case he gets bit, he climbs up the tree by bouncing off the trunk with his feet and grabbing the nearest branch with his free hand. As the tiger comes up to attack him he quickly jabs the spear into it's head, between it's eyes, and the tiger drops to the ground.
His job is done then, and he probably feels the sweet chemicals that our brains release to tell us that we can relax now. Looking around the scene I can see myself hiding behind bushes and on top of plateaus. The older I get in each incarnation the less I look like I ever get those chemicals, or that release. I have to get back.
In the attic I find another envelope sitting on a box with a note that says "break up with Emma and things will get better."
The problem with bad situations is that they often have a smiling face. The boys in this family are some of the nicest I've ever met. They are of that age, maybe 13 and 14, where they have discovered that they can act in a different way than they intend to be so they can get away with more stuff. I have been less vigilant about watching them for this misguided reason, and am going through the motions of describing what's going on in the duel. With the parents attention focused on the two men outside, I turn to look and see that the boys are gone. There is an attic door a few feet behind us that is swinging down from the floor, into the shop below. I hear things falling off shelves.
I run to the hole in the floor and look down to find the two boys fighting with each other, and the store owner pulling a shotgun out from under the counter. He looks up just as I look down and yells that I better get the hell out of there right now if I know what's good for me.
"Boys stay where you are, we are coming down to get you," I say, hoping that they won't leave this store. "Sir," I add "We are not stealing anything and we will get right out of your way."
"Son I am gonna count to three, and then I'm gonna start shootin'."
"Cool," one of the boys says when he sees that there are horses tied up outside.
My doctor told me that when things get stressful and I can feel my blood pressure rising, I should take myself out of the situation as best as I can, remind myself of what the Hindus call Maya, an idea that what i see and do isn't as real as who I am. That was a tough task to take on when my girlfriend told me that she was pregnant, and later when we went to her doctor to find out that what she feared was true and she had a miscarriage. We have trouble in our relationship sometimes, but no more than anyone else I think. We try to understand each other. I don't want to break up with her.
Only one of the boys gets shot, and not that badly. I get a deja vu feeling right when he gets between the two men and I run out to save him, then pull the whole family into the alley next to the general store and get us the hell out of there. Before we go I look at myself under the porch across the way and wonder how I didn't know that this would happen. My memory has become only flashbulbs since my blood pressure started to rise. I can remember every time I've ever yelled at Emma, and every time she's walked out, but only for a second, just one small picture. I also remember a few times we've had sex, the ones that weren't in the bedroom.
I've started going back to moments in my life to figure out where things went wrong. I can see the sharp turns and story arcs a lot better than I could when I was living them. Memories seem deceiving now. I still don't understand.
I go to a time I've never been to before, earlier than anyone I know has ever gone. I sit at the beach and watch the ocean come in and go out, and I breathe, and I try to imagine a time when I felt a cool breeze and found pleasure in the alluring curve of a breast.