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I am a Hippie

By
Gabe Wollenburg

The way that she held my head up while she shook


her body back and forth didn't hurt, but it could
have. The shaking was a scion of our love; it was
Annie's simple, spastic way of reconciling
overwhelming bursts of love with a primal need to
shake. When we cuddled, for Annie, it's an
involuntary movement , a piss-shake of love.
Annie's gone now. It's my fault. She didn't want to
date a hippie. I should have warned her.

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Oh, shes not dead. Not at all. She's quite well. She's
probably got things more together than me. I'm
tired most of the time. I guess she lives in
Manhattan. I live in Rockford. Illinois. Manhattan's
a long ways from here.

If I saw her today, I'd ask her if she remembers the


time that we found a small version of the Leaning
Tower of Pisa in Zion. I'm sure she remembers it. It
was the second last time we were ever together. We
had been driving around at random and stumbled
across a tiny county park in which there was this
small version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The sun
was shining, and the leaves were for the most part
still on the trees, but they were falling fast. Small
gusts of wind sent wild spurts of leaves trickling
down on of us. She thought it was a riot. She
crawled around on the mini-monument. She said it
made her feel like Godzilla, and the rain of leaves
made it feel like Christmas. She shrieked and
giggled, and kicked piles of leaves like a little kid. I

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sat on the bench, sneering at the thought of Godzilla
at Christmas.
If I saw her today, I would like to tell her what a fool
I was. I would like to tell her that I was an idiot,
letting myself be upset and waste the time we had
together. I think I was sick. I had a habit of wasting
my time away by grumbling, and letting things like
Godzilla at Christmas distract me. I should have
fallen to my knees and thanked her for each and
every second she spent with me.
I didn't really know it then, but I have no doubt
today, that on that day at the Leaning Tower I was
sneering at her. I caught her eye, and she stopped
suddenly. She stopped rolling in the leaves, stopped
her gleeful playing and giggling. Catching my eye,
she quit smiling. Her mood changed like a needle
being pulled across a record. Her face fell and she
spoke.
“What?” she asked.
“Nothing.”
“Well, theres' got to be something.”

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“No. You have fun.”
While she stood up, she brushed the leaves off of
her sweater. It was red cashmere. It was probably a
$300 sweater. "You make it impossible, you know
that?” She was standing on her toes, and her fists,
wrapped in brown fingerless gloves, were clenched
and held straight down, even with her thighs. A
gust sent another trickle of leaves spilling down on
us.
I started to explain, but then, for reasons I still cant
figure out, I started unlacing my boots. "Do you
remember that time in my life when I thought
wearing shoes was stupid?”
She shrugged.
“Let me remind you. For a couple of months this
past spring, I decided that wearing shoes was the
man's way of keeping me down. Shoes was the
establishment's ball and chain.”
She stared at me, brow furrowing.
"Well, so I decided that I wasn't going to wear
shoes. I decided that I'd show them."

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She interrupted, pleading with me to stop before we
had a full-blown fight: “What does this have to do
with anything?”
"Have you ever climbed a tree without your shoes
on?" I asked, as I pulled my left boot off. She shook
her head slowly, disagreeing with the whole
situation, not just answering a question.
“I dont think Ive ever climbed a tree," she said.
“I know,” I said, as I kicked off my right boot.
“Thats why I'm going to go up here.” I gestured
towoard the spindly elm that stood over us. I pulled
both socks off and jumped up from the bench, ran
to the elm tree growing near the edge of the leaning
tower, grabbed a branch, pulled my body up and
planted my feet on the trunk of the tree. I could feel
the bark pressing against the fleshy balls of my feet.
It was cool and sharp.
“See,” I shouted as I climbed. “You can't
understand. You've got to have shoes and socks and
lipstick and hair curlers.” I was about half way up
the tree, and standing on top of a huge branch,

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where I could get an unobstructed view of her, and
she of me while I preached at her. “I've got my feet.
Thats all I need,” I said triumphantly.
“Ok. That's it. What the hell does that mean?” Her
hat was tipped just off the center of her head. Half
cocked. Just like me.
“It means, that you can't climb the tree with out
your shoes. You need your boots and socks, and you
need your hair curlers, and your lipstick, and your
fancy coat, and Christmas and Godzilla!”
“I refuse to continue this conversation,” she said,
folding her arms and turning her back to me. I
could still see her cheeks, and I wasn't sure if they
were pink from the autumn chill or from her
frustration with the whole situation.
“Exactly,” I said, swinging up and over to the next
branch, on the next highest part of the tree.
“No, I'm serious. Kyle Adderly.” She swung around
to face me, “If you want to have a conversation with
me--”
I interrupted her by swinging from the branch and

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making a monkey noise. It felt good.
“Stop it! Damit!” she shouted.
She almost never shouted. I stopped swinging,
hung from my arms and looked at her. What the
hell was I doing? I wondered. How did this get so
out of control? What did I expect to gain by talking
all high-and-mighty to her and acting like an ape?
Her mouth hung open, and she gasped looking for
sentences that did not form. She fumbled. She
twitched. Her lips pursed. She shook her head, then
she said with a steely conviction: “Dammit. God
Dammit.”
She turned, picked up her purse from under the
bench I had been sitting , and started for the car.
“Fuck you,” She said, “Just, fuck you.” She left the
clearing.

My heart sunk. I wondered what I was doing, and


how I'd managed to do it, and how I was going to
get out of it. Hanging from my arms, I wondered
about everything.

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And thats when the branch cracked the first time. I
dropped about 10 inches. I realized that I was 25
feet up a tree, with no shoes on, and because of the
way the branch had shifted, I couldn't put my feet
back up on the branch I'd been standing on without
pulling myself up. And, If I did pull myself up, the
branch would surely break the rest of the way.
I decided to let go of the branch and try to grab the
one I had been standing on previously. I could just
do a quick shuffle, switch, right? I didnt count on
hitting a different branch with my foot first. I also
didn't count on the branch I was hanging onto
snapping just as I was about to let go of it I found
out later that I broke my arm, tore a ligament in my
knee, bruised my hip, and fractured my skull.
If I learned nothing else that day, I learned that
karma is a bitch. And some bastard stole my boots.

Later:

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“I heard the branch crack, and I turned around and
I saw you falling,” Annie told me at the hospital two
days later. “I screamed and screamed, and you were
just laying there, and I didn't go up to you because
of the way your were twisted.”
I exhaled meaningfully. The TV flickered, and the
ambient hospital sounds coming from outside the
room became oppressive.
“Annie...” I said as clearly as I could.
“You know I don't like being called Annie,” she
said. Curt. To the point. “You were out of control.
You were crazy. It makes me so mad.” She was
getting worked up, but then, as if she was throwing
a switch that shut that part of her brain off, she
relaxed and looked sweetly at me. “Lets not talk
about that.”
“Ok,” I gasped. I was genuinely relieved to not have
to talk about it.
The hospital silence filled the room again.
And filled the room.
And filled the room.

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I broke the silence. “Annie...” I said.
The switch in her brain must have swung back into
its original position. She pinched up her face at my
speech. “Forget it,” she snapped, and with one
movement, she snatched her purse, stood, and left
the room. The door shut quietly, but I heard it slam
like a shotgun.
“Annie,” I said, even though she'd left the room. “I
can't help it. I am a hippie.”

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