I showed up in Tillamook without a good idea for a place to stay. A woman at the cheese factory directed me to a pizza joint in town, where she told me that her cousin’s uncle might have a spare room. He wasn’t in. I crossed the street and chatted for a while with a family that ran a burger/sushi joint. The sushi chef was called Justin; he had learned to roll sushi by watching Youtube. He directed me to a campground his grandmother owned near a local fishing hole, and sent me off with a note scrawled onto the back of his business card (he also sold cars at the local Ford dealership): ”Grandma, I told Jordan he could camp. He’s got a cool story. Justin.”
The sky was clear, the stars were out, and the night was cold. I was awoken before dawn by the sound of trucks right outside my tent. Several fishermen had set up along the riverside. I went over and chatted for a while with DJ, the first black man I had seen since leaving Canada. His eyes darted between me and the two lines he had in the water. Mid-conversation, he lunged for his rod, but the reeled in line revealed a 6 inch sea trout, not the salmon he had been hoping for. He unhooked it and threw it into the fire. Moments later, he caught a second and then a third; these ended up in the fire as well.
I watched the fishes flounder briefly beside the flames, thinking to myself what a revelation it must have been for each to die in this way, to have discovered the very existence of fire at the instant before death. It was beautiful, in a way, to see these individuals transcend their species’ boundaries, like Icarus briefly tasting the stratosphere. It seemed poetic, holy even.
DJ watched the water intensely.