--SOMETIMES AN ESCAPE ROUTE IS THE BEST THING
Lava and Light
(Near Mount St. Helens, May 1980)
In the morning they woke to find the sky a dark purple, not so much the color of a bruise, but something strange and dire, like an admonition from God.
Each of the young men was nervous about it, but they would not say so and instead they exclaimed minor wonder or made jokes about an apocalypse.
This was years and years ago.
They loaded their car quickly and headed back to the university. It was a three hour drive but they planned to make it in two.
As they drove, the sky grew darker, even though that seemed impossible, the morning looking like dusk at 10 am.
On the radio they learned what had happened, and the news filled each young man with individual relief or disappointment, depending on their desire for danger.
They talked about their friend they’d left behind, the one who had dropped out to get married at the questionable age of eighteen. Each said they would never do such a thing. Two of the three friends said they would never even marry. All said the groom was a sap, though secretly each of them was astonished by the groom’s determined leap into the real world, a place they greatly feared.
They could not see the regal volcano, but an hour into the drive they saw the remnants of her power and anger and resolve, ash falling as wide gray leaves, clotting the sky, then blinding them like a blizzard.
They played a Jimmie Buffett tape, singing along because it seemed perfectly fitting. “I don’t know where I’ma gonna go when the volcano blows.” They played the song several times until the radio went dead and the headlights turned useless against the insistent storm of falling ash. After a while, the motor began to whine and cough and one of them said they should pull over and another said no way, are you fucking nuts, we don’t know what’s out there.
It took them seven hours to make it back to campus. They’d later find out the car’s engine was ruined. They’d later learn the groom’s bride was pregnant. They’d later learn more about life than they ever thought--certainly more than they required--and through this they’d discover disillusionment.
But that night, alone in his bunk, one of the friends lay under a great swath of blankets, teeth chattering, lights off but for a luminous lava lamp that burped eggs of assorted shapes and hues. He hadn’t known why he was so afraid, but the lamp’s glow soothed him. The different globules of color became capsules of his future. In the yoke-yellow blob he saw himself a happy groom. In the moss-green bead of goo he skimmed stones across a lake with a boy who liked to squeal and say Good one, Papa! He watched his life form and reform, and in doing so decided from then on, he would build himself a life predicated on light.