Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Decision



On the day he lost his job, a job he had for twenty-three years, Miles Gentry, an introspective and introverted man who always put great effort into making good decisions, made a decision, but not just because he lost his job.  He had other reasons for making this decision, not the least of which was his disconnect from the world that surrounded him, from his wife and children, his friends and colleagues, and even from himself, or at least the external self he presented to those with whom he felt no connection.
Miles decided to run away to the Amazon, and to live a more appropriate life for one of his nature, a life away from the petty concerns of a society that he had long since abandoned, from the obligations that he no longer wanted, and from the anxiety everyday life brought him, a constant reminder that he did not belong and that he would not belong until he found a place he did belong, that place, at least in his mind, deep in the Amazon jungle, a place that held great mystery and great hope for Miles.
He shared this decision with nobody other than his dog, Max, and Max, a loyal dog and wonderful companion, revealed nothing of his plans to anyone.
Miles’ decision came after years of research on possible places to retreat, places where he would not be found, where he would be able to live in quiet isolation, away from noise and pollution, away from people, and most of all, far away from those he thought no longer loved him or wanted him, those who had disconnected themselves from him, leaving him to wonder if he had any value at all to anyone other than himself, and even to wonder sometimes if he truly valued himself.
He had considered West Africa for some time, ultimately abandoning the idea because there were far too many people in that region of the world.  Following that, he considered Southeast Asia, but also abandoned that idea for similar reasons.  The Outback also came to mind, although Miles didn’t think that environment would suit him.  Then he considered finding some uninhabited, tropical island in the Pacific, but gave up on that, realizing he would not likely find one that would have the resources necessary to sustain him and also thinking travel to such a place would be impractical. 
The thought of a finding a location that would be accessible, yet still remote, led Miles to the Amazon, and, in fact, to the heart thereof, quite accessible for one with a boat, a boat Miles could buy and keep with him near his new home, preferably some place on one of the less traveled tributaries of the Amazon.
After several months of research, he found a location deep within Brazil, a location on a smaller river that fed into the Rio Negro, which fed into the Amazon.  This smaller river, the Rio Uruboxi, came from deep within the jungle.  Satellite imagery of the river showed almost no signs of settlement, even where it met the Rio Negro.  However, it was close enough to civilization to allow Miles to periodically get supplies, supplies he knew he would need, although he would have preferred to avoid contact with the outside world.
Miles’ only concern about this location was the possibility of tribes of uncontacted Indians living in the region, people who might not take kindly to an intruder.  However, his research produced no evidence of such a population in the area he selected.  Still, he did not want to take any chances, so, at the time, he decided that if he ever made the decision to leave everything behind and make this his new home, he would hire a pilot to take him over the area so he could look for signs of natives, a quite reasonable thing to do under the circumstances.
Satisfied that he had found an excellent location, he had turned his attention to creating a survival plan, a very detailed survival plan that he would write and take with him if ever he made the leap into this unknown world.
First, he made an inventory of everything he thought he might need, the first draft of that inventory looking something like this:

·         A boat with shallow draft
·         Maintenance guide for boat and engine
·         Spare parts for engine
·         Gas tanks (as many as possible)
·         Tools (axe, machete, knives, hammers, shovels, etc.)
·         Medical supplies
·         Botanical guides
·         Insect guides
·         Hunting rifles and ammunition
·         Camping gear
·         Flint stones and steel
·         GPS and batteries
·         A crank radio
·         Shake flashlights
·         iPad loaded with books (as many as possible)
·         Solar charger for the iPad
·          Portuguese language tutor for iPad
·         Games for iPad
·         Solar powered Bluetooth keyboard for iPad
·         Appropriate clothing
·         Protective eye gear
·         Food (must keep for a long time)
·         Plastic containers
·         Cot, thin mattress, foam pillow, etc.
·         Blankets, sheets and pillowcases
·         Max
·         Obedience training for Max so he won’t run off into the jungle
·         Dog food (dry and canned)
·         Max’s toys
·         Water purification supplies
·         Fishing gear
·         Supplies for building a grill
·         Cooking gear
·         Plates, bowls, cups and utensils
·         Cloth napkins
·         Towels
·         Toothbrush
·         Dental supplies
·         Straight razor and leather strap
·         Extra glasses
·         Bug repellant (lots of this)
·         Boric acid (for ants)
·         Animal traps (medium size)
·         Spices (salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, etc.)
·         Porn
·         Condoms (just in case)
·         Scissors
·         Tarps
·         Rope (lots of this)
·         String (lots)
·         Wire (quite a bit)
·         Dartboard and darts
·         Nails (all types)
·         Screws (all types)
·         Backpack
·         Fanny pack
·         Marbles
·         Cards (multiple decks)
·         Chess set
·         Table and chairs (plastic)
·         Rubber bands
·         Dice
·         Survival guides (of course)
·         Magnifying glasses (at least three)
·         Plastic storage containers (many.  Various sizes)
·         Powdered drink mixes (as many as possible)
·         Multivitamins
·         Shoes (cross-trainer and hiking)
·         Boots
·         Mirrors
·         Self winding watches
·         Compasses
·         Maps
·         Plastic bags (many, various sizes)
·         Back scratcher
·         Puzzles
·         Medical books (anything I can find)
·         Cell phone with solar charger (maybe not)

Of course, this list would grow substantially over time, ultimately becoming unmanageable, leading to Miles paring it down.
After writing the first inventory, writing it three years prior to losing his job and making his decision, Miles secretly bought a variety of survival guides, all of which he read many times over, usually reading them while on lunch break at work, keeping a journal in which he listed quick lookups for subjects he thought relevant.
He also read quite a bit about carpentry and woodworking, as well as many medical books, and also spent considerable time learning Portuguese.
All this he did while living what outside observers considered a perfectly normal life.  He went to work, spent time with his rather reluctant family, visited his therapist (he never shared anything about his escape plan with his therapist), went to the gym (in fact, more often, thinking he would need to be in good shape if he went to live in the jungle), and did pretty much everything else he normally did in a way that never offered any suggestion that he might be considering abandoning this life and heading deep into the jungle.
So, on the day when he was laid off, the day he decided to leave everything behind, he was quite prepared, although he had not yet bought everything he would need.
While Miles was not rich, he had more than enough money to fund this adventure, and given that he and his wife kept their finances separate (at her request), he could purchase what he needed without arousing suspicion.  Of course, he would buy much of what he needed when he arrived in Brazil.  However, some things, like crank radios, shake flashlights, solar chargers for his iPad, apps and books for his iPad, camping gear, medical supplies, clothes and shoes and so on, things he thought might be hard to come by in Brazil, he bought while still living at home, storing much of it in plastic containers, which he tucked away in the basement.  These things he would ship to Brazil prior to departing.
Three weeks after losing his job and making his decision, Miles bought a one-way ticket to Manaus, a city deep in the Amazon, a thirty-hour trip.  He also bought boat, purportedly slightly used, a nineteen-foot fishing boat that would be waiting for him at his destination.
Four weeks after making his decision, he shipped the items he had stored in his basement to Manaus.  A week later he had his last dinner with his wife, Mary, and his twin, sixteen year old daughters, Sophie and Clara, a relatively normal meal, marked only by a bitter disagreement between the twins. 
That night he went to bed, but did not sleep, and in the morning, after his wife and daughters left, he packed up two suitcases and drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he boarded a flight to Sao Paulo, that flight connecting to the flight to Manaus.  He left no note, having absolutely no desire to get in the last word or offer any explanation for his departure, and, with tremendous regret and sadness, left Max behind, thinking life in the jungle would be far too dangerous for his only friend.