Some time ago, inspired by Leanne Sypes’ post about her accordion-file time capsule, I dug through my big-bin of writings. Like my mind, there was great disorder — to-do lists from last month crammed in with devotionals from 1983. Father’s Day notes my daughters had written to me brought a smile to my face, love letters from my wife that brought tears to my eyes. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. I am not at all at peace with who I’ve been – as a husband, a father, a pastor.
To cope, I retreat to my writing studio with a book I found — a book I wrote before becoming all these things, back when I was a 21-year old, single, aspiring writer totally unprepared for the war that would rage within (with mental illness), ill-equipped for responsibilities I would frantically assume.
What follows is the opening of Life (in obvious places). It is a work of fiction, but as I do not possess a wild imagination, it is firmly based on experience.
Seven years ago, in Freshman English, I was staring at Claudia Matson and her large breasts when I heard Miss Farkas explain what keeping a journal meant to her.
“When I write, it’s as if I were tapping into hidden resources of images, ideas, and thoughts. My journal is an expression of my sacred Self.”
“You find that humorous, do you?” she asked me.
It was funny, you have to admit. Still, she made me apologize to the class and write, “I will not laugh at the teacher,” five hundred times.
Miss Farkas died last summer and Claudia Matson is in college becoming a nuclear physicist. And I have this journal. It’s personal, but it’s sure as hell isn’t sacred. I’m writing for myself, but with people in mind. In my mind. Just about things that go on. It’s not a novel or anything. Just a journal, for Christ’s sake.
It has something to do with my father, I guess. Or my family in general. Dad took off on his motorcycle one Sunday while we were in church. He didn’t leave a note or anything. He never did write much.
My sister started a personal diary shortly afterwards that I stole one night to read. It was mush. A bunch of emotional crap about love and how it should last forever and how horrible Dad was for leaving. I don’t know. Miss Farkas may be right, but how can you tell a story without laughing? It just doesn’t make sense,
So, I moved out of Mom’s house right after high school, started work at the factory, and took to apartment life like an ant to a molehill. That was four years ago. Now I’m wondering what I’m doing here and why I can’t just get married and live normally in some suburban white house district.
No, that’s not it. I’m just trying to figure out where I am and how I got here. And what I’m looking for when I go on walks for hours. I know it’s a pretty tall order. Maybe I should have gone to college.