The Invented City

Photo Jun 30, 8 20 01 PM

Before you leave a place, it’s important that you commit it to memory.

Later, you’ll return to it like a dusty book on your shelf. You’ll run your fingers over its edges, and, you’ll remember something you didn’t realize you’d forgotten. It’s hard to visualize — the passage of all that time. Our memories, warping, fit in tightly-packed-cranial-crevices. But, it’s all right there waiting for us, on the dog-eared pages. We open up to that brittle spot, where the spine is cracked. We revisit our oldest secrets. For me, it’s always a story that begins in the Summer — when things were hot and uncomfortable.

*          *           *

Standing on the corner of Lombardy Street, where Williamsburg and Greenpoint are divided by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, in front of the sports-dive, The Callbox Lounge — Adam and I invented Portland.

Inside the bar, five Hasidic Jews draped their heavy, black coats over the backs of tall chairs. Their tzitzit dangled from their hips and their faces, framed in curls, sweat profusely while they watched the Yankees game. Some of them drank beer, some of them, Coca-Cola. This place was their secret. — And, Portland was ours.

We sat at the bar, bathing ourselves in the intermittent breeze of the sputtering air conditioner. We were so different then. Young. In some kind of love. Complicated, even before cracking. We didn’t care. And, we sat there without any real concept of time. We hardly knew the things that stood before us. Our world spanned the length of the bar — and that was enough. Adam’s face was radiant in a blue glow as Keeno numbers popped up on the grid of an old TV screen and, even now — I want to kiss him. Back then, we had plans. We were getting out of that city. Soon. Maybe a year. Maybe less. And beneath the highway, under a starless sky, the night was humming a song with its passing cars and rattling metal. We drank Budwieser and smoked cigarettes and we planned our escape.

Back then, I wanted anything but Brooklyn. I wanted open sky and long, wide roads. And, green. Lots of green. I dreamed of places where no one knew me. Us. Lost together. Anywhere. Winding through some unknown place. And so, we imagined Portland. I imagined Portland. — I imagined we’d be the opposite of what we were.  — And together, we would draw our maps.

*          *          *

The day we left, I stood at the window of our third floor walk-up. I looked down over Nassau Avenue. It was starting to feel like Fall and my screen was thrown wide open. I remember seeing a woman down below with a baby carriage drop her scarf and an old man leaned down and picked it up for her in front of the deli with the blue awning. The scarf was red. — I was going to miss that place.

My mother was in our living room putting things into boxes. We had overestimated the amount of room in our car and my father walked up and down, up and down, up and down our steps taking bins, boxes, and bags back to my childhood home in Bay Ridge. “Don’t worry Dabba,” he said, “we’ll ship them out to you when you’re settled.” Dabba is my family’s nickname for me.

It occurred to me, as I stared down at my dirty, Brooklyn street — no one would call me Dabba where we were going.

Adam came up behind me and held my shoulders. I only remember this because it was unlike him. He was reserved. He didn’t hold my shoulders often. So, I leaned in, because, when you are scared and lonely and at the precipice of something imagined becoming real — you want Adam to hold you.

“Are we really going to leave today?” I asked, fat tears pooling in my eyes. The apartment still had too many things in it. My mother looked more perplexed with every passing hour. “Sarah,” Adam said, turning me around from the window to face him, “I don’t care if we leave everything we own on this street corner. We are leaving tonight.”

And, we did, that night, around 5 or 6 PM — I can’t remember. We left to find something we both had lost. Though, now, I know that our lost things were not the same. They had never been the same. But, he had been biding his time and I had ignored the facts. So, we invented a place that already existed. We assigned it meaning. And, we drove. We placed ourselves here, in the City of Roses. We walked along rivers we’d read about in books. We learned the names of mountains that, eventually, would rise up from our backyard into a sky that turned strange colors which we did not know how to name.

Oregon.

At the curb, I cried in my mother’s arms. There is no feeling comparable to leaving your mother when you are scared and she wants you to stay. My father’s arms held me a little too tight, and they spoke the words that he couldn’t. Adam turned the key. Ignition. That was the last time I saw Nassau Avenue — my mother becoming smaller and smaller in the side-view mirror.

As we crossed the Verrazano Bridge, our Polish landlord called my cell phone from Nassau Avenue. “You can’t leave mattress on street like this! I get fine! Garbage pick-up not ’til Thursday. Fifty dollars I going to have to pay!”

I looked at the side of Adam’s face. His silhouette sketched a thin line against a darkening sky that met the edges of Brooklyn’s shadows below. The bridge’s wires held us up. I was seat-belted in with our scotch-taped love and some kind of freedom and an emptiness that I will never be able to describe.

“Tell him to take it out of our security deposit,” he said. “We’re not going back.”

(Photo: Allison Webber; http://www.allisonwebber.photography/ )

Preamble Ramble

Photo Jun 23, 8 55 58 PM

Sobriety is varying states of unrest.

Some weeks, I’m bubbling over, some weeks — I’m tapped.

I pull up the chair to sit at this table. I open my computer. And, I stare at the screen — into all your faces.

I’m processing this story. Always.

Every week I feel like I’m in a dark room where the photos just soak forever. Nothing develops. But, still, I want to tell you everything.

There are a lot of these Goddamned pictures. So many stories. And, the plot can go a lot of ways while you’re waiting for things to come into focus. Stories get restless and start to write themselves. There are an estimated five billion hopeful story lines going full tilt right now. Some intersect, and some, escape, wild, out on their own. And, many of them, I can tell you with absolute certainty — hopeful or not — won’t end well. It’s funny, my best moments, my best stories in sobriety are the ones where I don’t feel sober at all. Right now — I’m running on fumes.

We all get high on stuff. Sometimes it’s legal, sometimes it not. I’m not sure what I’m high on this week. Fear. Excitement. Sadness. Loss. Epic confusion. I’m riding the wave and there aren’t too many cohesive thoughts. But, I’m enjoying being lost in this emotional blur which is decidedly better than just — being lost.

I stop here, every week, and disclose the state of my union, or, should I say, the non-state of my disarray. I like to stare into your computer eyes and let you know things. Like — I’m coming up on some cord cutting, and, I need to test the waters before I start hacking. There are still secrets that I have to keep from you. Maybe I’m high on that.

But, I can tell you this — I have plans for a little summer series. Stories. True stories. Portland stories. Expect those in the coming weeks.

Cord-cutting-cathartic-cross-bearing-down-on-this-12-bridge-city stories. Love. Love stories. Love that lived and died. In a bottle. In a pipe. In a needle. In a heart. In a city. — This city.

So, tune in next week.

Summer’s heating up.

(Photo: Allison Webber; http://www.allisonwebber.photography/ )

The Insignificant Thing

Photo Jun 16, 8 24 08 PM

The thing that breaks us, is never the thing that really broke us.

It sounds nonsensical. But — it’s the truth.

Our minds and bodies are magical things. — Beautiful and complicated mechanisms of celestial science and engineering, built to withstand incredible stress. INCREDIBLE stress. Though, I’ll say in earnest, for me, it doesn’t often feel that way. — Especially having been broken recently by an insignificant thing.

I’ve been here — a big-mouthed Brooklyn-girl — in Portland, Oregon. I’ve made my own way for quite some time. I’m not scared. I’m not in any trouble. I’m not facing imminent danger. At least, I’m not anymore. I’m just fine. Though, I hate the word. — Fine.

But, last night, after dropping my mother off at PDX, sending her homeward toward NYC, I swerved in my lane driving back home on I-205, sobbing hysterically. Minutes earlier, back at the terminal, when my mother’s arms broke their lock from around my sunburned shoulders, I felt it. — A sincere desire to be vulnerable again.

It only takes one insignificant thing.

In recent weeks it’s all flooded back. My time. Here. In Oregon. I’ve watched a lover and partner of almost 7 years walk out on me, never returning to say goodbye. I didn’t break. I’ve been arrested. Battled addictions. Marched myself through rehab like a soldier. I never broke. I watched my new lover and partner of almost 2 years get strung out on heroin — again and again and again. Not a crack. I stood, through all this, strong, like an Oregon pine. Dropping my dead needles. Picking up my pieces. Picking up their pieces. I pulled it all back together, my sap, like emotional super glue. — But, leaving my mother at the airport. — That’s what did me in.

The insignificant thing. The moment where you realize that you’ve held your own world together for far too long. Somehow, even after standing in the eye of the storm, it’s in the push and pull of the insignificant things where we find we’re — Tired. Broken. Lost. And still, we find it difficult to let go. The body, in all it’s magical resilience, resists giving way. Finally straining and, eventually, snapping under the weight of this thing that reminds us — We must respect the nature of things.

A friend of mine, who got divorced a few years ago, bravely escaping an abusive relationship, recently told me that she’s tired of being the “strong one.” I know what she means. We send each other notes. We tell each other that we’re better for it. But, in truth, we’d both take happiness over fortitude any day.

Blinking back more tears, I struggle to see this place. — Oregon. — These trees. The Gorge. The Wild West. Open air and unspoiled land. This place, by nature, has made me an adventurer.

It’s not insignificant that, here, I have learned how to be shipwrecked and to wash ashore — wet — but still breathing. What’s more, I’ve learned that I can fall in love again. I can heal myself. And, I can skillfully duct tape my 2001 Honda Civic back together — with expert craftsmanship — and not care what my father has to say about it.

But, the insignificant thing I can’t ignore is this — an unshakeable feeling that, it’s possible, I don’t belong here.

There are only so many storms I want to weather. Only so many loves I will stand to lose. Only so many places where I’m no longer haunted by the person I once was.

A long time ago, in a one-bedroom, railroad apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I held a love bigger than my heart was meant to carry, and I told myself — Dream big. I freed myself up and, for a time, I loved fearlessly.

Those things I told myself back then — they weren’t insignificant. They were my system of road maps. Maps for letting go. Holding on. Surviving. Breaking. Rebuilding. Reviving. Re-starting.

On I-205, a man in a Toyota Tundra watches me sob at the merge. I allow it. I allow my mother’s departure to break me. Suddenly — I care not for strength. I give up on mourning the things I lost. I decide to abandon the dream I was hell bent on living so long ago. I allow myself  to want again.

Something else. Someone else. Somewhere else.

And, before I reach the exit for Powell Blvd., I watch the course of my life change in my side-view-mirror — the one that’s duct taped, securely, to the driver’s side door.

And, without anyone else’s permission, I vow to follow it closely — wherever it goes — my insignificant thing.

 

 

 

The Great Squirrel Chase

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This weekend, I evicted a squirrel from my apartment.

I first saw his ratty, grey tail peeking out from under my enormous television set. First, I panicked. Next, I reached for my yoga mat. Which, obviously, I proceeded to wield as an unruly weapon.

Even in my hysteria, it seemed simple enough. — I just had to lock the cat in the back bedroom, open the front door, and then usher my squirrel guest out, with gusto, flopping my yoga mat this way and that.

As it turned out, we were both quite terrified. So, I called my friend Tony who lives across from me in our apartment complex. No answer. Then, I tried my landlord. No answer. Then, I called my father — in New York City. Though separated by five thousand miles, he was the one who did not fail me. And while he did laugh at me like a hyena for five minutes, he also remained on the line for my intense, steady, and, dare-I-say-it — hunter-like — progression of profanity. Which, progressed as follows:

“Holy shit! Oh my God he’s in the closet now! Fuck! He’s making noises! Holy fucking shit, I can’t see him! What if he fucking bites me, Dad? Dad — Stop laughing! That stupid fucker just ran into the kitchen. God, that asshole’s a stupid motherfucker. THE FRONT DOOR IS OPEN YOU ASSHOLE!!! Jesus fucking Christ, he just ran out the front door. He was, like, fuckin’ airborne Dad. He’s out. Holy shit. He’s out! Fuck.”

My heart was beating like rapid fire. — And, there I was, yoga mat in hand. — Alive.

In truth, I’m rarely present. I run over the past in my mind, I plan the future, I design escapes and intrigue. But, I’m not here. It’s tough to get me in the moment.

One evening, my ex, after hearing me spout off about this or that, asked me how it came to be that Ram Dass was my hero — my guru — if I was constantly struggling to “Be Here Now.” — “Why didn’t I try harder to live in the present?” He wondered. I didn’t have an answer. It’s hard to explain to someone else how you can love a person that has the one, intangible thing that you want most, but, can never seem to grasp. It’s not coveting. It’s reverence. And, it’s nearly impossible to describe to someone who cannot comprehend any spirit that’s bigger than their own.

It’s funny, because that very same ex got me a framed “Be Here Now” poster as a gift. — A reminder I guess. It’s purple with a white lotus flower in the center. And, even though my ex is gone, the poster remains, situated happily on my mantle. So, after I had called, texted, emailed, and tweeted to everyone I knew — I plopped down on my couch to draw in my breath and stare at my purple-poster. I smiled with my teeth for the first time in months.

Excitement. Joy. Suspense. Hilarity. A SQUIRREL. Here. Now. IN MY APARTMENT.

That squirrel was my gift. Maybe from Baba himself. The moment where I was reminded: I am a real, breathing creature, wielding a yoga mat and taming wild — albeit tiny — beasts. Even when the moment had passed — the tiny creature bounding out over my two-step stoop, the feeling he awakened in me remained. — A feeling that will not escape me so quickly.

Sometimes, we can only love those that are present — without us. We can bask in their light. Their awareness. Their true presence. We can read the words that they have spilled across thousands of pages in countless books, we can watch their YouTube channels, we can sing chants along with Krishna Das. We seek out the presence.

But, sometimes, it will come to you: A squirrel who shits all over your house —while you chase it wildly with a yoga mat — while your father laughs in your ear — while your heart pumps in your chest. At the end of it all, you watch something leap to freedom. — And, it’s you.

I thank the purple poster and, for old time’s sake, I text my ex.

Because, I need to tell someone — I’m here. Now.

“Now is now. Are you going to be here, or not?” — Baba Ram Das

Here, In My Place.

Photo Feb 11, 6 17 19 AM

Oregon. It’s more than just the place where I got sober. — It’s the place I invented.

Five years ago, I was so sure I knew the road I was traversing. I was sure of everything. I thought I had defined who I was. And, when I headed West from New York City to Portland, with my love, my ambition, and my idealistic dreams, it all seemed so — written. Today, I know that those first steps were only the prologue in a much longer story.

I always thought it would be the place that changed me. Oregon. But, that wasn’t so. This place wasn’t my savior or my curse. Though, at different points in time, I’ve thought it was both. And, I think that’s what I find most interesting about our sense of place. — We think it will define us, but, it’s us who will define it.

No, it never was the Wild West, or the wide and winding rivers, or the deep and twisted gorge. It was the maps I’ve etched onto my own heart. — Maps I could not have penned until I was already in motion. It was sobriety. Something unexpected. Someone unexpected. And, after many falls, I learned — I’d just been fighting to stand in my own place. — Trying, a little too desperately, to forge a trail that had existed inside me all along.

Re-writing your own concept of place is painful. It’s unpredictable and the trajectory is constantly changing. You’ll want to stay still, but, eventually, you’ll give in to the motion. You’ll succumb to your location. And, you’ll laugh at yourself for thinking that you’d stay in this one place — and that, here, you’d know yourself, with surety, forever. So many of the promises we make to ourselves in our youth are truly fool’s gold.

Our true place is un-seeable. Un-knowable. Somewhere we can never truly visit. Its location is our heart’s guess work. We walk through uncharted lands. We look for our place. And, all of us, with our small semblances of pragmatism, find it a challenge to navigate terrain that’s daunting and foreign. We resist. We trip over the Earth we thought was secure beneath our boots.

But, in time, we’ll all discover that we can never locate our true place. There are no coordinates to enter into a GPS. — Only the long steps it took us getting there. The dirt between our toes. The love that pulls us in one direction, then, the explosion in our heart that blows us off the course, landing us somewhere we’d never intended to go.

Yet, here, in this place, we stand. And, just by having made it here, we have done something worthy. We’ve arrived at a destination. Our place. We can put down roots, or, just as easily, we can pull them up and walk onward. We draw one map while we read another.

So, maybe it’s true. Place can define us — but only if we write our own maps.

Here, in Oregon — I recognize the land. I know when the weather is going to turn. I can feel the change in the atmosphere. And, even on the days when it smells like New York, and the sky behind Mt. Hood mirrors one I saw floating above the Brooklyn Bridge years ago — I know where I am — I know where I stand.

It’s here, in this place, I have put down my roots.

And, at the base of a mountain, amongst Oregon pine, amidst all this rain — I’ve grown.

Just My Imagination

Photo Jan 21, 6 58 59 AM

I still imagine my way back to the bottle. It can’t be helped.

You know the feeling. We’ve all found our way back to something we’ve left behind. Not because we want to slide backwards, but, because it’s necessary to remember certain things before we can move forward. There’s something inherently human about leaning on the things we know — for better or for worse. If nothing else, it’s familiar. Comfortable. The past provides a static level of understanding. A foundation. A trail of breadcrumbs. We’ve been here before — we know it. We’ve mastered the idea of it. And, every once in a while, we have to get close to it again — just to confirm that we still understand. We’re compelled to test the water. We’re curious if things still come to us naturally.

But, like any of the pieces that I’ve left behind — my drinks are only memories I visit. Stories I tell myself. Because, really, there is no going back.

So, instead, I imagine it: Cheers! A birthday toast. A new job. Bad news! I pour a good pour for my crap day — and a better one for my good day. I feel the energy that the cork is suspended in. Then — Pop! All that pressure evaporates. It bubbles over and spills down the sides of the bottle and over my knuckles.

They return to me — moments where I sat at the bar and drank cocktails with purpose.

I’m watching the bartender pull the beer. He paints a semi-circle with his damp bar-rag before he places the glass down with a well-rehearsed sweep of his arm. My partner-in-crime puts his lips to the edge of the pint glass and little bubbles rise up and cling to the tip of his nose. I smile and I sip my bourbon — the kind that’s aged in sherry oak casks. It coats my tongue with wood and vanilla and something else — something smokey, something spicy. My lips curl into a telling smile that, without effort, contains the entirety of this moment. I try to remember why I’m here. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day.  Either way, I look happy.

Then, I remember. The ending. My face sinks when the very same man who’s handed me my perfect drink tells me that he won’t serve me any longer — not tonight. The same toast to which we raised our glasses will spill on the floor when I slip from my bar stool, looking back at the bartender with a face that is half humiliated and half apologetic.

I wake up on my couch in all my clothes at a strange hour and wonder how the day got away from me. What did I say? Was I mean? Funny? Did I complain about work or the weather? Did I insist I was fine to drive in slurred, sloppy sentences? Next time, I expect the bartender will greet me with the oh-it’s-pitiful-you look as I pony up to the bar. But, I won’t care. This routine. — It’s comfortable.

So, I allow it. I make make space for it. I give in to the bottle. The old one, that still tastes good. I dream about bar stools and other people’s liquor cabinets and white teeth stained with good, red wine. I allow myself these moments. Moments where, eventually, I recall that the time I spent happy and drunk — well, that was imagined too.

So, I find myself back here. In this moment. Because, a trail of breadcrumbs will only take you so far. And, now, here, sober, I allow for my greatest re-imagining. This moment, it’s uncharted. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day.

Either way, I look happy.

Pardoning The Turkey-Bird

Photo Dec 02, 9 31 58 PM

If you’re in the mood for a sentimental Thanksgiving retrospective — you’re shit outta luck.

There will be no jovial, light hearted fluff piece where I wax poetic on my many, zany family characters nor will I dramatize the hilarious-pseudo-tragedy of some overcooked turkey disaster. Because, this year, my family was in New York and I’m a vegan.

The one thing I must note, after the events of this Thanksgiving weekend, is the serendipitous nature of life — the law of attraction, fate, God’s will — call it what you want. Sometimes the universe will fork something over that’s too good for telling. The kind of holiday story that can be tied up with a big, red bow and stuck under our existential Christmas trees like a present for each one of us to open with glee, whilst sipping peppermint hot cocoa. The kind of story that does best living in our hearts. A holiday tale that sounds better between our ears than it does between periods, dashes, and commas.

Thanksgiving Day, I drove to a friend’s house with three huge bags full of frozen Tofurky pizzas, guacamole, and coconut ice cream. I slowed on Belmont Street. As I approached the Horse Brass Pub, I felt it — the cosmic pull. I felt my foot pulse on the brake. And, truly, I considered it — stopping there for just one drink. I could feel my fingers wrapped around a rocks glass. I could hear the scratched, smokey laughter of the three, old men sitting next to me. I felt the vibration of that solemn energy which always hangs in the air of bars on holidays. You can feel it — the nights where everyone who’s ponied up to the bar knows — they should be somewhere else. I recall the permission that just one drink could afford me — how I could forgive myself for a lifetime of letting my love and my joy escape me.

I’m not sure what moved me. Maybe it was the the thawing pizza and melting ice cream, or, maybe it was the thought of my friend sitting alone in his house, but, I decided to accelerate. I decided to forgo the one drink that would have turned into my entire holiday. As I drove past the bar, casting my gaze out of the passenger window, I saw them — locked gates. The bar windows were dark, their neon signs coiled and black. THANKSGIVING. Suddenly I became  aware — stopping here — was never my decision.

Give thanks. It’s so much bigger than we are — this life. I’ve chosen to be sober in an attempt, however feeble, to have the best life possible — the life that I was meant to be living before I lost myself. But, more often than not, being sober is hard, and staying sober is harder. When I decide how to walk the path, too many times, I end up stranded. I watch my imagined life and how it continues to fall short of my expectations. I wander down the “safe” path when, all along, the universe has been calling me to travel the uncharted road.

So, this Thanksgiving, I decide that I am no longer going to decide. Right there on Belmont, I learned to forgive — I pardoned my inner-Turkey-bird.

During the holidays, I tap into the childish wonder I once possessed. I listen and I watch for magic. And, when I do that — the path finds me. The world falls into place, however haphazardly. And, I keep driving.

Because, the gate is locked, friends are waiting, and the bag of frozen groceries is melting.

Wanderlust

Photo Nov 26, 6 25 14 AM

The need to flee. Maybe you know the feeling.

That sudden and visceral desire to reinvent yourself — become something new. Someone new. Somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

In 12-Step meetings, it’s called a “Geographic.” But, for me, it’s simply: “Get me the fuck outta here.”

Some mornings, I wake up an Oregonian. I breathe in damp, green air and when I get home from work I kick my soggy, brown, cowboy boots off at the door. I take long walks at 4:45AM where I feel like I might be the last human alive on Earth. I stand under impossibly tall pine trees and feel, actually feel — real as any human touch — my own smallness. This place makes me right sized. I have lost everything here. And, I have picked up all my broken pieces and assembled a mosaic that even I can admire. In Oregon, my alone-ness crowns me a true pioneer woman.

Other mornings, I wake up, and I’m still a wild New Yorker. Blood pumps hot and fast through my veins, all of which wind through my Brooklyn-girl-body like Subway tracks. Most days, I swear, my car starts to drive toward the airport without any help from my hands. I’m ready to max out, not one — but all, of my credit cards. I’m ready to fly. To disappear into some vast unknown — one that I’m sure will envelop me, cradle me, shower me with all the love and fulfillment that seems to elude me here. I write imaginary letters to all my friends living abroad: “Do you need a butler? I’m available.”

Please. Someone. Anyone. — Get me the fuck outta here.

I’m pretty certain that, in some ways, sobriety has made me loonier than I’d been at the onset. Now that I’m free of the drugs and the booze — I want to be free of everything else too. I want to start over where no one knows me. I want to leave behind all these conceptions of myself that have been fostered for too many years. I want to call my mother from somewhere in Bumblefuck, France and tell her that everything was worth it. — The taxing phone calls. The pain. The tears. The broken hearts. The unrealized dreams. I want to tell her that the foreign skies have washed me with their rain. I want to tell her that I’m standing, soaked, in front of some ancient monument — smiling. Everything smells different. Everything feels different. I am young again in a place that’s too old to care. I yearn to choke on some other language, only to wake up one morning, breathing big, clean breaths — erupting — singing a song I barely understand to a sun I’ve never seen before.

But, instead, I text message my mother from the floor of my apartment in SE Portland, where I sit cross-legged in front of the tall, white heater. I wipe tears from the corners of my American eyes. And I think, maybe, it is better to run toward something than it is to run away from it.

“Mom, can I come home for Christmas?”

 

 

 

 

 

All Roads Lead To Rome

 

Photo Nov 05, 6 46 45 AM

I am a terrible navigator.

Since getting sober, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been lost. Whenever I find myself rehashing my own mistakes, re-examining all the wrong turns, I pick up one of my 12-Step coins. I let it warm my hands. My time — encapsulated in a little, metal circle. A reminder that things are only as far away from us as we allow them to be. I find myself asking — again: Why did I choose this direction? How has all this time gotten away from me?

I’ve stayed on the wrong road before — even when I knew I’d end up lost. Is it fear I’ll never find the right road that keeps me trudging, ever onward? Fear that I’ll become even more lost than I already am? Why don’t I just turn back and ask for directions at the gas station 15 miles behind me? I don’t know — and it’s my guess that I’m not meant to.

So, I consider it — staying on this road that will eventually spit me out somewhere unplanned.

New warning signs come from behind me, swept up in an autumn breeze that pulls the leaves off the tree of my sobriety. I’m having trouble deciphering my marching orders from the things I’m supposed to ignore. Can something be right and wrong simultaneously? Probably. But, as usual, everything I wish were clear — isn’t. The longer I stay here, walking endlessly forward, the closer the answer becomes:  The truth — That’s the road I want. Even if is does go on forever, without mercy.

Yes. Sweet, sweet honesty. The bring-er of all things unpleasant. A truth that will require my admitting that, yes, I turned down this — the wrong road — willingly. All these crooked turns live somewhere in my heart. My own decisions are at the eye of the storm. I want to hide it, my creased map of poor choices. But, a lesson I’ve learned for certain: Bottling up this kind of truth — is dangerous. Risky-fucking-business. Once sealed, the pressure mounts. The truth will attempt an escape before I’m ready. But, ready or not, here it comes.

So, I pay a visit to a person I trust. I unleash the beast. Because, sometimes, you have to let the truth out, first, to the wrong party. You have to say the words. You have to let the truth wet your lips before you seek out its intended recipient. When you’ve got a bottle of truth, you’ve got two options — drink it or spill it.

I decide to spill. I pour it out like a bottle of cheap, red wine. I let it stain the carpet.

The truth is, sometimes, I take the wrong road on purpose. Because, sometimes, that’s the only way you’ll find it —

The road that leads you home.

 

Peripheral Visions

Photo Oct 21, 5 29 00 PM

I don’t worry about the obvious things.

When I enter a state of worried-panicked-frenzy, I know better than to examine what’s right in front of my nose. I have always managed to keep those details well tended. The thing I am wary of: The periphery.

I, like many alkies and addicts, am very good at keeping up appearances. I know what to say and how to say it — even to myself. I mastered that skill long, long ago. Back while I was still drinking, I had to convince myself, and you, that I was not only OK, but, better than OK. — Great. Stellar. Perfect.

These days, I often find myself painfully sober. So, I keep up other appearances. Without the booze, emotions and feelings become a special-kind-of-complicated — communicating them, containing them, and sometimes hiding them — even more so. I feel it, the hair on my arms stands up as the pub turns on it’s magical-magnetic-tracking-device. I fight the pull. But, I keep quiet, because I’m OK. — I think.

But, that’s how it happens. Or, so I’m told. Seasoned, sober old-timers will tell you that it starts, first, with that teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, little thought — You’re OK. The second thought becomes — well, a bourbon might end up being OK too. And, the third thought — there’s no time for that — because you’re already seated on a bar stool. Struck drunk.

It isn’t obvious. All these little things appear innocuous. The fucking periphery.

So, I tread lightly. I can’t see where or how all the shit starts to pile up. But, I’m starting to notice my own cracks and how they’ve widened. I’m no fortune teller. I can’t say when or how, or even if, it will collapse. Yeah. Maybe, it won’t collapse. But, it’s there — the little voice that tells me — It. Just. Might. Collapse.

The not-so-obvious feeling. That’s the one that worries me.

On a Friday night, I stay in as a precaution. I sit at the dining room table and I write it down in Sharpie marker on a little, maroon notepad — the most obvious thing I can think of: Don’t fuck it up.

I pour myself another cup of coffee.

It’s tenuous and tenacious — my sobriety. In this moment I respect it’s power. I allow my unwise inclinations to dissolve. I let them go. I don’t judge them.

Lots of things can happen, the good and the bad. So, I decide to open my eyes a little bit wider. I monitor the periphery closely.

In a still moment, my little feelings subside. My coffee mug is still warm in my hands. I’m here. Now. And — I’m OK.

Better than OK. — I’m Great. Stellar. Perfect.