So I'm on my way to class last Thursday. It's already five past six, and class started at six. I need to file my candidacy form for graduation, today's the last day, and in a classic display of reckless brinksmanship, I haven't even looked at the form yet.
I'm walking fast, smoking furiously, and thinking how it probably wasn't such a good idea to skip lunch and still get loaded right before class. I'm out of breath by the time I reach the event center, so I slow down to a more human pace, giving my lungs a chance to catch up. There's a stitch in my side the size of Texas, and my bum knee hurts like a bastard. I really need to quit smoking and start running again, I think to myself for perhaps the thousandth time. I lean against a tree, and set my bag down for a breather. It doesn't help that my laptop weighs about as much as a small elephant with low self esteem and an endless supply of comfort food. I'm just about to leave when I notice a squirrel at my feet, watching me intently. Now there's a lot of squirrels on campus, and most of them are pretty fearless and upfront about their territory, but this one's wearing a leather jacket. A tiny little leather jacket and Audrey Hepburn wayfarers, raised over its head, between its ears.
"Er... can I help you?" I venture, remembering Phil from a few weeks ago.
"Oh I'd say you could. This is MY territory bub, you better getchyer ass offa that tree there."
Now I'm not used to taking shit from just about anyone, least of all talking squirrels, so I overcome my trepidation and counter with,
"O rly? Well I don't see your name on it." (Juvenile, I know, but how else are you supposed to talk to an unreasonably confrontational squirrel?)
"On the contrary, mon frere, my name IS on that very tree which you are currently leaning your bony little arse against", the squirrel says, pointing at the base of the trunk, right by my left foot. I crouch down, incredulous, but sure enough, there it is, like miniature jungle graffiti, gnawed into the bark in letters three inches high, a single name, "Stella".
"Like I said. MY turf, bitch."
"Oi, First of all, I'm not your bitch, and second, I was just catching my breath." I can't believe I'm getting talked down by a squirrel. A SHE squirrel! Called Stella, no less.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." She says, with a dismissive flick of her tail.
A moment of awkward silence follows, while the evening sun moves toward some conveniently placed mountains, and a chill breeze blows through campus, bending the grass and shaking the leaves off trees. Fall is here.
"Stella. That's uh..a nice name.." I attempt, trying to defuse the tension.
She affixes me with a blank stare. "For a squirrel. Go on. Say it."
"Wha..? Of course not. I mean, in general. That's a nice name."
"Well, my girlfriends call me the Seeker", she says, relenting, and winks, with a smirk.
"Ha! That's cute.", I blurt out. Well it IS cute! A squirrel called the seeker!
"Not really. You know how it is."
I don't have an answer to that. I do know how it is, and it's not exactly a barrel of laughs.
"That constant hunger in the pit of your stomach, makes you want to grind your teeth, to gnaw the mask off the face of the world, just to see what lies beneath, days when you just want to set it all on fire. Days when you can't sit still, when you have to get off your feet and just go. Somewhere, anywhere, just to see what's over the next hill, to see if there's any meaning to it all. It's not fun being a seeker. And you know when it really hurts? When you meet someone who distracts you from your constant seeking, and you settle down, take a breather, think 'hey, this is it, I'm done looking, I'm gonna settle down with this girl, and I'm gonna concentrate on making her happy' and right then, just when you decide to chuck it all and settle for a life of contentment, she ups and leaves, 'cos she's seen right through you, and knows that you're one of 'em. A seeker, a ramblin' man, and for people like us, the search is never over. That's what sucks about this job."
I'm speechless. Mostly 'cos everything she said hits very, very close to home. And then something occurs to me, and I can't help but ask.
"Wait, so you're saying you're a lesbian??"
"Oh I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but my ma won't admit it", says Stella in a sing-song voice.
"Ah." Now I'm just confused.
"Well, it can't be all bad, being a seeker..", I try to sympathize, both for her sake, and mine.
Stella smiles, wryly, "It's a dirty job, but like they say, someone's gotta do it."
"I guess that's true", I say, wanting desperately to agree, to accept that sometimes you have to lose something to gain something, but my heart's not in it.
"There are perks. You don't sleep at night because you're busy searching, but you get to see the sun rise every morning. You search for miles and miles without finding anything, but along the way, you meet a lot of interesting people. Some of them, you might even come to call friends. And when you find the smallest hint, even a tiny clue, heck, any piece of the puzzle, it feels absolutely incredible. There's no rush on Earth that compares. But then again, you know how it is.", she smiles, and since she's absolutely right, I smile back.
"Here, d'you have a smoke on ya?"
"Um, lemme check", I flip open my pack of cigarettes, but there's just one cigarette left.
"Yup, the last one, you want it?"
"Oh no. I just wanted to know if you still had that last one. Do us a favour, hang onto that one eh?
You're going to need it soon." she says, with a sincere look, but then again, how do you know if you can trust a butch dyke squirrel in a bomber jacket?
"Er.. so I don't smoke it then?"
"No. You don't. You should quit 'em altogether actually. Fuckin' things will only end up killing you. Just.. hang onto that last one." this last was almost an imperative, such was the urgent sincerity with which she looked at me. Stella seemed to realize that I had noticed this minor break in character, so she recovered quickly, and slid her shades back over her eyes.
"Well, this was nice, but I'd best be getting back to the search now, aren't you late for class?"
I look at my watch and she's right. It's 6:30, I'm a half hour late! When I look up, she's scampering off across the grass, her tail flashing in and out of sight, like a furry periscope rising through the verdure.
"Hey! Wait up! What if I smoke that cigarette?" But it's too late. Stella the Sapphic Seeking Squirrel has spoken, and split the scene.