In a 21st century world where wi-fi is an equal to water in necessity, many wonder how a professional scribe could go for five years without a website (though I know plenty who do). It’s simple: I was broke. I was scared. And I was on the run…from myself.
Imagine waking up one morning. Not even a Monday. Think a Wednesday, a “hump day” when you’re hopelessly caught in the middle of what life has dictated. The bottle of Ocean Spray Cranapple is half done. You’ve got 1500 words left in an essay your writing for some anthology. And you’re only slightly done with your significant other, needing another 72 hours to call it quits with some kind of certainty. It is there, in the middle of things, when memories of success are closer than a straight-razor shave and when the future is so bright that you’ve got a different pair of shades for each day of the week, that it all disappears, gradually and then suddenly.
The Joplin tornado tears through your bedroom. An 8.5 earthquake rips through your apartment floor. You login to Twitter to find an entire (figurative) photo shoot of images of that close-to-ex-girl of yours doing the whole Kama Sutra with someone else in a screenshot format.
Yet you stand tall on the leg that isn’t fractured. You breath with the lung that hasn’t collapsed. You crouch behind the best cover you can find and pull your trigger with the only finger that isn’t broken. And most importantly, your brain is still intact. Even if the rest of you goes, its what’s in the attic that seals either your victory or your defeat.
So you move on.
Along the way the things that mattered most to you get lost in the process: music and movies and the freedom to do what you want when you want. Like a reverse I Dream of Jeannie everything you wish wouldn’t happen does, and the demons behind it all do not take the form of Barbara Eden in pink with her midriff showing. In the middle of all of that a website is as expendable as Stallone and Statham. Now, onto sunnier point number two.
I switched cities in search of a change, of newfound glory in places where it never rained and all the women carved themselves into the same Barbie-like dimensions. There, I went to work in different ways. I drove my homeboys’s kids to school each morning in exchange for board and cash, and thus introduced two blonde and blue-eyed babies to Michael Jackson because they didn’t know who he was before he’d died. The little girl would go on to buy herself a brimmed hat and glitter her Chuck Taylor’s in homage. The boy learned to sing along.
Next I took care of the elderly, seeing first-hand what it was like to see someone you love lose herself everyday. The body stays the same, but the mind melts like ice cream on summer concrete. It’s all still there, but without form of shape, only recognizable due to specks of sprinkles in the sunlight. But it’s different when it’s someone you barely know.
The next person was my Grandma Sally. She kept her mind, but her body withered away. I was there when she breathed her last breath. It took five years and three cities for me to finally find a place, this place, for myself again. And three is the magic number.
Over the time angels came to me in coats of many colors, offering food and drink, walks through the woods and brass-handled mirrors that forced me to see the truth. I hadn’t always been the victim. I wasn’t everyone’s target. But I needed to learn how to play offense and defense. That was the only way to win the game.
I remembered one of my fave books, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, a novel about love and magic and sacrifice, about the things our elders left below the Mason-Dixon and at the bottom of the ocean on the trip from there to here. But what remained was regrown in closets and basements and shacks, in pulpits and prayers meetings and sessions between groups of girls and boys where secrets were borne like battle scars. The title character of Naylor’s novel has a second home where she works her magic, called “The Other Place”.
In this little alcove ideas will be born, eaten and digested, the processes of life excreted into equal parts art and science, equaling some kind of collected understanding. This place has taught me that I’m not one to be afraid, that I am not a man who backs down, that I’ll load both barrels and go out into the woods, ready to die if need to be, to keep whatever roars in the distance away from those I love. This is a new beginning, for me, for you and for those still biding their time on the other side of the looking glass, waiting for their place and time to slide through. Enjoy.