(Last week: The road trip is interrupted when police arrest Elisa after a traffic stop. Chartan and Brazil drive on, stopping to hike up a Sierra Mountain trail where Brazil reveals he may have killed a boy during combat in Vietnam.)
Chartan and Brazil sat atop a giant boulder aglow in the overhead moonlight. The cloudless night sky, common in the summer along the Sierras, was dotted with pulsating stars.
Chartan gazed at Brazil who was speaking, but the self-anointed guru had stopped listening; instead, he found his mind trapped in a world he had only imagined. Killing. Combat. A foreign land. What were the rules? Was anybody watching and telling the truth?
I have failed. This dream of life restoration was based on my belief that a good life was about control and compassion. Focus on the important. Eliminate the distractions of materialism and its connections to happiness. But I don’t understand Elisa. Brazil has been to a place I hope never to know. I am here on this mountain for a reason: to confess, to start over…not to give up or feel sorry for myself.
“Chartan, are you with me?”
He heard Brazil clearly. “I’m finally in the moment.
Brazil laughed. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I don’t have a path anymore for others. I have to start over with myself and find the answers. Why am I here? What should I do?”
“Got it. My story is too hard to take.”
“I want to be your friend. That you have done something you regret will be an important part of our friendship.”
“If there were a bar up here, I’d get wasted right now.”
Chartan held out a hand, palm up. Brazil stared at it for a few seconds before putting his palm on top.
“Maybe we can get through this together,” said Brazil.
They sat under the moonlight surrounded by dark shadows.
“What are your demons?” asked Brazil.
Chartan grinned—that was the kind of question he used to ask. He could barely make out Brazil’s rugged features as he spoke: “My ego. I’ve always had a well-defined path for myself—my purpose was instinctive. My ego, strong. But now I’m unsure.”
“I have something for uncertainty.” Brazil pulled out a rolled cigarette from his shirt pocket. “High-grade hashish.”
“I don’t do drugs.”
“I’m not asking you to become an addict. You need to relax and this will help.” Brazil handed Chartan a lit joint.
Two hours passed, or maybe it was one, thought Chartan. He sensed he was no longer careful about what he was telling Brazil. “Elisa is my demon.”
“She’s a beautiful woman.”
“Hard to understand. Destructive, actually. I wonder how long she will be in jail?”
“We can go back and find out,” said Brazil loudly.
“If we don’t go back, where will we go?”
Brazil laughed. “You’re right, we have to go somewhere. We can’t stay on this rock.”
“It’s getting cold.”
“There may be bears.”
“You always see the dark side.” Chartan inhaled again.
Both men laughed.
Brazil thrust his arms out.” I’ve got it. The Plan!”
“The Plan! That’s exactly what is needed. What is it?”
“Yeah, what is it?”
Both men giggled.
“Seriously,” said Chartan. “The plan is simple. Number one, we get off this mountain. Number two, we drive to the jail. If we can figure out Elisa, we’ll be able to understand ourselves.”
“You’re saying I can deal with 40 years of guilt if I understand what makes a crazy woman tick?”
“In a way. When you understand others and have compassion for them, you’ll understand yourself. Removing the obstacles of anger and fear are blocking us from the peace that can be ours. It’s all so clear to me.”
(Continued next Sunday.)