You Never Know
I take a walk almost every day, usually early, before the day gets hot and busy.
It has its own hashtag in my IM window with Wing, where we tell each other about completed tasks and essential pictures of little hedgehogs: #oldladywalk. "Moved TGW to 10 ET. … FO pics in DB gen pop. … #oldladywalk, back in 40." The window is always open, and except for that dark side of the time-difference moon when neither of us is awake, one of us is always in it, pinning virtual notecards to the bulletin board for the other to find when she wakes up.
The #oldladywalk has a variety of routes. On weekends, I like to wander around Green-Wood Cemetery and get lost for an hour. One of the footpaths leads under a weeping beech whose branches touch the ground to create a cool, dappled cave. There is one family beneath it, interred a hundred years ago in the tree's youth; it's also where cemetery staff hides inelegant whatnots like carts and tarps, and where teenagers hide themselves, and carve their initials and private jokes into the trunk.
Weekdays, I walk a park route, down along the border of Kensington and then up through Prospect Park along the southwestern edge. It's a nice, hilly bit with a mildly aerobic flight of stone steps in the middle, and often I have it to myself, but the night shift leaves its own notecards — like the microwaves and toaster ovens you can regularly find smashed and strewn across the landing. I don't know what ritual purpose the destruction of reheating devices might serve; I just know that, every couple of weeks, I'll see an orphaned cord at the base of the steps. Once in a while, I spot a couple sleeping in one of the path turnouts, spooned together next to a fallen log. And the note rock, of course. It's naked today (well, save the Sharpie graffiti), because it rained all day yesterday, but for weeks it said something to the effect of "waited for you bozo" in yellow chalk, with an arrow pointing to the hint of a path into the underbrush.
I love the note rock. I love thinking about it: who is the bozo; is it "Bozo" (who wrote the note? are they friends from clown school?); what did the author wait for, and for how long; does s/he keep the chalk in the crook of a tree or carry it with him/her, or what (tree-crook storage is maybe a thing in the park; I saw a huge pair of blue sneakers off the Bartel-Pritchard entrance the other day). What other notes have appeared there? What scavenger hunts or LARPs have used it as a guide? In the room of my heart that loves codes and dead drops and the potential, no matter how remote, that any count number jotted on a sawbuck or misdelivered postcard could turn into an exciting and vaguely dangerous puzzle requiring Morse code (which I know) and an eyeglasses attachment with a lighted magnifier (which I own two of) (#oldladycrafts), I have happily cleared a space for the note rock. That room is right next door to the room where I keep unsolved mysteries: what really happened on the Lindbergh estate that night, who really killed those women in the Whitechapel district, what Lee Harvey Oswald might have said at trial, JonBenet, Bambi Bembenek, and Roanoke. My god, Roanoke. We have, like, two clues. Neither of them is helpful. We will never, ever know what became of the settlers. We know — but we don't know.
Wing left me a notecard idea on the overnight, weeks back — that I should put Mystery Show on the Don case. Don did seem to qualify, because Lord knows Googling hadn't turned him up, and neither had Craigslisting, TWoP advertising, Ancestry.comming, or paid searching. But I didn't do it. Partly I didn't think it's the kind of mystery Starlee Kine likes, a little kooky, seemingly trivial. Partly I believe that Don may want to stay unfound, a desire I can't confirm but should try to respect, in case. I don't know.
Partly I don't want to know. An unsolved mystery is annoying, it sticks and nags, but it's appealing in spite of that and because of that. I want the answer…but also I don't, because then the story is over, and the pleasure of the present tense, the cracking and solving and realizing, is gone. Replaced by accomplishment and closure, whatever that is, sure. But an unsolved mystery is as much "you just never know" as it is "we can't ever know." Possibility. Hopes.
We should call them "unsolvable," I guess, things like Roanoke. They are, now. "Croatoan" carved in a tree, grey-eyed children in the Native American villages a generation later…somewhere in our educated guesses and the careful sifting of Carolina soil is the answer. If an announcement came across the wire that historians unearthed conclusive proof as to the colony's fate, I would rush to read it. And then I would feel a little sad, as though I'd lost something. One day Don may walk out of a virtual woods and find me. We may end up elbow-to-elbow on a ferry. We probably won't — but you just never know. And I know what I really need to about Don already.
I left a chunk of blue chalk on the note rock today, a little mitzvah for Bozo's friend. If you see it, leave me a puzzle or a Tic-Tac-Toe board, and blow my mind. Or "happy birthday, Don" in bubble letters is nice, too.
Tags: September 11th