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..: stories

..: The dark side of the lake.

In my dreams last night, I found myself sitting on a park bench, next to an old friend named Roger. As in most dreams, it wasn't purely Roger, but he also had a bit of Kane, Karen and Bernie in him. My arms were stretched lazily up on the back of the bench, and we were both watching the sky. The warmth of the sun and the perfect breeze made looking up into the sky filling for my soul. There was warmth, like a wonderful blanket, without the discomfort of heat or sweat. I sat next to Roger, and we marvelled at the sky, listening to the park around us. A rocket took off near the horizon, and we watched it climb and then fly over us with tremendous speed. We arched our necks to follow it's path, and moving our necks up and around was effortless. So much peace.



When I was 12, I took my first oversees trip without my parents. We went to Japan. Our travel party was so large, and our destinations so many, that it was difficult to pinpoint the reason we were really there. I found myself at a three-day conference regarding Taiwanese human rights at a university turned into a large retreat center near the base of Mt. Fuji.

There wasn't much to do here. The parents had their own activities, and we had ours. Only ours weren't planned very well, and certainly weren't very interesting. Roger was always the gang leader, and when he began to hang out with the two pretty sisters, the rest of us were left to figure out new plans. Our gang had met all over Orange County for years, and we've all known each other since we were about 8. Our one pastime was to explore; we'd explore the building and the grounds where our parents were meeting for their human rights meeting. If the grounds weren't interesting enough, we'd move out onto the street, finding stores and arcades. But this afternoon, we were in Japan. None of spoke the languange, except Joseph. Joseph was roughly our age, but he carried himself as if he were 20 years my senior. In high school, his teachers used to even call him at home, asking computer related questions.

That afternoon on Mt. Fuji, we ditched the Taiwanese enrichment slideshow/lecture that the parents had planned for the kids. We went down to the lower side of the campus, found some old tires, and rolled them down the hills. It was pretty fun, until Roger's tire rolled out of control. It bounced off the car of the unmarked security car of the Chinese assembly in the next camp over, and then struck a car door. Of course, we ran. When the security caught up with us, they were amazingly polite. At least, they sounded that way in Japanese. Roger's dad agreed to pay about $75 US dollars to cover the damage to the car door. I insisted that no tire could damage the metal of a car door, but in my twelve year old mind I was wrong. Roger's dad patiently explained that car doors, especially those of Asian manufacturers, were thinner than American cars. Tires could damage them.

That night, the gang decided to look for fireworks. Joseph had asked around and had heard that there was a local fireworks merchant outside of the campus, across the lake. By the time we left the campus, it was already dark. As we approached the lake, there were so many people at one side of the lake that we decided to cross the lake on the other side. That side of the lake was dark. It was the deepest, loneliest dark I had ever experienced. On one side of me was water, but I didn't know where it was, of if I was even stepping in it. I could see light ahead, but now I wasn't even sure where the rest of the gang was. There were four of us, the youngest Ken, Joseph's brother. Joseph was eight, and scared. Instinctively I reached out and took his hand. I did so partially because I was afraid, but part of me knew he must have been too. The dark made me disoriented, and I wasn't sure which direction I was walking, except that we were getting closer to the light. The light was a small street, and when we arrived I was thankful.

We found the local merchant, who had already closed shop and retreated into his home in the back of his store. He was gracious and sold us some things anyway. He didn't even look annoyed for us troubling him. Joseph and he made small talk, and then we left. This time, we walked back on the crowded side of the lake, where there was light.

I'm not sure what happened to the fireworks. We didn't use any that night for fear that we'd get in more trouble. We had already got Roger into trouble, so we saved the fireworks for the next day. Later that night, Ken thanked me for taking care of him as we crossed the dark side of the lake. His thanks surprised me, since I knew that I needed his comfort as much as he needed me.
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