Jonah was a boycott walker who felt completely alone after his targeted protest failed even though it contained an expiration warning: "Used Best By 1997."
Once upon a long ago or at least coincidentally just about a exactly a decade before, giving up was based on the overwhelming feeling that he would never feel better and this was the way it would always now be. But what did that mean? To let more down because of failing to try? Alternatively trying too hard so that the ultimate result was to feel crippling disappointment?
What he trusted was fragile, what he relied on was a spider's web. He leaned on the web, but it gave way. He clung to it, but it did not hold. He was like a well watered papyrus in the sunshine, spreading its shoots over the garden. It entwined its roots around a pile of rocks and looked for a place among the stones. But when it was torn from its spot, that place disowned it and said, "I never saw you." Surely his life withers away and from the soil other plants grow.
Ironically Shirley Eujest gently held his hand and walked right next to him and convinced him he may not be well but he could still keep a piece of himself. Ying yang peace. Together Jonah and Shirley had many adventures but perhaps the most meaningful involved taking long walks around different parts of town. It wasn't something he'd just share with anyone. Shirley had a limp, the result of a reckless skiing accident not at all her fault but entirely her responsibility. But had the accident not happened they may never have met; fate is funny that way. And she had a scar to prove it.
Eventually in the Dakotas on a swing set his darkness became too much and engulfed the light that she had thanklessly and ruthlessly provided. This part of the story has all been chronicled all too much and published in the archives, spooking him to tears. The end result was that he stopped walking altogether for several years. Jonah tried listening to the experts, he tried believing in the medical profession. He even turned to a priest in an hour of need. Others didn't think this way and for once all he ever wanted was to feel like the others or at least feel another once in a while.
He was going down which seemed natural if not anatomically improbable since he already was as far down as he could possibly get without sucking painted toes. If something inside of him had already snapped something else finally fought through the split pea soup dense fog and said, "Hey if this is it the least you can do, and never let it be said you never did the least you could do, the least to be done is to go down being yourself." Seemed like reasonable if not wordy advice and he forever would believe but never hear that the words tumbled from Shirley's mumble, her slightly slurred but never forgotten pony tailed speech.
Jonah took the train out east where once in a while he'd rent a car and drive to a completely unknown but quite historical (hysterical) spot. He'd park the automatic car (he learned how to drive a stick in downtown Chicago) and for the first time since Shirley hadn't said good-bye but still felt the same as always ("you can talk at me if you want," she said) he took his first real steps. And he kept walking even after his knees ached so much he could barely make it up the Capitol steps (and he'd bared much more much earlier to any paying attention or at least the price of admission).
The walking was a reclaiming of a part of himself he cut off yet needed to be. Sure it reminded him of her and she in turn reminded him of how he felt before and it all rolled down hill like a slow motion skiing accident that he could feel but not heal; she'd be as proud of Jonah as she was hoping he would never write to her again.
Years later on a cold spring day after Jonah and Eager Bunnee, the young alum had done their part walking for her company for AIDS, Eager convinced Jonah that "they" should return to walking even though she knew not, without a clue what restoring and returning to that particular chameleon stripe could unleash. So they began a first walk after the last. And it was too nippy to continue as her fatigue colored bikini revealed a bit too much underneath an undesired cold sweat.
He wasn't faking it any more. He lay it down one more time and when the decision was made to trust the decision was unnaturally uncomfortable. Jonah and Eager never quite made it around the lake. And that's where the story seriously breaks down if you, our dear reader, have walked along thus far. Jonah wouldn't talk because he couldn't . Their steps echoed as painfully as a hollow diseased tree. The rabbit died but the hare emerged on the back of his neck. Weighing more than a ton he collapsed although she wasn't interested in seeing that part. The look on her face mirrored the unforgettable and unrelenting last minute, last horrible gasp letting go of the one that once walked him past the barking dogs. He was alone. It was who he was. Always to keep an eye out for her name, the one that changed and knocked him over once again.