Bigfoot lives in my neighborhood. No one believes me but I see him everyday. Mr. B hides in plain sight, his gigantic foot and hairy toes nestled amidst tangled roots, his rugged coat blending with massive pitch pine and cedar. On our daily walks, my Airedale Charlie ignores the rough giant, a truce between wild things, I guess, because Charlie is an unrepentant barker.
Mr. B is devilishly clever, preferring the cedar swamplands to the open meadows and cranberry bogs. He has a talent for stillness. His camouflage and quiet nature are fine survival skills, considering no one, not a single beer-dazed hunter has captured him, not even a credible snapshot.
His stillness is a skill I could use to foil my ex-husband and cranky creditors. Until recently, I was likely to grab a satchel and run like hell. A lifetime of running. The reaction is firmly stitched to my DNA.
With Bigfoot I could be brave, even fearless. I long for a hero of good heart who will stroke me the way King Kong petted Ann Darrow. But I admit the Mr. B is lousy at small talk.
Several months ago, I asked him, “Your favorite color is . . . ?”
And then, “You’re lonely. Understandable. Your species is considered a myth, equal only to Nessie paddling around her highland loch. Just so you know, I would never betray you.”
The wind sighed through feathery cedar branches. He heard me, I know, responding in his own peculiar way.
That’s when I swore off mini-macho men forever.
How did they love me? My invisible father had walking feet, my mother said, a man who could not stay put and dreamt of far-off places. He slow-danced himself into the Alaskan tundra then drank himself to a fast-paced death. Sil Harris was my first lover if you call duplicity, the intent to commit bigamy an act of love. We should invest in our blissful future, he said. A lovesick fool, I opened my checkbook as wide as my heart. The confession came later: multiple, ongoing marriages, a gaggle of offspring, a five-state Trail of Tears.
But it was Joey Lippencott who ruined me forever. He said he loved me like crazy until the baby arrived, three months early. As small as the infant was, the medical bills were staggering. I didn’t care. The baby’s fingers and toes were a marvel, tiny as matchsticks, skin so pale and thin I could trace his veins, a living map of fine blue threads, a pulsing landscape of miniature rivers and streams. His soft, malleable skull fit perfectly in my palm, and he fought, struggled like a fabled warrior for each shuddering breath.
The yearning to become should count for something on the cosmic scale of weights and measures. Reciting endless prayers, I called on the wind and the sea and wide, open sky for a miracle.
The gods shrugged and turned away.
I buried my son in Odd Fellows Cemetery, having named him Patrick for the saint who chased snakes away. Kneeling at the gravesite, I pressed my wedding ring into the freshly turned earth, pressed it hard, wishing I could dig, drill, jackhammer my way through the sandy, nutrient-poor soil to the pure, cool aquifer beneath. Water always finds its way home, running like a child into its mother’s arms. Patrick would have liked that.
Bigfoot is a definite improvement over disappearing men and indifferent gods. On warm summer evenings, I sense the creature’s hulking presence. Charlie moans and jerks in his doggy sleep, but I’m awake on these nights, fully alert. I smell Bigfoot’s musky fur. His hot, piney breath wafts through my open window. The air shifts; the curtains swell, sails on a troubled sea. The beast’s shaggy heart pounds loud and wild in perfect rhythm to my own.
Yesterday, my friend Annie called about a notice posted in a Chatsworth convenience store. A national group is widening their search for Bigfoot, inquiring about local sightings. Paying for credible tips, she said.
“This is your chance, girlfriend. Fame and fortune is knocking at the door.”
She laughed. Everyone laughs.
Yes, I might gain a moment of fame, even make some money exposing Bigfoot’s whereabouts, his curious silence and secretive habits. I will not betray him. He’d be turned into a sideshow, a curious entity to be prodded and poked or put behind bars for people to laugh and gawk at. It would destroy him; it would destroy me. After losing Patrick, I know there are mysteries, inquiries of the world that remain unanswerable, sometimes for the better.
Bigfoot lives large and free in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He’s the shadow in the pines, standing between the light and the darkness. He’s the movement, the blur along the swamp you almost see or the moonlit moment your heart lurches with wonder and longing.
Knowing he’s here is a strange, sweet comfort. Knowing he’s here is enough.