Reawaken and Go Forth, Young Men

 Ryan and Alberto in the snow in Downtown Denver

Ryan and Alberto in the snow in Downtown Denver

Sometimes the universe brings someone into your life to remind you to be alive. It's been a long time since I was alive and functioning in the world, and recently I was fortunate enough to run across someone that has helped bring perspective to my existence.

"Would you happen to have an extra cigarette?" he asked from the top of the steps.  

"No, not an extra, but I have a cigarette you may have."  I answered.

The young gentleman that asked is from Italy, just outside of Venice.  He's been in the US for a few years, first studying theater in New York, and now wandering the country, looking for his place in the world.

While we were sharing a smoke, he offered to tell a story, one that he has allowed me to share.

On top of the tallest mountain, Shiva and I look at the sun dipping behind the ridge one last time. He sits and I lay, catching the breath I lost running up. We made it in time, to climb above the shade of the cliffs and bathe in the ultimate light touching the earth, before the nightfall.
He's half dog and half wolf. That's why, I believe his thoughts are so human. I wonder sometimes, if he might be more intelligent than I am. He loves to look at the sunset with the stillness of the tree, his eyes are so deep and understanding.
He knows of the sadness of life. He knows of the joy of running away without looking back, of the loneliness of creatures that just can't fit in their pack. He knows of the love of the moon and the voice of the wind, of the cycles that mercilessly kill the weak life every winter, and lovingly bless every blossoming flower, put sparks every spring in the eyes of all lovers.
Shiva is strong. His energy field is ten times more powerful and intense than the one of any other dog, but he is not interested in being part of a pack. He finds the fighting for being alpha the stupidest thing of nature, for he has compassion for the weak creatures more than anything else. He needs no leader, nor to be one. He is saddened by the injustice of mother earth and would rather be by himself, since he does not need a pack.
The dusk has now won over the mountain. I have found my breath, it was gone, not lost. What is lost and cannot be recovered is the simple peace, the happiness and the innocence that once was in me. I could blast flames of love off my fingers, so full of it was my soul.
Oh, god, take me now, I pray.
Gently seize my spirit away silently above the clouds, so that I may not even sense it leaving my body. So that I may not feel the pain any more, of the cycles of nature that shattered my heart over and over.
What do you ask of me in this life? 
Can't you see? My mind can't be still like the tree. My legs do not have the solidity of the rock. My breath cannot flow with the river. 
Let me go. For I can serve you no more. My soul has darkened; cringes at every minuscule sound, like grass under a snow storm. 
The birds singing don't bring me new joy, but remind me that I cannot fly. Why God be so silent when I need you the most?
Dear Shiva, loyal friend,
Thank you for licking the tears off my face, for pretending to listen to me while playing the piano, for making me feel cared for. We have to part now. I know you know it, and yet we both will not cry.
But if you could talk, what would you say to me?
What would your thoughts sound like if they had human voice?
"Alberto, dear boy, young man,
I will miss the times you were high and stupidly sang 50's love songs to me. I don't know if you know it, but you sing out of tune. Dean Martin and Billy Holiday never had a worse interpreter than you. And when I would look at you with contempt and helplessly sigh, you would laugh hysterically. I secretly enjoyed that as much as you - not every time, but some of the times. Thank you for running with me. For making me feel cared for.
We have to part, two very old beings as tired as us, still will walk many miles, and learn many things. One paw in front of the other because that's how we do it. We are strong. No winter will be so cold as to make us die, no heartbreak will hurt us so much as to make us unable to love life and all beings. And stop asking God silly things. You lie to yourself. Stop asking entirely and he will speak to you healing words.
Want to know what I think when I look at the sunset? 
"Thank you sun, for yet another day of being alive" 
Now run, sweet Alberto, Goodbye."

There is sadness in Alberto's story.  There is loss and there is pain.  There is also triumph, and yet the wins are overshadowed right now by the struggle of surviving to yet another day.  He will wander until he has found his foundation. The world will not swallow him up and spit him out, and likewise, it will not do that to me.

My sense of adventure and desire to wander has been awakened.  Though I am stuck in Colorado for at least another year, I feel the growing flame of a future in which I am less tied to the mistakes of the past, and will once again look at the world with fresh eyes, welcoming the next adventure.