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Day 215-8: Free—For a Night

I guess I can say where I’ve been. I wish I could say where I’m going. If only I knew.

Vitamin D or Bust? Nothing else has worked.

BIRD SANCTUARY (Kate MacDonald)Using a vehicle whose provenance I can’t detail, I drove to the bungalow I’d rented upstate. I had equipped it with everything a person would need to survive three months of pandemic. Bags of cat food, too. I feared the place would have been ransacked, but the locals hadn’t touched it.

I parked the vehicle in the corner of some woods in the back and covered it with loose limbs and leaves. By then the heat was up and I could carry Anna inside. She seemed to think it was a rented ski shack. It was a poignant way to find out she enjoys skiing.

I hung blackout fabric over the windows so no one would detect our presence. Then I cooked up a pot of steaming soup—chicken noodle from cans and bottled spices.

For the first time in months, I felt fully free, alive. There was no authority in sight, just four walls of cheap paneling. Only nature lay outside, harboring nothing against us flu victims but a stiff autumnal chill.

That night I clutched Anna’s hot little body like a thermal pillow. Her sick sweat tasted better than Irish whiskey. But she remained insensate under the damp cooling cloths I applied. I didn’t sleep for fear she’d pass away in my arms.

Eighteen hours later Anna was still very weak, but we managed some conversation. I explained where we were, who had helped us, and where we were going. She said my soups needed seasoning, a very good sign.

A Process of Communication

Anna said she knew it would come to this. I was slow to understand. She drank more soup. Her face glistened, eyes bright. She was coming back.

Eventually Anna was strong enough to explain that she’d always known she’d wind up in my hands. When she was badgering my blog, mocking my reverence for Ayn Rand, dissing my heartache over Nina, it wasn’t a game so much as a process of communication, she said.

I had to learn what was important, whatever that means. (I do think I know what’s important, for sure.)

Anna giggled faintly at how she’d set her account to block my emails so I could only respond publicly. She rolled her puffy eyes at how dreary I had been at Ric’s reopening—until I started smoking weed and making out with the young med student I mistook for my stalker.

Ric had blessed Anna’s strategy as the most promising way to crack my “thick shell of self-importance.” Some friend, eh? The best.

She kissed me as hard as she could, wetting her lips with mine. I could feel her little body straining. I was happier than I’ve ever been, no exaggeration.

Then the door rattled, hard.

Pounding followed. A gruff voice vowed to blow the lock off if I didn’t open up.

I hid Anna’s soup bowl and covered her with the bloody blanket that had kept her warm during the drive up. Then I unlatched the door to find the man who had rented me the bungalow.

The landlord was pointing a shotgun at my chest. He didn’t recognize me, but he was wearing one of the masks I’d given him. Goggles, too. And work gloves.

I told him I was glad my gear had kept him safe, asked him if he needed to see my rental agreement. He nodded, escorted me inside at gunpoint.

He stopped dead when he saw Anna, pale and motionless under that red-splattered blanket.

I asked if any friends or anyone at all had come to look for me. (Could the Feds have overlooked this place?) He grunted negatively and left.

I packed as fast as I could. There was a lot of protective gear and food and rice milk. I filled plastic jugs with reverse osmosis water I’d been processing since we arrived. And I dug up two safety cans of gasoline I had buried in the yard months earlier. I’m driving a guzzler.

It was far too early and extremely risky to move Anna, but we were gone in 90 minutes.

The last words I heard from her since then came just after midnight, long ago. I think I have enough gas to get her to rich sun before it’s too late. It’s a long way. Keep wishing us well, please.

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