Nate of Las Vegas - Part I
“Are you alone?”
I stalled in response. After last night debacle I was weary and apprehensive. I had been awakened by the sillouhette of a man’s face peering into my tent.
|Las Vegas, New Mexico|
"Heeey, want to party with me?”
Four in the morning, 4th of July weekend, Las Vegas, New Mexico.
I shot straight up, and grabbed the ax. Shocked it wasn’t clear to him that I was sleeping, and horrified that I could hear his breath without seeing his body. I stammered,
“I don’t party, go away.”
He scurried away, and somehow I found a few more hours of rest. I looked back to Nate.
“So, do you mind if I have breakfast?”
I scanned over his gangling limbs, down to his bare feet. His skin was pale and milky; it matched his white-blond hair. I could see the youth in him.
“I don’t see why I would.”
He sat down on the ground and dumped out a dirty back pack. Spoons clanked, paper fluttered and out spilled several small jars, a canister of oats, and two bowls. He turned a bowl over, wiped out the hollow with the corner of his stained shirt and reached over me to grab a gallon jug of water I had set out next to my camp cook area. The liquid made a generous glug and splashed, overfilling the dish. He poured dry oats into the cold water and fished through the mess to find a spoon. He opened the peanut butter jar scooped out a mound, licked it, and crammed the spoon into the open jelly jar.
“Oats are the best breakfast.”
I watched him shovel heaping spoonfuls into his mouth. Not knowing what to say, I waited while he ate until he slammed the bowl down on the earth, spilling most of what was left. He jumped to his feet, turned his back, and struggled to rip off his shirt. Instead of taking it off over his head, he tore it down the center and cast the shirt aside to reveal a body full of poorly tattooed stars, and a crooked goat carcass.
There was no way I could not look. His thin frame swayed to and fro, blocking the early morning sun.
What do I make of this?
He leaned forward and came to face me sitting on his knees and closed his eyes.
“I want to create all that I see… there are not enough stars in the sky, so I make them, on me.”
He opened his eyes and twisted his torso.
“See here… well, actually my girlfriend’s daughter helped me with these….she is about nine…she is really great at things like this.”
I nodded and listened. He continued picking out patches of stars to show me on his body, and then snaked around to towards an unreachable area of his mid-lower left back. The stars in this area were extra dense and dotted.
“I couldn’t see very good when I was giving myself these.”
I could tell.
He snaked his body back around, then pushed himself up and lowered his body to sit facing me knee to knee and whisked up what was left of his bowl of oats. He began chewing, and then asked me, through a full mouth,
“Where you from?”
It was all I managed before he started speaking again.
He raised the centers of both eyebrows, and nodded.
“Oh yeah, Indiana…I’ve been there, northern though.”
His gesture felt loaded, I waited, he watched me.
“…on a skateboard tour…”
I was now the one making the nod of recognition, raising my eyebrows in the center, and bobbing back and forth.
“Oh yeah, skateboarding…I’ve been around people who are into that, not me though.”
He looked off into the distance and while looking away added,
“Yeah, hmmm..Indiana… that’s that state full of all those bar-hopping mystics.”
His eyes re-centered on mine to see if the attribution caused any noticeable change in my manner. My expression didn’t change.
“Well… Indiana talks about you… me, I consider myself a Vegan-Republican-Skateboarding Boxer from Colorado Springs. I plan to build a log cabin in the woods one day.”
He finished scraping the bowl of oats, licked the spoon and offered me his dish.
I had already eaten. He threw me an orange and continued to talk.
“Do you realize the nutritive value of purely raw foods?”
“Well, I have….”
Nate turned away after I said the word “have” and pointed to the mountain range behind us.
“You know there is a castle up there.”
And then he came in close to my ear and in a confident, more direct tone he said,
“you know... you can’t swim nude up there.”
I shifted my posture and stood up to collect the remainder of my breakfast supplies. I was ready to go. I took my cooking utensils to the spiget near the bathhouse to wash them, and turned around to notice that Nate had taken down my tent, rolled it up and placed into the bag. It was the first time the tent fit properly. I walked back with my utensils and he waited, propping himself on my car holding the tent.
“Pop the trunk.”
I went around the driver’s side and pulled the trunk release. He threw the tent in, and with his skateboard in arms he jumped in the front seat signaling me to get in and drive. I stood outside my own car looking in the back window, his white hair standing up just above the passenger seat. He poked his head out looking for me, and with a lazy grin, he pointed towards the distant gravel road,
“there’s the castle…it’s where we are going.”
I followed his finger, pointing to the mountain squinted my eyes, and then looked back at him.
“…but before we go there, I want to give you a present, just up the road.”
I stood for a minute looking at him, my car, the mountain, and back to him. And then walked around the backside, and jumped in the driver’s seat. We inched out of the campground and passed a school bus turned into a semi-permanent RV camper. Nate leaned halfway out the window and shouted,
“Hey Jake, I’m going to town, be back.”
Jake didn’t look happy. I didn’t stop long enough to find out why. Nate told me anyhow,
“I owe him some money.”
“Huh.”Just outside of the camp he said,
“okay turn here, just down the road turn right…at that mailbox up there”
The mailbox was leaning into the street, I pulled into the gravel drive and parked. We stopped in front white shack with a few small sheds. Nate jumped out then leaned his head back in the open window,
“I store my stuff in that shed, and I know I have something for you, wait here”
He ran barefoot on the gravel and went through the rickety shed door. I thought,
If I was going to drive off, I’d do it now.
-- End. Part I - Allison Distler