|dan (67) myron (1) rich (61) shiloh (4) :: Contact|
Wed, 31 Oct 2007
I don't go geocaching any more, of course. It doesn't feel the same after what happened with Linda, and Jack. But I still can appreciate in an abstract sense why I once liked the game so much. Even so, it's hard to explain its attraction to muggles, a word that geocaching enthusiasts use to describe ordinary people people that wander around with tunnel vision in their strictly zoned world oblivious to the secret stashes hidden all about them. Are you a muggle? Try to understand it, then. Wherever you may be right now, city, suburbs, or country, there probably are a half dozen secret caches within walking distance of you. The caches are plastic boxes, peanut butter jars, metal ammo cases, sometimes large, often tiny. They may be hidden anywhere. They could be behind a rock, in the crook of a tree branch, magnetically attached to a guard rail, wedged behind a public phone. How could you not want to find them, open them, and look and see what objects they hold?
Like many youngsters, I was interested in puzzles, games, and similar amusements. I was especially fond of hide-and-seek games, although the fact that I had no siblings and few friends limited my opportunities to play this. Instead, I spent most of my free time on more solitary amusements, like word search puzzles, scrambles, and crosswords. This interest followed me into my adult years. I took up most of the new puzzles and games as they came out, but I'd never tried geocaching till I was introduced to the hobby by my wife Linda.
Linda and I were kindred spirits, puzzle wise. It was like we tackled a new puzzle not as two separate minds, but as one unified brain. Later, our rapport was shattered, but we were soul mates, in this respect, at the beginning.
I first met Linda in a coffee shop. As would soon become our standard duet, we were both doing a crossword. She was sitting a few tables away from mine, busily scratching at her newspaper puzzle. Her straight, glossy black hair framed delicate features that were wrinkled in concentration. Careful to not stare, I snuck enough glances to determine that she was also doing the Times puzzle and that she had progressed nearly as far as I had.
Unlike some men, I normally was rather shy, certainly without the nerve to introduce myself cold to new women, I would normally have been content with the covert observation of an attractive female who seemed to share my interest in puzzles. But the moment somehow inspired me. I don't know what got into me. Was it the crisp fall day? Was it the warm atmosphere of the coffee shop? The triple Cafe Americano in my cup? I didn't think. I simply picked up my newspaper, walked the few steps that separated us, and brazenly sat down at her table. My first words to her were, "Fifteen down: Bust Down Reason? Starts with 'B' and the second to last letter is obviously S, so maybe it ends in SH or SM, like brokenish? brokenism? Nah. Something else." I glanced over at her paper, then up at her breasts poking against her loose fitting blouse, then her face. I smiled.
"Do you have it?" I asked.
She looked up and studied me with a blank expression. She inspected me long enough for me to notice her hazel eyes. "No, I don't," she said, and returned to her puzzle.
We were both silent for a few minutes as we worked at filling in the easier clues surrounding this central point of difficulty.
"Ahh," she said, "The fourth letter's an 'I' because the down is..."
"Die of cold?," I interrupted, "I thought maybe 'freezes' but that doesn't..."
"Yes, a 'die of cold' is an 'Ice cube'," she said, grinning.
I gasped, struck just as much by her brilliant smile as her wit. Unable to control myself, I kept gawking at her long after she had gone back to working on the puzzle. Sensing my continued gaze, she looked up and smiled at me again, this time a warm smile of friendship. I was smitten.
"Country with its capital in Czechoslovakia?" she asked, breaking the spell. She thrust out her chin in challenge. I looked back down at the puzzle. This was a test.
Somehow I passed the test. I don't know how, but the answer came to me. My eyes opened wide. "Norway," I said.
She scrunched her nose in a most endearing way. She asked, "Norway?"
"Yes," I said. "The capital is Oslo, and that's right in the middle of Czechoslovakia, isn't it?"
Again that smile. Which suddenly grew even wider.
"And I don't have it," she said.
"No, you devil, it's in the wash. Brainwash. Bra in wash."
Within a year, Linda and I were married. Our wedding invitations had a Sudoko for guests to solve in order to find out the details; our wedding cake was a crossword; we gave away Rubik's Cubes as favors; we organized several games of hide and seek unlike the children's version, these had a more scandalous goal.
As I said, it was Linda introduced us to geocaching. She had mentioned her interest in the game several times when we were in the states, but neither of us owned a GPS. However, when we were traveling through Europe on our honeymoon, (our tour retracing some of Robert Langdon's quest), we had with us a pair of rented cell phones that had GPS receivers built into them. While riding the train to Montserrat in Spain, we were browsing the web in the train lounge. Linda noticed a link to the geocaching web site and surfed over to see if there were any caches up on the peaks. Indeed there were.
We took the Funicular St-Joan to near the top of the ridge, and then hiked up further to explore an abandoned building that the GPS indicated was the hiding spot of a cache. The view from the peak was stunning, but our eyes were nearsighted that day.
Caches may be hidden any number of ways, but the best way to hide them is to leave them in plain view. Dan Brown may believe it's best to hide things within complex puzzles, but I remember earlier and maybe better stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle that argued otherwise. I do believe Poe and Doyle are closer to the truth. We see but we do not observe. We have the sense that world is spread naked before our eyes, our inner soul taking in every glance whole and complete. But the truth of the matter is that we see nothing other than our expectations. It takes effort to discern something unexpected; the most trivial of novelties or the most shocking abomination can be easily hidden in plain view. We must force ourselves to look, to observe.
I know now that geocachers all tell stories of the frustration they had with their first few caches. Even those caches that are rated easiest are near impossible for the novice to see. Linda and I were no exception. The GPS located the cache atop Montserrat to within 10 feet of a particular crumbling stone wall. From the wall you could see a breathtaking vista of the surrounding countryside, but we ignored the distant scenery and scoured that wall and the nearby areas for over an hour, inspecting every crack and crevice, overturning every rock finding nothing. We joked that in the time we were spending, we might as well volunteer to repair the wall, but the harder we looked, the less we saw.
Then, suddenly, it was there, voila! The cache was an unremarkable white Tupperware of moderate size sitting in plain view next to a large rock. We broke into laughter. We had both sat, resting, on that very rock more than once, seeing nothing.
We popped open the cache. The trinkets inside were worthless toys and common souvenirs, but the thrill of finding and opening the cache had us grinning at each other like kids.
Suddenly we were in each other's arms and before you know it we were screwing like adult rabbits right there in public, in broad daylight, on top of that jagged Catalonian peak. Although we occasionally sensed a few people wandering in the distance, not a soul came close or said anything to us. No police were called. No monks frowned. People see nothing but their expectations. The infinite vista and the brisk, fresh air drew their attention away from our musky intimacy.
When we were done coupling, various articles of clothing were strewn about the area. I picked up Linda's bra and pointed at her pert boobs.
"Bust down reason?" I said with a mischievous sneer. Then I stuffed her bra into the Tupperware. "Bra in cache."
Linda dove toward me, laughing, trying to grab the cache from me and recover her undergarment, but I held it behind my back and would not give it up. She wasn't quite dressed and as she struggled against me I found myself getting aroused again.
"Have it your way. Bust stays down," she said with a sexy pout, buttoning her blouse. "I which I could see the look on the faces of the next people that find that cache."
From then on it became sort of a tradition with us to make love after finding a cache. Some caches are in extremely public places, so this could be quite a challenge. We were almost arrested after "celebrating" a cache on the corner of 24th Street and Park Avenue in New York City. Other caches are in remote locations, much more amenable to a leisurely and quasi-private spell of lovemaking.
Unfortunately, as they say, the honeymoon doesn't last forever. After a few months, the heat of our romance began to cool. Linda and I began to focus on our work. I had landed an interesting network programmer job in New York. Linda was finishing her PhD in mathematics at Brooklyn Poly. Although we tried to make time for doing the crossword together on Sundays, Linda's research had no weekend. Our traveling, and geocaching, not to mention public lovemaking ended. We still made the motions of love, but now was a private bedtime routine, not an improvised act of uncontrollable passion, like that memorable time on Montserrat.
After Linda successfully defended her thesis and was awarded her degree, we celebrated by taking a trip down to the Washington DC area. I was hoping we'd be able to visit some geocaches in the many national parks, possibly renewing our wedding vows amid the DHS security cameras with some risky fresh air sex. This didn't work out at all as I had planned.
On the way down Linda noticed the big "NSA" sign on the Baltimore Washington Parkway and started talking about how she was interested in working in Fort Meade. I made some ill considered remark something about why she couldn't look for a job up in New York. My comment did not go well with her.
"Take this exit," she said.
Gritting my teeth, I swerved the car onto the exit near BWI airport. At the light terminating the exit ramp, a large green sign pointed left to "NSA FANX". We ended up having a bitter argument at that light, the cars behind us blaring their horns. She wanted to 'drive around' and see what houses looked like. Finally noticing the light was green, I drove straight across the service road and took the ramp back onto the parkway. To the right was a running trail leading down into a gully obscured by woods. Just for a moment I had a vision of violently strangling Linda and rolling her body down there into those weeds. Things did not improve. Yet, believe it or not, at the time I was blind to these changes. I thought we were having normal "married people" issues. I know now that if I had made the slightest effort I could have seen the fatal end to our relationship even then. It's the things in plain view that are the hardest to see. Or maybe we are too afraid to look at them.
In spite of our fight during that trip, and later fights on the same subject, Linda applied for a job at NSA, and was hired. I remember the day she packed up some of her things for the trip down to Fort Meade just before her first day at the new job. She was so casual, like it was nothing, but to me I felt like part of my soul was being ripped away.
In the months that followed, our relationship rapidly deteriorated. Linda encouraged me to look for work in DC, but my job on Wall Street was very interesting to me, challenging me in ways I found endlessly exhilarating, and it paid really well too. I hoped that Linda would discover she didn't like working for the government, but I could see that she was flourishing. You know something is wrong when you wish ill on someone you supposedly love. I fantasized that there'd be a terrorist bomb that would blast NSA to pieces. Or at least some 'domestic spying' scandal would lead to the termination of her department. This was not to be; rather, Linda was quickly promoted. She was even appointed as a technical liaison to a prestigious congressional committee, working with some congressional assistant named Jack.
At first she would call every day, but after she had been working in Fort Meade for six months, her calls had become infrequent. When we did talk, if it wasn't about some mundane practical matter, we were arguing, coldly accusing each other of selfishness, of abandonment. All too often she mentioned Jack. I didn't like the way her voice sounded when she talked about him.
One day, while I was waiting for a train, I noticed the cover of Maxim on the newsstand proclaiming: "Happiness Hidden? Solve the Puzzle of your Relationship". I bought a copy and read the article on the way to work. "Seeing the solution to relationships takes effort. Give love your concentration. Try a new approach. Say the magic words: 'I'm sorry'. Surprise her with a special gift that has a secret meaning," the glossy pages lectured me.
"OK," I thought. I'll give it a shot. I'll go down there, tell her I've been an idiot, beg her forgiveness, and seal the deal with a cute puzzle gift. If she takes me back I'll call up to work and quit my job on the spot. My life with Linda is more important than any job.
Our first wedding anniversary was coming up. Falling as it did on a Sunday, I would surprise her two days before, Friday, as she came home from work. For the 'special gift' I found a company on the Net that would make customized jigsaw puzzles. I photo-shopped together a photo from the top of Montserrat that showed 'our' stone wall and a couple of cute rabbits nibbling at nonexistent grass. Soon I had the puzzle back from the company. I boxed it using a steel ammo box lots of geocaches are in 50 cal surplus ammo boxes. I wrapped it neatly in crossword puzzle paper, added a big, sappy 'My Darling Wife' anniversary card, tossed it in the back seat, along with my new GPS receiver, and headed off to surprise her.
I arrived at her apartment at about 3PM Friday. Carrying the gift, I let myself in with a key she had mailed me when she first moved in. "Back when she still cared about me," I thought to myself, cynically. Then I cursed myself for my weak grip on my planned forgiveness and reconciliation. "This is my wife. As long as we both shall live. Give love my concentration," I thought.
As I tried to concentrate on love, what I saw in her bedroom shattered my tenuous grasp on forgiveness and turned my world inside out. The queen size bed was rumpled on both sides. Mens clothing, not mine, hung over the back of a chair. There was an empty champagne bottle. Two glasses. The air was filled with the faint odor of sex.
I tried to tell myself there must be some other explanation. Then I heard motion out in the hall. Someone was unlocking the door. There were two voices. Linda's voice. And a man's voice? I heard words. Linda was laughing. "No, Jack, you devil," she said.
I felt sick to my stomach. There still could be some other reason, but I had to know. I hid in the bedroom closet.
In a few minutes, all doubt was erased. Linda, my darling Linda my soul mate was grunting in heat on the bed as her new lover, Jack, pounded away at her like a machine.
This sight busted down what remained of my reason. I lost control. Springing out of the closet, I screamed in rage. The heavy steel ammo box was still in my hands. I raised it high and brought it down hard and fast on the back of Jack's head. He slumped unconscious on top of Linda, who began to plead with me as she tried to roll away to escape my wrath. I brought the ammo box down a second time, smashing into her nose not so endearing now. When I was done, the two of them lay dead on the bloody sheets. Their faces were flattened, purple goo oozing from where their eyes and noses once were.
Now stricken numb in the aftermath, my crime of rage complete, some crazy instinct of self preservation drove me to hide my deed. Rationally, I knew the police would soon find me, but I might have a few days, or even weeks if I was careful and acted quickly.
Somehow I got the bodies to the bathroom tub. I separated what was left of their heads from the bodies, sealing the wound with duct tape. Using a few trips with a laundry cart, I got the bodies to the trunk of my car. People in the elevator stood right next to me, seeing nothing.
After carefully cleaning the apartment and making the bed, I got in my car and drove my grisly load up the parkway. When I saw the "NSA" sign, I pulled on to the exit ramp. The service road was where I remembered it, the trail, the weeds. It was the work of not more than 60 seconds to dump the bodies down the hill and watch them roll out of sight.
Then I drove directly to BWI airport and booked a seat on the next flight to Madrid. Checking that ammo box with my luggage was a risk, but the TSA X-ray didn't flag any terrorist weapons; the dogs smelled no drugs.
Atop Montserrat, I placed a new geocache. It was a classic 50 caliber ammo box hidden in plain view a few hundred feet from "our" stone wall. I have the location carefully recorded in my GPS. You can find the coordinates on the web site if you know where to look.
Linda's flattened and battered head is stuffed inside along with her bra. It should be a shocking surprise to the first to find it.