Short Story – I had to commit to the journey or the finish… I wasn’t even sure what that meant when they told me to check one box.
“Only check one box. If you check both boxes they’ll send you to the back of the line and you’ll have to start over,” a shaggy man in a red flannel whispered.
I glanced around the open space at people sitting and standing – everyone around me looked like the shaggy man – as some filled out forms and others sat in rickety chairs held together by wire and clothespins.
“What is this place?” I whispered back. I felt like I had been running for my entire life what with my palpable exhaustion oozing out of me like a stench-filled puss and I was surprised, shocked really, that after all that running this is where I ended up.
He furrowed his brow and slunk his shoulders and I got a strange vibe.
I leaned in closer and asked in a barely audible voice, “Is that what happened to you?”
He nodded twice as his shoulders drooped so low I thought he’d fold into himself and then his eyes shifted to the left.
Naturally, I too, looked left and then saw an enormous and elongated creature leaning against a textured wall that looked like rice, but how could there be a wall of rice? It made no sense – none of this made sense. This creature had six limbs yet it stood upright with twelve eyes (I counted) and all it did was hiss and spit at anyone who moved too slow.
Was I dreaming? Was I fucking high? What the hell was going on?
Finally, it was my turn and I bid my strange friend ado as I walked up to the long table and stated my name.
“Which is your commitment? The journey or the destination?” one of the three creatures at the table asked, holding a box to its chin.
“Why do I have to commit? What if I change my mind?” I answered. A stabbing pain shot up my spine and I wiggled as I tried not to fall to the floor.
“Which is your commitment?” a second creature asked after holding a box to its chin.
A million thoughts flashed through my mind in a second but the biggest one was: How could I commit to the finish when I had no idea what I was starting? What would be between there and here? What if I just ended up at the finish and I hated it?
“I commit to the journey,” I stated and puffed out my chest and looked in all twelve eyes.
There was silence followed by a growing buzz of voices.
The creature stared at me and then placed the box on the table and raised four of its limbs to the air.
My heart raced as it climbed out of its prospective spot and lodged in my throat. Damn, I’m a goner.
“Only rare specimens commit to the journey. Good luck Mr. Walker,” the creature hissed as it held that box to its throat.
The air swirled and popped and then I fell through the floor into the black.
Chaos was my sidekick since I was about four years old. I was always pushing the envelope in disturbing ways from shoving an eraser up my nose when I was seven to putting toothpaste on my eyelids when I was nine… I was one of those “What would happen if…” kids.
Later, it was me coasting down my grandmother’s driveway and into the garage on roller skates. There was a half-inch lip where the concrete floor of the garage raised above the driveway. I coasted down; watching the lip draw closer I thought, “I’m not lifting my feet. I want to see what happens when my skates hit that lip.” (Even as I write this over thirty years later, I am shaking my head – what the hell is wrong with you, girl) Needless to say, I hit the lip, went airborne and landed on my knees and face – and I had boo-boo’s to prove it.
I cried and wailed… my grandmother came running. “What happened?” I told her my story of pain and even at ten years old, I embellished it, peppering in imaginary details to make it sound more dramatic.
My grandmother was not buying any of it. “Well, what did you think was going to happen, you stupid ass? Get up. Brush yourself off and go get a Popsicle.” I did just that and when I saw my friends later, I told them my embellished Daredevil story of self-inflicted boo-boo’s and how I must have been cruising down the driveway doing at least twenty miles an hour!
It was the last time I cried over physical pain, but it was not the last time I intentionally created chaos to get attention. Later in life, I found emotional ways to create chaos and keep the drama flowing in my life. “Hey, over here! I am a human trainwreck but I’m cute so come and love me!”
I created chaos because I had to compartmentalize all the weird, icky and dangerous feelings I had inside that didn’t sit well with me. Being an ACOA besides an alcoholic/addict, I had a double whammy of stunted emotional growth. So when things got chaotic in a way I didn’t understand, I would make them more chaotic by inserting my own melodrama, thereby making sure that all that weird inner shit really did have something to do with me instead of me just being a victim of circumstance.
It took me a long time to realize that most of my chaos was self-created, even after I got sober in 2006. I had a real case of the ‘woe is me’ sniffles until I finally stopped self-sabotaging and realized I truly can be my own worst enemy.
So if you are anything like the old me (who still tries to poke her train wrecked head into my life from time to time) and you are surrounded by chaos more than peace, maybe take a long hard look at the center of it all.
I’d hardly call myself natty… and honestly, the word sounds nothing like the meaning. If someone asked me what I thought natty meant, I would tell them disheveled and ragged. But I looked it up and it means the opposite. Now I have a new word in my vocabulary.
Her natty outfit made me jealous. I stood next to her in my ripped bluejeans and a hoodie that hadn’t been washed in a month. Feelings of shame rose in my belly as I stole looks at her navy blue blazer (with one button open) over a crisp, white t-shirt. She also wore ripped jeans, but hers were store bought and looked better with her ankle boots than my dirty jeans did with the bobos and broken laces.
I made up my mind right then and there. I was going to get clean and sober. I was going to live my life the right way and get myself a great pair of shoes. People would soon be able to look at me and use the word natty when they talked about me.