On Friday the 13th, 2006, I woke up around 5 AM; anxious. I stayed that way until around 10 AM, when I handed my two week notice to my supervisor. With his signature look: a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, he snatched the slightly crumpled paper, which had been floating around in my truck for a week or two, out of my shaking hands.
“What is this shit?” he asks, while dramatically trying to flatten and smooth out the wrinkles. I had contemplated getting a new form, but these were before the days of simply pulling a smartphone out of a pocket, googling the company website, tapping a couple tabs, downloading a pdf, and sending it to a printer via Bluetooth to sign and hand in. I mean, I say that what I just explained is simple, but getting my phone to link up to a printer works about as often as getting my two-year-old to walk to his bedroom for bedtime. Regardless, it’s still simpler than driving across Las Vegas, asking for yet another form from the receptionist that effectively say “hey, here’s a reminder that I’m quitting; I’m going to cause ya’ll to be short another worker…but I don’t know when I’m going to have the nerve to do it, since obviously didn’t turn in the last form that I grabbed a week ago, so can I get another one of those?”
So yeah, I decided to go with the wrinkled form and told myself that he probably wouldn’t care; that he’d probably just appreciate that I handed it in at all instead of just not showing up for work. That’s what I told myself.
“I don’t give a shit!” smoke shooting out of both nostrils as he contorted his arms dramatically, this time undoing his previous ironing by crumpling it up and throwing it at me. If I were to guess, I think he was going for an ironic effect.
Despite the embarrassment of the display, which had definitely blown my attempt of discretion, I felt an exciting charge run through me. I was free. I worked the rest of my shift that day; got home at about 3 PM; loaded everything that I owned into my Blazer – a pretty easy feat of grabbing a couple of boxes, deflating an already halfway flat air mattress that I had to air up every night due to a leak – and I was flooring the gas pedal as drove down the entrance ramp to I15 North at exactly 5 PM that evening.
Fueled by Sobe No Fear and gas station hot dogs, I drove through the night until I reached a Town Pump gas station in White Hall, Montana at around 5 AM the next morning. Since this was before smartphones and the GPS maps that we now utterly depend on, I asked the attendant directions to a town that I was aiming for. I knew that there were a couple of secondary roads that would get me there, and I was hoping to save some time because, well, I was a bit tired and the well over one hundred ounces of soda no longer had any sleep-diswaying effects.
“Yeah, just straight down this road, man.” Nice.
About five or so minutes later, I hit a dirt road. Not nice.
I knew that there was a dirt road that went over the mountains between the towns; I had no idea of the condition, though I assumed it was not great. But I knew that it definitely wouldn’t allow me to go the posted night speed limit of 65 MPH on Montana highways that I wanted to go. But I felt committed, so over, instead of around the mountains I went.
I was kind of worried about falling asleep because of how slow I had to go, but that quickly evaporated after I did fall asleep, then woke up because of some washboard in the road, and caught something in my periphery – a massive buck deer trotting alongside my driver side door.
Why? I think he was concerned for me. All I know is that I was wide awake after that as I drove over the lightly snow covered pass and slept the rest of the night in my Blazer on a side street in the little mountain town of Boulder, Montana.
I had somehow convinced myself that I had missed the cold of Montana while living in the brutal desert heat. Really what I missed was the change of seasons. If I had given Vegas a couple more weeks I probably would have settled in as the highs started inching down. But I had other reasons too.
I was running to, and I was running from.
I was wounded, and I was looking for safety. I thought that I knew what home was for me. I was pretty sure that I knew what it wasn’t. It wasn’t what I was leaving back in the desert. Ironically, the times when I have lived in closest proximity to others, have been the loneliest.
So I had an idea what home was. Home was companionship. Home was being able to just…be. No pretending, no faking, no compensating on beliefs.
I didn’t find Home. Not exactly. The early twilights and increasingly brisk breezes of September and October in Montana were like meteorological expressions of what was happening in my soul. It wasn’t a bad season, it was just deep; heavy.
It could have been bad though. I could have resigned to the dark and gone down a road of either depression or addiction – roads that I have explored before. I think that they end up merging together.
Instead, though I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, I chose to live there. I didn’t run away from the dark and cold; I didn’t find distraction in a well lit, warm place. I was out in it, just like a month before, where I was walking around in the daytime desert heat in August, not flooding to a dark, cool casino.
It certainly wasn’t a conscious choice, it was just a result of doing more of what I had been doing for the last 6 months or so; not escaping pain. I had been running; I guess I just wasn’t escaping, I had been feeling.
The memories from this time period are seared into my soul. I have done a lot of escaping since then; whole periods of life where I just kept bouncing; both seeking home and avoiding it. But I’m sure that there is a synapsis connecting neurons from my brain to some in my soul, because when I feel the cold September breeze, or when the twilight is just right; or when I’m internally aching as I was in the moments of these experiences – it reminds me not to run. It reminds me that a memory, even if it’s dark, even if it’s cold – is better than the nothingness that happens when I escape.