It starts with a gravel road which becomes a city street, and then a plane, a bus, and then a ferry. Last October I found myself in a Seattle bar with maps covering the walls, lost in a sea of possibilities. For an evening I almost felt free, but I knew when I returned home, I would continue to drive down this dirt road to my murky bathwater existence.
I was raised in a strict Christian household. You could say I’m the black sheep in the family who has always taken a different path, who needed antidepressants in high school to numb myself to the confinements religion had on me. I moved back home this year to save on rent, but to live at home means I have to go to church every Sunday.
Well, last Sunday was especially bad driving home from church. I had to take my own car to church because, after the service, I had to have a “meeting” with an elder who was basically making sure that I’m not wandering off the path that leads to salvation.
“Are you seeing anyone? If you are, I hope he isn’t another nonbeliever.”
He asked about sex: am I remaining “pure?” I’m doomed if I lie, doomed if I tell the truth. I’m doomed because of the truth.
He’ll probably never know that our conversation that day caused me to almost drive my car into a ditch on my way home.
See, to be strapped behind a seatbelt in this car is to be strapped by religion into this lie that I live—strapped down like road-kill to road after dozens of cars have driven over you. You can drag a dead deer from the road, and eventually the rain will wash the blood away. But what about my body, tied down and powerless?
These years of lying have turned into cars piled up in a junkyard. Well, the cars are collapsing, and the sound of the metal clanking is equivalent to the noise in my head.
So it was raining and I didn’t turn on the windshield wipers. I let the tears fall without wiping. Blurs of brake lights ahead and I considered not applying my brakes. This is me trying
to hold the smoke
holding my neck
as I choke. This is the connecting pipe between my mouth and stomach, which is basically just a sewer where I keep all this shit contained.
This is the road between city and home. And aren’t the lights in the distance sparkling especially pretty tonight as the tears in my eyes give the city a bokeh effect.
This is the streetlight that just stays yellow. The green light says I’m doomed if I go, but the red light says it’s worse if I stay.
I followed the shiver as it travelled down my spine, which took me to the exit that merged me onto the highway instead of taking that no-exit dirt road home. Maybe I’ll go back to Seattle, I thought, to The Noble Fir—where I can trace the bodies of water on a map with my fingers, as the man buying me drinks traces my body with his.