Ride The Lightning

Part 12 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Sometime Between September 9 and September 13, 2019

Baldwin, WI

My labored breaths fill the otherwise silent hallway of the drab motel as I sprint down the cheaply-carpeted floor in my socks.  The large key-ring in my hands jingles like a Christmas bell as the tiny jagged metal pieces bounce and sing against one another, ensuring that my thumb and forefinger are clamped around a very specific one. 

It’s tinier than the others, and could easily get lost amongst the myriad of multi-colored keys and plastic fobs surrounding it.  

I rip the electronic keycard out from between my teeth, muscling the door open and leaping over the mattress in a whirlwind of urgency.  The floor is littered with cardboard boxes, some large and some small.  Frantically-torn packaging tape and ripped bubble wrap tell the chaotic story of a very recent and ongoing descent into an invisible madness.  

All the boxes are addressed to me.  All the contents of which are now on the mattress.  The only mattress in the room.  A mattress, that hasn’t been slept in once since I checked in… 3 days ago.

3 days?  Has it been 3, or 4? 

I can’t remember. 

Because I haven’t slept. 

Nor have I eaten. Haven’t needed to. 

Something else is sustaining me.  Something much more powerful than nutrition. 

A strange new fuel that has been bubbling inside me for days.  Negating the need for sleep.  The need for food or water.  And with it, a stroke of genius that has elevated me beyond anything I’ve ever thought possible.  

I have discovered the meaning of… everything. 

Of life.  Specifically, MY LIFE.  And now I’m absolutely overcome with the compelling need to spread the message.   

I am GODLIKE.  I am superhuman.  I’ve been granted special powers.  I feel, amazing.  I feel ALIVE.  

And I need to make use of these powers before they disappear again.  Like they did the last time. I CANNOT waste this.  It’s my duty to mankind.

But I must be careful.  Must tread lightly.  Mustn’t let on to just anyone that I’ve been granted these powers. 

They wouldn’t believe anyways.  They’d take me away somewhere.  Put me in a padded room.  Lock me up.  And throw away the key.

And who will spread the message then?  It has to be me.  I am THE ONE.  The one the world is waiting for. 

This will be the first time I’ve left the motel room since I arrived. 

But is it the first time, really? 

I’m having trouble with the timeline. 

The events are jumbled in my mind, because they have too much to compete with.  My thoughts are riding on the coattails of a thunderbolt. They zip through my mind so quickly I can barely keep up. 

I’ve tried to write them all down, but it  happens so very fast and I have SO MUCH to think about.  So many plans. 

Okay – enough about that, though.  Keys!  We need keys!  NOW.  What’s that?  No, not the keys in my hand, silly!  These are different keys.  Car keys!  

Where are they?  Under this?  I toss a box to the corner of the room.  Nope.  Not under there!  Not to worry!  We’ll find them.  I just know it!!  Although the post office closes soon and I’m worried tha—  THERE!

RIGHT THERE DO YOU SEE THEM?

I snatch them up and allow myself a quick victory fist-pump.  Run to the door, nearly walk out with no shoes on my feet.  Whoops!  Silly me!

I chuckle to myself as I smash my feet forcefully into each pre-tied shoe,  pausing for a moment to rip a piece of stray packaging tape from my sock, and toss it into the air like a ribbon-toting  rhythmic gymnast.

Sprint out to the rental car with one heel still clamoring to fit inside it’s collapsed shoe-space. 

I should probably give that back, soon. 

The car, I mean.

They’ll be wanting that.  They’ll be searching for it.  And if they find IT then they find ME, and that’s no good at all now is it? RIGHT?! 

As I glance into the rear-view mirror and throw the car into reverse, I catch a glimpse of my eyes. 

My pupils, are enormous.  Like, the size of dinner plates enormous. 

That’s concerning.  Like I’m on drugs or something.  I mean… technically I am…

…on several as a matter of fact.  But they’re prescribed for my depression.  And they must be working because I feel AMAZING.  

DEPRESSION? WHAT DEPRESSION???

The tires squeal as I just miss the curb, parking diagonally in the tiny lot. I Run to the desk,  and greet the service agent emphatically with a charming quip.  She knows me by name now.  ISN’T THAT GREAT?  

I speed-walk between the corridors lined with tiny metal boxes, pivoting my head round my neck ferociously like a bird.   

Until my glassy, bloodshot eyes land on the triple-digit number I’m looking for.  I reach into the box, pull out a heavy stack of mail. 

Corporate mail. 

Mail that’s been addressed to the hotel I’m staying at. 

I thumb through it quickly.  And right there, in the middle of the stack… exactly what I need.  A tiny box with my name on it.  FUCK YES.

 As I drive back to the hotel, the glint of metal on the unfamiliar key-ring catches my eye for a brief moment, discarded hastily onto the passenger seat.  

And with it, a quick pang of something… unpleasant. 

What is that? 

Ah… yes… I’m feeling slightly guilty now. 

I did yell at that poor hotel manager, after all. 

The pleasant middle-Eastern man with the heavy accent and the concerned eyes. 

But I’d NEEDED to, you see.  He wasn’t getting it.  The significance.

He hadn’t understood. 

I’m leaving tomorrow.  Going… where exactly am I going? 

Fuck it, it’s not important.  What IS  important is that NOW I have everything I need to get moving. All of the gear.  ALL OF IT.  I’m going to need that gear very soon.  My plans require it. 

And that nice man, he wasn’t being very cooperative and so I’d had to raise my voice to help him understand just how important this box, and this gear, is to me.  

But then he’d gotten a bit scared, and he’d basically THROWN me the keys to EVERY DOOR in the hotel so that I could go and check the mailbox myself. 

And so I had. 

But still, I wish I hadn’t had to yell.  I’m really not that type of person.  Honest.  I’m a nice, polite, kind, brunette lady.  Usually.

When I get back to my hotel room, I rip open the very last of my packages. 

And pull out the compass.

I smile widely, and cram all the objects I can inside my brand-new extra-large hiking backpack. 

 Tomorrow I leave. 

Tomorrow… I fulfill my destiny.  ONCE AND FOR ALL.  



Lightning rips across the sky that night.  I know, because I don’t sleep. 

Again.


To Be Continued… 

Game of Survival



To my middle sister. Who’s always fought for me:

Dear Suzanne,


It was sometime in the late 1990’s that it happened. I was in the 7th Grade. I wonder to myself if you remember.  

I was sitting in my bedroom, crying quietly to myself, lamenting the fact that this was undoubtedly, my last day on Earth. 

Tomorrow, I would die a painful and violent death, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks and the snot hung from my nose like a Mastiff, I heard a light tap tap on my door.  

“C- C– Co-Come in…” I sobbed, and in you walked, with the ghost of a sentence on your lips that evaporated the minute you saw my tears. 

I’m not sure why you’d knocked or what your original intent was.  Perhaps you’d come to retrieve one of the many items I was forever stealing from your closet.  If that was the case, I was as good as dead anyways.  You’d warned me before that if I didn’t stop borrowing your things without asking, that the punishment would be severe.  And I knew for a fact that if you were to dump my hamper over at that very moment, you’d find a pair of your favorite soccer shorts in the bottom of the pile.

Teenage you. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist…

But what did any of that matter, really?  I mean, if I had to choose between being raked to death by your familiar fingernails in the privacy of my own home, or being bludgeoned by the fists of 6 angry 8th-grade girls in front of the entire middle school… well, I’d much prefer the first option.

And so I sat there, chin raised in defiance and heart steeled in noble acceptance of my own impending mortality. 

But instead of performing a detailed excavation of my laundry to unearth your belongings, you surprised me.  

“What is it?”  You’d asked sympathetically, “Why are you crying?”

“I d-d-d-don’t wanna saaayyyy…” I wallowed, wiping snot onto my sleeve before it dripped onto my down comforter.

“Tell me right now.  Julie.  Come on.”

And so I reluctantly recanted the events from a few hours prior.  They went something like this:


I’d been sitting at the lunch table with 5 of my friends, enjoying the taste and complete lack of nutritional value of my $2 square of undercooked pizza. 

We were minding our own business, chatting among ourselves, when all of the sudden, the most feared person in the entire cafeteria and maybe the entire school, took great interest in our table. 

We all seemed to shrink in size as her shadow slowly crept up the wooden surface, blotting out the lights with her looming presence, like a total eclipse.  

We all fell silent and froze mid-bite, praying that by some miracle she would confuse us with statues and walk away scratching her head in confusion. 

But alas, this did not happen. 

Instead, she looked directly at my friend, Katie, and demanded to know, “WHY are you staring at my friend?”

A million hypothetical answers cropped up in my mind, the most prevalent of which included maybe because your friend bares a startling resemblance to Doby the House-Elf from Harry Potter? 

Or

Because she chews with her mouth open?

But I wasn’t Katie and so I didn’t presume to know the answer to this question.

Poor Katie looked up at the towering excuse for a Middle-School preteen and simply stuttered, “I… I don’t know?”

The bully, was not satisfied with this answer and continued to cajole her.

Over and over again, like Chinese water torture she repeated, “WHY ARE YOU STARING AT MY FRIEND? ARE YOU SOME KIND OF LESBIAN?  WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO GO BACK AND TELL HER, HUH??!!!”

By this time, the cafeteria had fallen silent and I could feel the sympathetic eyes of all my classmates boring into the back of my head.  Katie was positively quivering in terror.  

Answer me!!  What should I tell my friend?”

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  In a moment of complete and utter insanity I stood up, staring directly at the belly button of this massive specimen of a girl and defiantly said:

“How about, you tell her to FUCK OFF?”

Gasps immediately cut through the lunch room, and as I sat back down, I knew, without a doubt, that I had just signed my own death warrant.

Not only had I just insulted an entire TABLE full of girls a grade above my own, but I had just publicly challenged the biggest, scariest creature that ever walked the halls of Anchor Bay Middle School. 

I’d given her no choice but to pulverize me into a pile of dust, lest her reign of terror be tainted by my momentary lapse in judgement.

My hands began to shake as I reached for my tiny carton of 2% milk and pretended to sip.  It’s best to act calm in these types of situations.  It throws the bullies off for a moment and gives you a chance to run. 

But I had nowhere to go, and this became rather obvious as, throughout the rest of the day, each of the 6 older girls took rotating shifts to torture me in the hallway as I scurried from class to class in a frenzied panic.

Weighing about 90 pounds soaking wet, I was no match for this angry hoard of bloated hyenas, and so I bravely endured it as best I could. 

I was shoved into walls, body-slammed into lockers, and had my books snatched from my hands so many times that my lower back began to ache from bending down to scoop them up off the floor. 

And at the end of every terrifying encounter, was the constant reminder from all of them…. a whispered threat that no one but me could hear:


You’re dead.  Tomorrow.  After lunch.  


I’m dead… tomorrow…. after l-lu-lunch…” 

I sobbed, as you stood over me with your arms crossed, hanging carefully on every word.

Rather than comment on this enthralling monologue, you simply turned on your heels, and disappeared.  I was quite puzzled at first, until you returned minutes later, carrying an item in each hand. 

A yearbook. 

And a permanent marker.

You sat on the edge of my bed, and laid out the instructions.  I was to go through the yearbook with a fine-tooth comb, and find the pictures of every girl that had bullied me earlier that day.  I was to circle their faces, with the sharpie, and not LEAVE ANYONE OUT.  When I was finished with this assignment, I was to return the yearbook to you.

And so I did as I was instructed.  And I returned the yearbook, no questions asked.

The next day, instead of perishing in the middle school parking lot as expected, I was approached by EVERY SINGLE ONE of those girls, independently. 

And apologized to. 

Profusely.  

Almost poetically, the final girl, was the bully herself.  She was downright TREMBLING as she explained, “I had no idea you were Suzanne Peters’s little sister.  If I had known… I never would have touched you.  Please, please tell your sister that I’m sorry.  Please.”

I never found out, just what exactly you did or said to inspire such fear in the hearts of those wretched girls. 

But I was never bullied again, by anyone, right up until the day I graduated.


Suzanne Peters’s little sister. 

That’s the thing – I was never just ‘Julie Peters’ in school.  I was Suzy’s little sister.  A title which I wore proudly, as though I’d done something honorable in procuring myself a nearly-identical strand of DNA to yours. 

It gave me street cred, even when we were kids.

My relationship with you was slightly different than that of mine or yours with Christel. 

You were only two years older than me, for one.  Just close enough to receive all the same toys on Christmas, albeit in different colors (mom was very careful about that), but just far away enough for it to be supremely uncool if you had hung out with me as often as I’d liked.  And I totally get that. You had a reputation to uphold, after all.

Of course, you occasionally took pity on me and let me tag along with you and your friends as you went about on all your older cool-kid adventures, but I was never really on the same level as you, popularity-wise.  

While I spent most of my childhood and even adult years trying to BE Christel… I spent an equal amount of time trying to get YOU to be my best friend.  

But there was one tiny problem:  You already had a million of them. 

That awkward girl in the 80’s windbreaker suit off to the right? That’s me trying to blend in, unsuccessfully.

You’ve always had this strange gravity about you that just draws people in. 

It’s magnetic. 

You were ALWAYS surrounded by copious amounts of friends, and people trying to garner your attention. Growing up, I just assumed it was because of your gorgeous looks and infectious charisma, but now that I’m older, I see that this was just one part of a much bigger equation.

People, hell even ANIMALS, gravitate around you, not because of your beauty (which still holds strong to this day)…

…but because you are the most FIERCELY loyal person I have ever met. 

You’d throw yourself under a bus if it meant protecting someone you love. 

I’ve never seen you waver, or back down from a battle, if it meant that someone you cared about would be damaged if you did.  And it’s just as true today, as it was back then.  Maybe even more so.

And I don’t mean to paint you as this hot-headed maniac, either. Everyone knows you, the REAL you, knows that you have a fucking heart of gold. You are truly one of the most caring, kind people I’ve ever met.

I think that as we’ve gotten older, as you’ve gotten married and had kids and raised a family, you might feel a little bit like you’ve lost that gravity I spoke of earlier. 

I think you might feel like you’re taken for granted and like nobody can see how hard you work, or what an amazing job you’ve done raising the most well-behaved children I’ve ever met. 

After you and Saede won the ‘Wife-carrying contest’ in St. Cloud

But I want you to know that I see you. 

That you’re no less magnificent to me now than you were when we were children.  And that your magnetism, your larger-than-life gravity, has never wavered.

You’ve always fought all my battles for me.  I’ve never really suffered any damage, whether it be mental or physical, because you’re so fiercely protective of me.

When our parents got divorced, and Christel was off at college, you took me under your wing. You shielded me from so much of the ugliness of the world. And we white-knuckled that horrible situation TOGETHER.

I’d have never made it through that if you hadn’t been there to teach me how. And to take the brunt of the damage in my stead.

You’ve taken every blow ever thrown my way.

I can never thank you enough for what you did… what you STILL do, to this very day.

But this battle – the one I’m engaged in now, well… I can’t hide behind you anymore.

I can’t circle the bullies with a giant magic marker.

Because the bullies, are in my head.  

And so rather than hide behind you, I  instead draw inspiration from you. 

I feed off of your own bravery and follow your daring example. 

I’ve channeled you when I’m at my weakest and drawn from the deep pool of your lionhearted energy…

… and I always, always think to myself

What would Suzanne do right now?’

The answer, is always the same – The bravest thing imaginable.

You are my armor.  Even when you’re not here.

Always.

Love you my big sis, My protector, 

Your little sister, 


Julie

Sister

To my Oldest Sister, Who wrote to me when I was Missing:

Being back in Detroit, I’ve been looking for a way to pass the time while my medicine kicks in.  And so the other day, I went through some old photographs in mom’s Hope Chest.  

As I was chuckling to myself at the old familiar glossies, I came across one that made me stop dead in my tracks.  I placed the rest of the towering pile down, off to the side so that I could study it – give it my full attention.

At first, I didn’t recognize the tiny, round face framed so softly with the dirty-blonde locks of shiny curls.  But then I looked closer, and recognized the expression, and the piercing blue eyes that seemed to jump off the picture with their intensity.  It was you – as a baby.

And suddenly, I realized.  I’ve never taken the time to actually look at any of your baby pictures before.  I’d had no idea what you looked like before I was born.  Had never even given it a second thought.

Why is that?  Why had I never cared enough to even thumb through your baby book, not even once?

And as is the case with most introspective questions, I already knew the answer before I asked.  It’s simple, really.  I can’t picture you as a baby, because in my eyes, you never were one.  You aren’t allowed to be.  You’re my older sister.

I’ve never known you as anything else.  Since the day I was born, you’ve always been this constant, calming presence in my life.  Something that was just, always there.  No different than the sky or the sun or the stars.


When we were little, I wanted to be you so desperately.  Because you always knew all the answers.  Because you were a perpetual fountain of knowledge and earthly wisdom.  Because you were never afraid, or sad, or all the things I seemed to be growing up.  You were perfect.  

I’m the one with the pizza. ALWAYS.


You’d think that this reverence would have faded with age, but it never really did. 

When you went off to college, you left me all your Human Anatomy notes from Ms. Erfert’s class in the 9th grade.  I pored over them, breathing in every word like they were the original stone tablets chiseled with the 10 commandments. 

The following year, I signed up Ms. Erfert’s class, and breezed through it like it was third grade math.  

When I was in my junior year of high school, you came home to visit for a few days.  You were living in Boston at the time, working at a large hospital as a respiratory therapist. 

I still remember the night that you were saying your goodbyes, like it was yesterday.  Because you came into my bedroom last, and as we hugged I said, “I wish I could come with you.”  To which you responded with, “What’s stopping you from doing that?”  

I had stared incredulously at you  and sputtered out something to the tune of, “Be… Be-cause… I don’t know.  I can’t just go off to Boston for a week.”

“Why not?  Give me one good reason.  You’re on break at school.  You’ll be back in time to go to class.  You have no reason not to go,” you’d insisted.

 Eventually, I ran out of excuses and found myself in the passenger seat of your trailblazer at 9 PM on a weeknight, crossing the border into Canada with a few pairs of clothes and some toiletries. 

It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world.  And not only did it shatter all my false beliefs about spontaneous travel, it also inspired a strange new desire to get out of Michigan and SEE THE WORLD in all it’s glory.  It set the tone for the rest of my life.

You became a traveling respiratory therapist a few years later, and flew me out to San Francisco while you were on assignment there. 

Then you took me to Costa Rica. 

And finally, right after I graduated X-Ray school, you brought me to Alaska to live with you while I tried to lock down my first job out of college.  

Do you remember when we were on the plane to South Dakota, moving there together from Anchorage?  That girl behind us, she started having an asthma attack.  She was panicking, and  the flight attendants had NO IDEA what to do. 

At one point, it got so bad that she was hyperventilating behind us, and you’d looked over at me, sighed, and handed me your infant son.  

“Hold this,” you’d said.  

Then you’d turned and explained to the petrified girl who you were and just how you were going to help her. 

You’d held both her hands and forced her to breathe along with you, all while simultaneously ordering the flight attendants to radio overhead for an Albuterol inhaler from one of the other passengers. 

I’d watched in awe while you magically calmed that girl down, got her breathing nice and slow again. 

By the time the ER doctor from a few rows up came back for a look, he’d simply said, “well, it looks like you have this under control…”  and gone back to his seat.

It was one of the many moments in my life, where I’d wanted to stand up and point to you emphatically and scream to the crowd of onlookers, “That’s MY sister!!”

 Every major step and decision in my life, you’ve been there… holding my hand through it, like you did with that girl on the plane.  Coaxing me to ignore the little nagging voice in my head, and to do the things I am terrified to do. 

A lot of those things, I only had the courage to try, because I knew that if I fucked them up, you’d be there to fix it.  Because you always have been. 

And up until now I’ve taken all that for granted.

You see, I realize now that I’ve never allowed you the opportunity to NOT be perfect.  I’ve never expected anything less than that from you.  So when I was missing a few weeks back, and I saw that you’d posted my suicide note and all the details of my mental health struggles online, I’d been very very angry. 

I’d resented you for that for a little while afterwards, because in my eyes, it was handled imperfectly.  


But what IS the perfect way to handle that situation?  I mean, what precedence out there exists for, “My sister has gone fucking crazy and I desperately need to find her?”  

And so I’m sitting here several weeks later, looking at your baby pictures, and for the first time…

…I mean really, truly, the first time…

…I’m allowing you the right – TO BE HUMAN. 

And I’m realizing that throughout our entire lives, I’ve never ever given you that.  Never allowed you that.

Never allowed you to be vulnerable. 

Never allowed you to be anything other than perfect. 

And I’m so fucking sorry, Christel.

I really am.

I’m sorry that I held you to an impossible standard.  I’m sorry that I’ve expected you to fix everything that’s gone wrong in my life.  I’m sorry that I’ve let you down. 

And I promise to do better.  To try to my hardest to BE better.

All I’ve ever wanted, is to be you.  But I’m not.  And never will be.  And that’s okay. 

You are still, to this day, my absolute idol and the constant source of solidity in my drastically wavering life. 

And all I want, right now? 

Is for you to know that.

Love Always

Your Baby Sister,


Julie

Lead Sails (and a Paper Anchor)

Part 11 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

The day that you’re born, you arrive on a great, sandy beach – naked and screaming in the hot, tropical sun. 

Immediately, you are taken in by the people who brought you there, offered clothing and shelter and sustenance – everything you need to survive on it’s glistening shores.  You’re comfortable and warm there, but spend nearly all your time looking out at the water, dreaming of the day that you can venture beyond it’s familiar banks.

As you grow bigger and stronger, you begin to envy those who’ve traveled out into the ocean. 

You watch in awe as they board their tiny ships and let the wind whisk them away to uncharted territory.  And as their vessels shrink in size and become tiny dots on the horizon, you swear right then and there that you will dedicate your life to following them out into the open sea. 

Into the great unknown.   

Away from comfort, and into adventure.

You begin to assemble the materials you’ll need – the wood and the cloth and the rivets.  You place them in a large pile on the beach, and then you set off to find the people that have built the greatest vessels and had the grandest adventures. 

Blueprints begin to take shape in your mind, and you commit them to paper as you digest the sage advice from the older builders around you.  

As you toil away on the beach in the hot sun, you are not alone.  Other people are building boats, in all types and varying sizes.  

Some people inherit great big ships that don’t require much work at all, and you silently curse them as you sweat and bleed and toil away in the hot sun.

  Still other people are working with almost nothing, and their struggles far exceed your own as they work to get their flimsy vehicles into the water.

Often times, others wash up on the shore, sun-burnt and dehydrated, warning how dangerous it is out there in the deep sea.  You heed their warnings, but continue on anyways, patiently building your boat, one plank at a time. Board by board, sanding each one down to perfection.

Great big parties and celebrations occur on the beach, and although there’s a time in which you partake in them, you soon realize that your plan will never come to fruition if you spend all your time socializing. And so you turn down the invitations and focus all your energy on building the best damn boat that ever sailed into the water.  

Sometimes, people laugh at your strange design, asking you just where the hell you got your diagram.  You ignore them. 

One day, they will eat their words.  As you sail off into the sunset, they will stand longingly on the shore, waving goodbye… stuck there forever. 

Other people wonder why you’d want to want to venture out beyond the comforts of the tiny island.  After all, you’ve got everything you need to survive right here.  Why risk the danger?  But you can’t explain to them your compelling need to join those tiny dots on the horizon.  They’ll never understand. It’s your destiny. It calls out to you every day.

Finally, after years of meticulous building, your ship is ready to set sail.  You wave goodbye to those still left on the island, and take off into the deep blue expanse ahead.  It’s invigorating.  The smell of the sea and the wind in your hair.  It’s everything you’d ever dreamt it could be.  

Familiar faces line the boats around you and you emphatically wave hello as you pass them on their own journeys.  Family and friends smile from the decks of their own ships and you smile back from the deck of yours.  For a time, everything is perfect.  Just like you’d imagined.

One night, a wretched storm blows through, and as the rain pours into your boat and the lightning rips the sky apart, you begin to realize that there are certain things about this boat that you’ve overlooked.  Tiny cracks in the floorboards, and loose screws allow the water to pool ominously in areas the ought to be kept dry. 

A feeling of foreboding emerges, but just as you begin to grow nervous, the storm passes and the sun comes out again.  You patch up the holes and tighten the screws and set about sailing even further than you’ve ever been before.

Years after you initially set sail, you turn back and you notice that the island is no longer visible, even with a spyglass.  But instead of feeling scared, you feel inspired.  Even more so because you built this entire ship with your bare hands

Plank by plank.  Board by board. 

And sealed, with an unwavering sense of pride.

Soon, all the other ships disappear and you are alone in the great watery wasteland. 

You’ve gone beyond the reaches of even the map, and are charting new territory all on your own. 

But there’s a problem:  your ship, has begun to leak again, in all the vulnerable areas that had been exposed during the storm.  

You gather buckets and attempt to slow the pooling of the seawater, but you begin to realize that this liquid that you’re immersed in… isn’t seawater at all. 

You’ve somehow managed to find a patch of special water, cursed water that dissolves the exact type of wood you used to carefully build your boat.  It eats away at the holes in the deck, magnifying their circumference by several feet.  Soon, giant gaps have cropped up all over the ship and it begins sinking, much to your own horror.

You run around the surface of the boat, fruitlessly attempting to salvage it, but pretty soon, only it’s mast sits atop the water.  You plaster yourself to it, desperate and alone.  But eventually it falls beneath the ocean, and you are forced to cling to the meager bits of wreckage strewn about, praying that another ship will come along and rescue you.

As you bob along with the driftwood, you curse and cry and shake your fists at the heavens, lamenting the loss of not just this magnificent ship, but everything that you gave up to go about building it.  You wonder what the point of it all was, now that you’re out here alone, starving and thirsty.  

One day, just as your grip on the floating debris begins to weaken, you look up to see a dot on the horizon.  You excitedly begin to wave your arms, and your scratchy throat croaks out a desperate plea for help.  Overcome with relief, you watch in anticipation as the boat begins to grow in size, making it’s way towards you.

But there’s something very familiar about this ship.  And as it comes closer and closer, you realize that it’s not just any boat.  It’s your father’s boat.  And not far behind it, are the boats of both your sisters and your mother, and several of your friends.  And suddenly you remember.  The water.  The water is poison!  

You begin to shout at them, warning them of the dangers ahead.  But they can’t make out your words over the crashing of the waves and the seagulls floating overhead and all the other ambient noises of the ocean. 

Not only are they plowing towards you at a dizzying speed, but some of them are preparing to JUMP IN, following you into the dark unknown.  

There’s no way of knowing if their boats can withstand the power of the strange water.  But you can’t risk it.  You’d rather disappear into the ocean, sinking to it’s silty bottom, than watch your family and friends drown trying to get you out.  

But they won’t listen.  They’re determined to save you. 

So you do the only thing you can think of – and you start paddling further into the stretch of dark sea.  You know that you’re swimming to your own death, but you don’t care.  As long as you don’t bring everyone else around you down in the process. 

You close your eyes as you kick with all your might, and you pray to God that they will give  you up for the lost cause that you know you are. 

That they will return to their own boats. 

And sail far, far away from the darkness.

And back to safety.


September 9, 2019

Baldwin, Wisconsin

A horn barks angrily through the air as I slow the car to a crawl and pull over on the side of the highway.  

Tears are pouring down my face and onto the steering wheel.  I’m paralyzed by indecision.  Stuck motionless as the surrounding cars barrel past me, going Eastward on I-94.  

I want to go home.  In fact, my car is already pointed towards Detroit, and all I have to do is throw it back in Drive and hit the gas.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.

I think of my mother.  I think of everything I’ve put her through during my lifetime.  And I just can’t do it anymore.  Can’t force anyone else to clean up my mess. 

To rescue my ship.  To follow me down, down, down, into the darkness.  

I love my family far too much to drown them. 

It’s time to swim.  Far, far away.  

I merge my car into the right lane, and pull off on the next exit.  

I still don’t remember how I choose the hotel I do or why.  

All I remember, is thinking… swim away.  Swim away.  Swim.  Away.

And I will spend the next 4 days, trying to figure out where exactly I’m going to paddle.  

But there’s a slight problem.  Right around day 2, I start feeling euphoric again.  And this time, I build a new boat, but the blueprints are backwards and upside down. 

And even though everything about it’s construction is wrong… to me, it’s magnificent to behold. 

So I plop it into the sea.  

And I set off into the water… 

…with lead sails

and a paper anchor.

To be continued…