In the Woods
Last night, I decided that I was going to hang myself. Not anytime soon, and for no particular reason, I just had the sudden realization that it was the way I wanted to go.
I’ll wait till I start to get old (the yardstick will be when I start to reach a point where I cannot physically hang myself), or if I ever lose my health.
I know the spot, as well. I grew up in the rather posh DC suburb of Kensington, in Maryland, right off of Kensington Parkway where it crosses Beach Drive at Rock Creek Park, which, at that point, is a narrow strip of wooded land bordering the Beltway. The park gets pretty big the further you get into DC, but that narrow strip is where I plan to go. If you continue beyond Beach Drive up the Parkway towards Connecticut Avenue, then you come to a bridge crossing Rock Creek. From that bridge, just off the side, you can see the bridgeworks for what used to be an old trolley line. I played on those ruins as a kid, and it’s where I found my first porno mags – washed up from the storm drains, I guess. I also had a nice collection of wallets, as pickpockets and thieves would often dump all the useless shit over the Kensington Parkway bridge. So I’d walk around in thigh-deep water poking at the silty creekbed with a stick, turning up all sorts of wonderful trash.
If you go beyond the old bridgeworks, you hike through forest and come to a ravine, which can be easily jumped. To your right is the Beltway, riding high on an embankment and obscured by trees and undergrowth. Just the flash of cars on a sunny day, and the constant noise of the rat race. To your left is forest, Rock Creek burbling along, then more forest, which eventually gives way to meadow and Beach Drive. Despite the roar of the Beltway, there’s a strange loneliness in those woods. Like Terabithia, except with land developers living next door. And the occasional knife-wielding bum.
All my years of playing in those woods, day after day and year after year, I only ever saw one other person (that knife-wielding bum), and that was when I was about 12. After that incident, I was always alone in those woods, or with friends. Now I walk them occasionally in the winter. Jumping ravines and swinging from trees is much harder now, but the woods still hold that sense of magic and mystery.
After that ravine, maybe about a quarter mile in, you hit a bog that stretches from the unforgiving Beltway embankment and down to the creek. In my youth, someone had put down planks so you could cross the swampy ground in relative ease. It was a small area, firm ground always within site, but it was dangerous. The planks led past the center of the little bog, where the roof of a car was just visible when the water level was down. I used to leap and slide around on that roof, never really thinking about the car beneath the waterline, or if anything was in it.
I think about that a lot now. First of all, getting it down there was impossible. No way to drive in through forest and over the ravine, and the trees between the bog and the Beltway were thick and old, so the car couldn’t have plummeted down into the woods. How long had the car been down there? And was there anyone in it?
The planks crossing the bog have long since gone, so there’s no easy way out to the center now. When I walk those paths today, my journey usually ends at the bog, and I stare out where I know that car is submerged and wonder. I suppose I could report it to someone, but I hate ruining a good mystery.
Just beyond the bog, the creek starts a long, slow turn and the strip of land between water and highway gets even more cramped, crowded, and narrow. There are no true paths through the woods, just what animals and the occasional walker beats down. Beyond the bog, though, all semblance of a path is lost and you have to beat your way through underbrush. It’s there where I’ll hang myself. Find a good tree with a strong limb and string myself up. The only chance at being found will be if some kid or a tramp comes by, but I’ve never seen signs of life beyond that bog. I love the idea that I could hang there for a long time, dead eyes watching the endless rush of the Beltway.
Avoiding discovery is the most complicated part of the plan. I figure I could drive down there with the rope and a stool or whatever, go back and set it all up, then drive home, get a cab to a nearby spot, then walk it. So even if someone traces me through the cab, the destination will be a mile away or something. And somewhere innocuous. Maybe have the cab drop me off at the Kensington Mormon Temple, or at an address, or the Safeway up in the old town section. Really throw everyone off the scent.
Hell, maybe hanging’s not the way to go. I could just leap into that swamp, go down into that old car, and then drown myself down there with whatever ghosts have been sitting beneath Rock Creek Park for the last half century. Then nobody will ever find me and, maybe, years later, some kid will tap dance on the roof, my skeletal remains just inches from his filthy Chuck Taylor’s.