We arrived in Boise the next afternoon and met up with a few of the boys who were on a job up there. Again I watched Corey shapeshift back into his public caricature. We hit a few of the good bowls in the surrounding areas but soon had plans of getting out of the city, which I was more than stoked on. A few mornings later I woke up with a nice body-quivering stretch. My tent was submerged in the frigid thin air of the Sawtooth National Forest. I popped my eyes out of my bag and saw the layer of frost then stayed wrapped up for a while enjoying the familiar simplicities of a good ole Fast and Loose trip. After some breakfast burritos we all hiked down to the river where I got eyes on the hot spring jacuzzi I made out of rocks the night prior as the skies dusted a light snow. The morning scene was as perfect as the night was, in its own way of course. The valley was socked-in by a dense cloud and I could hear rain patter above my head in the pines. The air was crisp and sharp. My lungs worked and ate it up. I reflected on our early film trips during those three golden years like I found myself doing regularly. Life was good back then, I thought. Then I grounded myself in this new moment suddenly realizing things weren’t much different at all. We were still on the road, sharpening the craft, feeding the soul like we had always done. Life is good, I thought again.
Soon enough we were back in the van snaking south along the river. The windshield was fogged from the inside and the heater was cutting through the ear-throbbing decibel of metal and punk. Then Corey gave me a fragment of his mind without turning anything down, “I hate that I feel like a victim when I’m not.”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Why has it gotten to the point where I have to come out? Why can’t I just be? Why don’t people have to come out as being straight? How ridiculous would that be? This process is making me feel like some sort of victim.”
I sat pensive for a moment. “Well, man, I don’t have the wisdom to answer those questions, but what I do believe is that the more humans such as yourself that drop in will just make it more and more normal for the rest that follow.”
“I already believe all that too, but it just sucks ya know? All this unneeded stress and pressure. All these fucking labels everyone puts on everyone. I just want to live a quiet life as me. I just want to do my thing without having to explain myself to everyone.”
I really didn’t know how to respond.
“Fuck it!” He continued, “I’ll do it! I will! Now that my family knows I really don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks anymore.”
Then he rolled his widow down, let his arm dangle in the near freezing mountain air and chirped, “Fuck I needed this!”
In that moment I actually watched him mature, and in a similar manner, I think he felt what I had felt earlier: things weren’t much different at all. We were still doing what we had always done. He just wasn’t a little BMXer anymore. Now he was now a grown ass human with a purpose. The larger-than-life myth he had on a bike grew triple the size. I think deep down he knew by him taking the hit it would only help those who’ve been trapped all their lives too. All that eager stoke I used to see in his eyes over pools and clips I now saw fixed on pulling others from the hell he knew all too well. That’s being a good human. That’s wisdom. Screw a gold medal, screw a video part with a million views, his new approach was using the craft and platform he had built for himself correctly, and I saw it surge through his veins like the river below. I became incredibly inspired.
“You’re a tough motherfucker.” I replied enthusiastically, “You’re built for this, man. Look at all the hits you’ve come back from already. Fuck, dude, you’re entire face is rebuilt with titanium and you came back from that while lugging the weight of this in secret the entire time! That type of struggle has molded you. Geez you’re fucking tough, man. And, also, …”
Then he cut my rant off. “I get it. Let’s just stop talking about it.”
“Too easy. It’s back in the vault.” I wasn’t offended. He had never been fond of compliments and once I get on a rant I usually don’t stop until I annoy someone anyways. In that moment I learned another valuable lesson toward the process: he just needed to hear himself sometimes. He would say things out loud to help him process information. He was asking himself the questions, not me. He was drowning out the hum of anxiety smothering the brain like a cloud of locusts. He was hacking through the overgrowth of the mind like a warrior. He was submitting the brain, which is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Lounging in the passenger seat ripping along the river I got a hunch that the world would know soon enough. It was becoming blatant that he was fighting back. He was summiting the second mountain. The metamorphosis was almost complete, he was on the cusp of becoming the best version of himself, and he didn’t need my support or two cents anymore. The talk was turning into action and I began to get out of his way. The biggest open pocket of his life was coming up and I couldn’t wait for him to hit it. He was ready.
After that trip the holidays kicked in. On top of that Matt, Corey, and myself decided to relocate to San Diego and after some irritations we got a spot in Ocean Beach. Then Corey flew back to Toronto while Matt and I packed our lives up. We kept in subtle contact but for the most part things went pretty quiet. I knew he was refilling the gas tank and family gives the right fuel for the soul to burn.
In a flash it was January 2021. I think the earth is whipping around the sun faster these days. All of a sudden we were in a new home in a new town. I picked Corey up from Los Angeles International and something hit me: he looked the healthiest I had seen him in years. The deadweight I saw him lugging around a few months prior, the same weight he had been lugging silently for almost his entire life, seemed to have disintegrated. His eyes had life again and his sentences were vibrant. As the days came and went I saw flashes of his true self in public. The morphing, the shapeshifting, and the mutating were withering away. That got me more stoked than he even realized and it was kind of fun being let in on the public encounters he would endure on a regular basis by those who still had no idea. The interactions weren’t hell for him anymore. Now he would just glance at Matt and I and we would have a laugh over it. After seeing his family he had turned the corner. His Everest had been summited. He was toughened up and more than ready.
Then one night he told Jason and Cody over FaceTime. I knew that killed him inside because that was something he wanted to do in person and I know both the boys wanted it that way as well, but of course with the lockdowns and them stuck in Australia that couldn’t happen. I remember seeing Cody’s gigantic smile stretching his mustache and a few days later I got a call from Jason. “YEEEWWW!” He said, “That’s bloody sick! Can’t wait to get back to the states with yous!”