The Time I Skinny Dipped with Buddha in Tonto National Forest

The Time I Skinny Dipped with Buddha in Tonto National Forest

The day after I shared the omelet with Sid I woke up and felt somehow different. It was as if a proportionate measure of weight had been lifted from each segment of my body. By becoming heavier with the omelet I had achieved a lightness in my being. I shared my weight with an entity at once separate from me and yet one with my very being. It was at this time that I ventured my first suggestion to Sid, who had until then been the sole rudder in our journey. "We have to get rid of the car," I told him, a newfound certainty expanding from my core like a tepid, massaging fire. Sid just smiled and left the keys on the hood.

Wandering as two feathers in a determined wind, we boarded buses blindly and walked the highways until drivers pulled over for us without our asking. For a procession of days swinging back and forth like a hammock between darkness and light, sun and moon, we wrapped ourselves in the Everything from the beds of pickup trucks and the cabs of freight liners. Our path was a crooked one, bent here and there but never broken and always moving inexorably to now.

Our first break from this constant journey came as we hunkered down in an all-night diner in Tempe. In the distance I could see mountains and I swear I smelled a watery musk that was far too fresh and clean to come from the artifice of the diner. Full of hash browns and stone sober, I paid our bill and started walking toward the rising sun. Sid followed, trusting as always, his belly in time with his even steps.

For miles we walked toward the path between the hills, then for miles more we found ourselves nestled between the tall rocks like tiny beetles in the crevice of a cosmic mother's breasts. Then finally we reached the water, Mormon Flat, a still loch bound by a dam and a faraway shipyard. An errant canoe knocked against the rocks as a messenger knocks on one's door. Sid and I used it to cross north into Canyon Lake.

There, so far from the imbalance of the things of men, we discovered not a man, but a woman. She floated there in an innertube, her blonde hair dark with water, embracing the skin of her neck, her back, her face. She smiled at me, the sun sparkled on her one-piece bathing suit and I suddenly felt so oppressed by the heat of the cloudless Arizona sky that I could do nothing but strip nude and slip into the lake. Gripping both the innertube and the boat, I connected the two as Sid rowed us to a shaded corner where a second innertube was caught on a rock and partly deflated. Sid, the woman and I took turns breathing new air into the tube until it could float again. There, Sid left us and promised to return when he found a length of rope to bind us all together.