i was driving in Illinois west out of Chicago, cold mid-winter, and the past in an instant became present...

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a preamble

So herein begins section two of this series of essays.

It's section two b/c something changed this past weekend.

I had an experience of self from when i was 30 years younger, 19 y/o, midwest united states, somewhere btw late Nov and Feb, cold, very cold, and sere, and empty, as in cold filled everywhere with its absence of heat and motion.

there was comfort in that empty mid-american space, b/c demons can't live in a vacuum. Of course, they can go almost anywhere i can. The key is to find out where they tremble to go, and go there. Love, that's the answer, in case you gotta go before we get there by a longer route. Love.

Empty space in this world still has people and drama of course, and the key was to avoid collision. That was my goal every second i was alive then, and i felt all that in an instant, and it didn't fade. I was overcome with tears, driving, days ago, across the cold roads west of Chicago, Illinois...

needs were few:

  • cash
  • fast, reliable transportation totally under my control
  • speed, as in motion, not the drug
  • diversionary substance, perferably weed, but tabacco, alcohol or pretty much anything else was an option. Paul always said don't do white powders. He waged war in Vietnam b/c they made him, and he learned lessons. I didn't learn it till later. He took me in when i was hurting. I was still on my own, though, running.

an experience of self

something shifted that valentine's day 2015. i was driving west, some Illinois State highway, 8am, a few degrees fahrenheit outside and i was 19 years old again. I mean i was. My flesh was young for a lingering flash, which was scary, b/c the velocity i could sustain those days was 4 times what it is now. I could flee better.

I felt the fear in my tissue again. I was there, days and decades ago at once, long after the first experience of those terrifying sensations.

to feel

to feel something is to experience it. we feel everything, which is why numbing practices are so popular. but no hiding this past Saturday morning, it hit hard, sudden, like a yielding glacier that enveloped me, or maybe a better description, a flood arose in each and every one of my body's cells all at once, in perfect tandem, and i was suddenly 19 years old, running as fast as i could from death, from having my skull splattered across 88 square feet of near earth turf. No!!!!!!! i screamed as i ran.

But, blessing and curse, i am now almost 52, i am worn by years of simply being alive, and worn thrice over from all the post-traumatic acceleration.

the reverberations last until...

i was driving today in Illinois. It was well below freezing, negative one f°, and the sky was clear with storms clouds to the west. It came quickly, the recollection. It was body who remembered first, if remembered is the right word.

What was it? I was driving, then i was, for a flash, nineteen and fleeing, and the wide open spaces—heading west of course—were safety.

All that mattered was this: a car, gas, enough money for 24 hours. Then drive, b/c moving at least, i'm harder to track down; runners can't go that fast, so that eliminates some of the threat. when you know the car could easy go 120mph, there's comfort in that. escape is possible.

i scan the horizon for places to hide, a stand of trees or an anonymous, invisible motel. drive, keep driving.

if traffic slows, turn right. if a jam is imminent, assess the byways for an escape out of the crowds, breathe faster not on purpose, tap the steering wheel, turn the radio off and on and off and look over both shoulders and in every mirror then repeat as long as necessary, then the jam busts and i drive too fast...but now i'm an older man, i feel it though, still, in a lightning bolt, as i was alive still in that 18 year old body.

then i cried for that young man, i burst into full on sobs driving a mere 35mph through modern moments, loving that boy still a teen, for his fear, cradling him. i grieved as i drove the same state highways, scanned the same winter horizon for a few minutes rest between fleeing.

they say

actually, i don't know if they do, but i say: trauma locks part of you into a certain age. you don't get to evolve. This kid i met once was way bad burned, 65% of his body, at age 12. Part of him will be 12 forever. Part of me is always 19. Nineteen was when the worst of the beginning hit, when i couldn't take normalcy anymore, when i had to bolt, fast, east then west again, away from people, into the hinterlands where anonymity was a lure of highest proportion, like a $3.99 all you can eat breakfast buffet in Reno which you snuck into anyway, and didn't get busted.

necessities

kindness was everything. it still is. without kindness, well, are folks really paying attention? kindness was leroy picking me up in nebraska and letting me sleep on his meth dealer cousin's couch. kindness was my friend's girlfriend's mom letting me stay in their super nice kansas city house for the night. i did the dishes and she said i could stay a second night. i think she liked having me there.

i always longed for someone from that bob dylan song, the one where the kind lady gives the world-beaten man shelter from the storm. i always wanted that, and tried to say thank you everytime the smallest kindness came my way.

i saw a ghost

a few days ago, i saw a ghost. the reverberations are still strong. i saw a ghost, and the ghost was me, younger, 19 y/o, scared every second of every waking moment, and filled with nightmares that spanned days.

A safe haven was all i wanted...


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