As I let out the clutch, I knew that the minutes, hours, days and months ahead would be with little plan. The thought of that left me sick to my stomach, but I did my best to simply ignore it to a point of stone. If I don't think about it, I'll be just fine. I'd been doing this for years and had actually gotten pretty good at it.
I'm a guy and in general, I believe this is accepted by society. Ignore it, numb it, be fake strong and never ever let them see you weak. Divorce, death, bring it on as I'd become a trained professional at producing self induced novacane. Amazing how the body produces exactly what you desire when called upon.
I slowly made my way around the curved roads in the cemetery, and when I mean slow, I mean I can still hear the crackle of the rocks under my tires. Each rock moving echoed thru my head, it was like a drum roll as I moved away from what was to...well, to whatever lay ahead. It's taken me four years to find the courage to go back to these moments, they simply were too painful.
I've often written about how these moments in my life vanished. After grabbing lunch this week with a colleague who I've known for years, he was talking about all the projects he'd helped me with while in college. I remember none of them, notta, zilch, gone. As he talked, the memories slowly surfaced and the more I reflected on his words, the more I realized just how locked up my brain was and still is.
When I write about the emotional pain from the past, my palms begin to sweat. The emotions are like petrified wood, different, but still what they were in that time. I believe this is one of the core things that allows me to do what my friend Steve Fugate walks the country doing, to simply emit the belief that even after tragedy, we can "love life". The little things stack up to this perspective.
As I headed south from town, I was driving under the speed limit. Cars were stacking up behind me and for a moment, I felt like I needed to step on it to catch up with the world. I simply kept my speed the same and slowly the cars picked me off one by one until there was no one. I was in NO hurry as I was scared and if there was ever a time I simply wanted to go hide, this was it.
It was hot and all I could think about were all the July 4th's previous. My mind was spinning at the thought of driving off and having no idea where I was headed, physically or emotionally. As I slowly made my way south, I remember looking at the radio dial and the sound coming from it was just static to my mind. I had little room for static.
That's the place I'd been living, a static filled quagmyer of brain mush and in one quick jerk of the arm, I turned it off. As I inhaled, the silence was comforting, but as I exhaled it was empty. The tug of war between what was and the moment had begun. Slowing, but steady, I made my way.
The time alone in my car, radio off and only my mind whizzing from past to present, the guilt began to set in. Guilt, followed by embarrassment for what I was doing, to...the emotional list continued to surface. The guilt and fear drove me to reaching for the AC switch, click, from on to off.
I felt this desire to punish myself for some reason. If you're going to take this time away, you need to do this with as little as possible. Clicking off the AC was a way to save fuel and to quelch the feeling of guilt for taking time to grieve. First the radio and now the AC, it was only the beginning of stepping away.
I reached up and began to roll my window down. As the glass came away from the door frame at the top, the hot air began rushing in. The sound was welcomed to offset the silence. The hot air filled the interior, and for a moment, I was lost in it. Hot, but fresh air exactly what I needed.
I came to the stop sign about 30 miles south and paused, contemplating where... Straight ahead was the journey I needed, turning right my parents and the town I grew up. As much as I didn't want to see my parents, I needed to see my parents. I wanted to go hide, pretend that I was OK and just shut the world out. I'm telling you, I was not good and knew it.
The comfort of going home, the safety of it, being nutured and cared for. The thought made my sick stomach subside, I turned right. I'll just stay for a couple days and than I'll go on. It's a holiday and I shouldn't do this on a holiday. For my parents, I need to be with them to make them feel OK about me. The excuses, God the excuses.
For a brief moment, everything was going to be just fine. I drove a little faster.