• Steven File

A Life/Time Ago

I stepped outside of my bedroom, gently shutting the door like another secret slipped under the rug right below my feet. Across the hall, my mother dreams of a life with no financial burdens or has night terrors of her past lives; unemployment smells from her breath, lingering into the high maintenance dust particles. Two stories below me, my brother dreams too: of what, I can never know. Midnight is another secret relationship, our rendezvous approaching like Zoloft. We meet every once in a while. The lights mimic my current state, some chameleon of depression & house arrest. Energy dwindles out of my anxious pores to push the wall of curtains & turn the dial: another baptism, another night.

For those who know what a home is, I am envious of you. For me, however humorous it may appear to you, it is a bath—a satirical void of oxygen & carbon particles submerged under faux cleansers & promises. Like yours, I conceal myself under its four walls, my head sticking out of the window to keep alive. The secrets from the rug still left on my feet erase themselves in the air & water's oxygen, the sin spilling out of my mouth & from the water's carbon. Hour upon hour. Skin cinches; an eye irks I. In the past, the water may have blushed for me; now, it's bubbly, like truth, building each & every second under the pressure of the last few moments in time, the last few weeks of our ill-fated world.

"Stay at home:" these three words, somehow more meaningful than the futile warfare of "I Love You," have encompassed the headlines of practically every media & social outlet known to man. But, if I drown myself under this closeted resurrection, perhaps I'll awake to a world where I have a place to call home, let alone one to stay in.

The door slammed behind me, this time transfixing into an echo of all the history & lost time my family has thrown under our "Welcome" rug, as if that one word would somehow erase the colossus of trauma underneath it. I have learned that in my life, particularly times like this, it has become one step at a time. Left, right, left right—my mind becoming some muddled, fucked up cauldron of Nemo & the 2020 election. Each step for mankind another epigenetic repercussion of abuse & addiction that results in this political, homosexual sixteen-year-old stuck in a broken boy's mold. An audiobook muffles oxygenated english language into my ears; it stitches my mind back together, whose neurons thread themselves into the pavement below my aching feet: is this my legacy?

Not before long, I stand in front of that factory, an education building more foreign that the past lives I once lived, the houses I once proclaimed homes. Willy Wonka's wide-eyed wonder consumes my pupils, as if the pupils themselves were still joyfully fulfilling dreams behind the cloudy, blurry sign reading "Playground Closed." Whether it was the weather or the reincarnation of happiness, I froze—my body a Build A Bear left unstuffed, unwanted. The empty air quickened pace; clouds stirred, puffing into my physicality: a hot air balloon rising & rising into the starry night sky. Fuck it. Jump the fence, run through the field, climb the ropes. Fibers become a blanket, some family heirloom, covering my shivering ears alongside freezing time, freezing life.

York is small time, small life. But, somehow, from this child's perspective, I could see centuries of DNA methylation yet the beauty of my last breath. I could see the black abyss, but, moreso, the lights in the houses, the lights in the sky, the lights in the school building. I saw reconnecting families, rebirthing planets, renewed education system. I could see the end of stasis & the fornication of progress, some seductive yet natural renewal.

Then, there wizzed a car—reality restored.

Three days prior, my mother dragged me out of the couch, whose cushions were respirators sucking the dopamine & serotonin out of my body, replacing them with rays of anxiety & sleep from the television: episode 22 of "Big Brother." The blinds opened, eradicating the endless black Alaskan night that became my living room. The blankets of filibuster thread were tossed into the hamper like dirty clothing & the last snacks in the pantry. The body of an aloof, foreign reflection upheaved itself from its casket, placing its feet onto yet another rug, concealing the lies of meeting up with Zoloft or Fine from its Creator. The disheveled mannequin stepped outside into the limelight of a dying Spring; its creator pushed him into the vehicle, watching as the world died & came to life simultaneously.

We drove for hours on sight—everywhere. The silence initially broke with a query about her mother, some small precipitation that layered onto the repressed mountains & would eventually tumble into an avalanche of past lives I never knew existed. Each spin of her tires another day in her life. Miles becoming years. Cities becoming breakdowns, love, disappointment, heartache, & pain. The trees became broken bottles. The fields became empty promises. The fading sun became another man leaving. To read the pages of her unwritten memoir with such grief, yet such optimism. To survive, not to be the survivor. I was awestruck as to how her tumultuous life was summarized in three hours: is this her legacy?

I re-explored my past, some memories flooding as the snow melted to water.

There was supposedly a tornado in our backyard with our initial owners, so, when there was a storm, my mother would tell me that a tornado never struck in the same place twice. We learned that this isn't always the case. Her life became the sky above us, some bluish grey mass of clouds that was moving with a relentless yet seemingly slow manner. The winds of addiction, plague, men, & mental illness spun the clouds, lifting our car into unfamiliar territory, where all secrets, truths are torn from right under us & left visible like the rain that fell onto the glass wall in front of us. My mother's biggest fear was not being in control, her past this earthquake that rendered gravity & broke her balance.

One year ago, we would have prayed for the windshield to shatter, as the breezes of our past ceased time, consumed our souls, & cut our insides open, like we were running through those previous forests of addiction & into trees of broken, bloodthirsty bottles. But, somehow, this foggy, condensed year changed it all. No longer homeless. Not as anxious. Not as depressed.

But still not home.

Time unfroze, so did the teardrops. The car passed. The temperature dropped. Waves of electricity, which consumed me once through the television or OCD articles, now flowed through the headphones, reading from the audiobook: "Life & Time Don't Jibe."

It hit me, like the car's headlights.

Time is relative is where we place it in our lives; repression is a means of coping with pain, forgoing it like some keepsake box buried in the backyard, or, perhaps, some revelation found in a long three hour car ride. We only may live once we have rekindled these brewing storms, let them fall, runoff into the streams, & swim through them, baptizing ourselves in the pain of progress—to relinquish the natural cycle of healing.

I retraced my steps, right, left, right, left, like a murderer who is covering his tracks. Who was the victim—my younger self? Perhaps. If so, they were killed the moment the first storm brewed. But perhaps that storm passed, turning it into a rainbow. A rainbow that landed on me & left me this: right & gay & political & artistic. Each step another part of my DNA, my lineage I may or may never fully understand. That was the beauty. More cars pass &, with them, their ties to my lineage. Had we walked down the same sidewalk, driven down the same roads? Would their past become my present in the future? Who knows.

The door slammed; the shoes left abandoned; the now innocent rug; the audiobook ceases; the oak stairs creak; the tiptoed steps into my mother's bedroom; the gentle door shutting; the whisper of our often unspoken yet understood secret: "I Love You."

A family no longer of futile warfare, but of life amidst the darkest of times.

A lost home that must stay within our hearts.

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