The Fog and the Sound

Volunteers in kayaks and other small boats searched Saturday, June 6th, for two men who have been missing since their sailboat capsized near Chuckanut Bay. Friends gathered where the sailboat washed ashore south of Post Point, breaking the boat apart with an electric saw and a sledgehammer.

—Bellingham Herald, June 7th, 2009

My brother lived with a girl on and off until that girl broke his heart and rode Greyhound nine hundred miles to live with a dancer in San Joaquin. There was no explanation, he said. Just a few weird months and the ocean in back of their house still rolling the fog off Chuckanut Bay.

In early May the two of us walked down the railroad tracks toward the nude beach, stopping to spraypaint our names on the outcropping rocks, the anonymous driftlogs, the sweating cathedral-like slabs of cement near the train-tunnel entrance, which no one could see.

A storm had just passed and the jet-skiers cruised through the inlets and low-tide estuaries looking for Gunther, a snowboarder left by his friends in the capsized shell of his grandfather’s yacht. The front end sank. The sail fell down so the motor-blades cried in the wind.

He said he had loved her forever. The time in the mountains, the time in the Red Canyon pledging their lives. The loss of her touch, he told me, was not the loss of her vein-lined hands, her body’s weight rolling against him in bed. It was the loss of a thing he had loved in himself, as he turned his head hearing her voice. Do you know what I mean, he said, that difference?

On Monday we went to the blood-bank with Duncan and looked at the holes in the ceiling expand. The pattern of checkerboard squares in the bathroom, the sad diabetic man turning away from the desk, going back to his truck, getting in. For an hour the blood moved in clear plastic hoses between us.

The Cloudmaker showed us the scars on his arms where the cops pulled the real bones out of him. Surgically opened his forehead. Fixed him with circuits and gold-plated grommets designed to control him and steal his dreams. Smells like a woman’s arousal, he said, the weather itself is a burden of shame, the dust in my pocket, the atmosphere bleeding.

We skated downtown with the rat-tailed hipsters who showed us the dumpster behind the museum. Sallow-eyed, practicing shiftys. We skitched on the door of a broken Mercedes. We shouldered them over the barbwire fences and jumped off the guardrails into the sea.

The fog seemed to thicken our bodies the way it divided the ground from the trees. Fattening up our hair, blowing the sweat-trails out of our jeans. Wavering gulls in the airwaves above their own shadows. A dusting of salt we could taste on our skin.

He showed me the painting she painted him in. The pallet of blues and raw umbers she used for the pavement, the signpost, the bike he had just finished riding from Portland to Havre, from Havre to Nashville, from Nashville to Kitty Hawk North Carolina to sleep in the wind-torn dunes.

We stayed awake talking of winters in Fargo, the riverside houses condemned or abandoned, a mutual friend who had recently died. I tried to remember the last time I saw him, placid from heroin, walking the bar with the overheads glossing the flat-looking bowls of his eyes.

On Friday we went to the food-shelf and stood with the homeless and gutter-punks feeding their dogs. How many, they asked us. We filled up our boxes. The Mexicans shuffled their children in silence. The Cloudmaker juggled his oranges and sang us the ballad he knew by heart.

There were pockets of sandstone carved by the high-tide waves where the girls would take off their clothes and dissolve in the sun or watch freight-liners crawl through the haze. A wake-line dividing the shore from the shore. A dander of lotion I peeled away from the stone.

The morning they found him we walked down the railroad tracks toward the shipyard, stopping to throw a few rocks at the mile signs, tossing the starfish from pool to pool. His body was found in a box-trap, bloated and skin-torn by schools of minnows, eyes eaten out of his head by the crabs.

It wasn’t the fact of her leaving. The winter he spent with a sprained ankle, limping. The spear-point of rebar she pulled from his hand after bailing a still-moving train. It was more like the fog, he said. Like fields in winter, dust in the air when the street-sweepers watered the roads.

Before I drove back to Seattle we hiked up Mount Fernow, carrying our sleeping bags under our arms. We sat on the roots of a dead ponderosa and looked at the ships troll the narrows in fog. There were lights on the city shore shining and burning. Beach fires fading and pushing like strobes.

When lightning came over the harbor we stood at the back of his house and rolled smokes. We counted the seconds, predicted the levels of thunder. For a while we lay with our elbows just touching. The blown-away screens. The sound of the wind and the rain coming down on the roof.