Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Pursuit Race

Ernest Hemingway penned a fine story with the same title, which begins:

"In a pursuit race, in bicycle racing, riders start at equal intervals to ride after one another. They ride very fast because the race is usually limited to a short distance and if they slow their riding another rider who maintains his pace will make up the space that separated them equally at the start. As soon as a rider is caught and passed he is out of the race and must get down from his bicycle and leave the track. If none of the riders are caught the winner of the race is the one who has gained the most distance."

In my pursuit race there was a sad and lovely woman with blazing red hair who was in love with a man who would never give himself to her. In loving her madly, I was sure to maintain the space between riders, with the three of us arranged in tidy intervals in a constant spin. This all began one Fairbanks winter when I visited a Sikh chiropractor who had hired R-- as a masseuse. From the moment she put her hands on me, I was a gonner.

But R-- lived a holistic lifestyle, eating right, doing Yoga, and meditating her way into the realm of the spirit. I had no such inclinations. So, if I were to capture her heart, I would need to reform my errant ways.

By summer I had completely given myself over to the chase. I was avoiding drink, eating lots of fruits and veggies, getting regular physical exercise, and had agreed to visit a therapist that R-- had recommended.

The therapist suggested that I use relaxation tapes to get into the proper vibrational alignment. The tape began with the therapist's soothing voice, asking me to shut my eyes, then to relax them; to clench my teeth, then to slacken my jaw; to tighten my belly, then let it go loose; and so on until I had submerged my entire body into an ocean of sublime peace.

I was living in the home of a local poet who had gone outside of Alaska for the summer. It was a stunning log house in the hills of Ester, overlooking the Yukon basin. In the morning, I would get out of bed, lay naked on the back deck beneath a canopy of trees, and listen to the relaxation tape. Aside from hearing the sound of the wind and the occasional whirring of an insect, I was truly submerged. Surely I was becoming the living incarnation of what I hoped Miss R-- would find irresistible.

One morning as I drifted off into the rhythm of the recording, I felt an odd stirring in my loins. And when I raised my head to look, there was a wasp nesting at the head of my penis, gathering whatever wasps gather at such times. It seemed quite satisfied to be in the moment. I lay with the headphones on, asking for divine deliverance, yet the wasp took its blessed time before flitting off to the woods.

"Make haste my beloved, and be though like to a gazelle or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices...."

A few weeks later when fall showed its sudden chills, I decided to leave Alaska, for I saw only endless pursuits and losses, dark days, and endless winter. And when the poet returned, she had her eaves sprayed for wasps.

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