This is the first in a series of posts about my ongoing experience of life in a camper for the next few months.
After having our house on the market for almost a year with no serious interest, we took it off the market. A few months after being not for sale, we received a serious offer and it sold. This inverted logic has entered my life through some crack in the fragile atmosphere, and I’m not sure if I’m coming or going.
The evening of Friday, March 22, my wife and I, and our six rescue cats transitioned from a house of 3,400 square feet, to a camper of about 3,400 square inches. The situation is temporary, but so is life on this planet. We will be in homeless limbo for almost two months, until I finish up the semester as an adjunct professor. Our final destination is yet unknown.
I have no reason to complain. I’m thankful for health, and for my one good hand. I had two good hands until I attempted to unhook my utility trailer from the hitch before securing it. Technically, the Physician’s Assistant said it was a toss-up if the bone behind my right thumb was broken or not. It appeared broken in a few of the x-rays, but not in all. Therefore, he assumes that it’s not broken.
He decided instead to treat the damaged tendon, which he concluded was damaged after several unsuccessful attempts to flex my wrist without enduring ear-piercing screams the tiny examining room, which was more spacious than the camper kitchen/family room/dining room/office currently serving as Mapping the Edge world headquarters.
A licensed physician may have assumed the opposite about a possible break, but who am I to question? I’m not a doctor. OK, neither is he. This inverted logic has become my life recently. I’m trying to embrace it, if only with one good arm.
As I said, I can’t complain. We have no bills, other than monthly rent for the camping site, utilities, internet, propane refills, the two large PODS units held in storage climate-controlled bliss somewhere in the greater Washington DC metro area, the three additional storage units of our stuff stored locally, and monthly parking fees for the bone-breaking, tendon-damaging utility trailer. But I can’t complain.
I like it here. Campground life provides a great source of creative material. Spending a weekend camping is not the same as living in a campground. Visitors will always be outsiders compared to those who live here. I’m not an insider yet, but I am in transition. This place contains elements of “the other”. People strive for intensely private lives in a place with minimal privacy. It’s a mix of voyeurism, paranoia and genuine friendliness.
It’s too soon to know if this new normal fulfills my childhood fantasy of working in a traveling circus or carnival, but it’s getting close. Remember the actor, Carel Struycken, who played the giant in the US television show, Twin Peaks, and Lurch in the series of Addams Family movies? Picture a shorter Struycken with long white hair and translucent ice blue eyes, and that’s the man who lives at the far end of the campgrounds.
My utility trailer is parked next to Carel’s permanent trailer, a few hundred yards from our camper. On my first day here, I had backed up the trailer but was still unloading a few things before unhooking it from my truck. At that time I still had two good hands. Carel appeared out of nowhere, standing behind me and initially saying nothing. He examined the contents of my trailer as I unloaded, re-arranged, and reloaded. As awkward as it was having a stranger stare at my stuff, Carel seemed to do the same with me, as if trying to decide if I belonged here as an inhabitor or just a visitor.
Carel spoke a single chilling word to me before returning to his trailer. He said, “Mourning”. How do I know he didn’t say, “Morning”? First, it was early afternoon, not morning. Second, when I responded with, “Good morning,” Carel cocked his head with a look that said, you fail to understand now, but will understand in time.
A few minutes later, I found myself prematurely unhooking the hitch of the trailer. Then screaming. I was and am in mourning, but not because of the injury. I mourn the loss of my familiar and comfortable life. Carel knows it.
Later that evening, I was back at the trailer, clumsily unlocking and opening the door with one hand, while holding my injured arm against my chest. It was dark and I was wearing a headlamp, searching for a few extra items for the camper. I was tilting my head in various angles to expose the dark corners of the utility trailer’s interior when Carel drove up next to me. From his back seat, he removed a potted plant and something large wrapped in a white plastic bag. Without a word, he carried the plant and bag inside as I spotlit his path with my jittery headlamp.
I closed and locked the utility trailer door. I moved my headlamp in search of a clear path through the wooded area, until my light found Carel’s bodiless face floating in midair a few feet in front of mine. After a few seconds in silence, I lowered my head and saw from the headlamp illumination that Carel’s body was still attached to his head. Since my cyclops flash was the only light source, what was not directly lit remained in total darkness.
“Are you coming or going,” he asked.
I wish I knew, Carel. I wish I knew.
Tune in next time when our fearless Mapper of Edges makes his first trek to the campground’s 24-hour laundry room, in Episode #2 – The Mystery of the Stolen Plants.
Coming soon, the adventures of our first house-hunting trip since the sale of our home, in “The House Beside the Cadaver Dogs is For Sale”.