The room was dark and damp. A faint smell of mildew tickled her nose,
caused her to remember that her inhaler was at home. She hadn’t needed it the
last several urban adventures and she didn’t want to need it now. She vowed to
be careful, to breathe shallowly. It wouldn’t do to have an asthma attack here.
Urban exploring had become her secret passion. Early in the
morning, at least an hour before the sun came up, she was out walking across
deserted fields to abandoned buildings, her car parked a mile away to avoid
attention. She was always back home in time to wash up before going to work.
Nobody knew this was how she spent her time. Nobody would have suspected, and
this was how she preferred it. Left alone, a silent life, away from the masses
who didn’t think, who let their computers think for them.
This was her version of a video game – places to explore,
rooms to discover. Who needs virtual reality when actual reality was so much
better? Of course, this reality came with real dangers – loose flooring, rusty
nails. You could land a trip to the hospital, or the jail, or the morgue.
She wandered alone. Plausible deniability. Nobody could rat
her out if they didn’t know. Nobody had to lie for her. She was on her own for
everyone’s benefit. She preferred not having to make arrangements to meet or
what to bring to the site. If she didn’t have something or was late, it was her
fault. She’d rather not have to be mad at anybody for letting her down.
She thought back to her family, her friends. They all had
failed her. They all had lied, intentionally or not. She was done with it.
Maybe it was true that no man is an island, but this woman was.
To everyone she was a girl, but she knew better. They called
her a girl to keep her small, to take away her power. Maybe even to keep her
from ever getting power in the first place. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt
She lived two lives, the public one and the private one.
Maybe it was more than that. Her life was divided at home too – the life her
husband saw, and the one she lived when he wasn’t around.
When she first got married she would cry when he had to leave
– to work for the day, or away for the weekend on a project. But that was when
she wasn’t sober. She feared sobriety at the time – that it would mean she’d
feel too much, too often. How would she function?
But now she was sober, she’d learned how to feel and move and
be alive multi-dimensionally. All those who looked down their noses, those who
thought themselves as sober because they didn’t do drugs, they were fooling
themselves. It was like people who weighed 200 pounds thinking they weren’t
obese because that was normal, even svelte in comparison with others around
them. Why change?
Over eating, over drinking – too much TV or social media,
whatever. Fill in the blank – the thing they used to avoid life as it is was their drug. Legal or not,
it is that which draws away from life, the path that leads to destruction, to
Being awake was like riding a wave. So many changes, shifts.
So hard, and yet so essential.
This skill was what she honed on her walks into unattended
buildings. Fully present was the only option. Anything else meant death.
And death was the last thing she could afford right now.
She had 15 more years of time to do at work, 15 more years of
wearing a mask, of faking it. It was still better than what others did. She
couldn’t call them friends – more like acquaintances. They weren’t even friends
of friends. Just people she knew. Maybe it was time to have better friends. But
then again, why?
People thought she needed to read this book, watch this film,
listen to that album. She never liked those things. It all felt fake, like they
were just talking to themselves. Maybe they were. So maybe “you need to have
friends” wasn’t for her, just like all of their other suggestions. Why force
herself into their mold? The same people would turn their nose up to taking
welfare but were OK with begging from friends to support their habits – namely
not working a full-time job. Her take on it was that if you don’t work, you
shouldn’t expect those who do to pay your way.
So her way was not their way. Yet she remembered – she used
to be like them. It was grace that knocked her out of that groove, that
horrible broken record. Perhaps the same grace would come to them. In the
meantime, she stayed away from them. She had to. Their ways drew her back into
bad habits and new ones. She tried to help them, fix them, and then realized
that too was an addiction.
So here she was, alone in an abandoned warehouse. The more
she thought about it, it seemed apropos. The building had housed a thriving
industry, hundreds of people had worked here, made their lives here. And now it
was crumbling away. Now only thrill seekers and transients came here. Perhaps
she was a little of both, prowling around these dusty rooms with their peeling
paint. Perhaps she too was near the end, but of what? Did the workers here know
they’d never get a pension because this “sure thing” wasn’t?
So how had it come to be – for them and for her? How had the
tried-and-true, the solid path, become unsure? How had their jobs ended? How
had her life moved into one where she felt she had to put on a mask in front of
everyone? Perhaps that sort of dishonesty, that lack of being truly present, as
is, with no hedging and no apologies, is what finally closed down this business
She was going to have to watch her step, in more than one
way. Being less than honest is a guaranteed way to get tripped up. And yet,
there was this – she’d never lied. She just hadn’t revealed all of her truth.
Was that being polite or politically correct? Who was she protecting with her
silence? Them, or herself? Did it matter?
Soon it would be time to leave. Soon she would put on her
uniform, put on her face for the world. Or maybe she wouldn’t this time. Maybe
she’d just simply be herself, unedited. Could they handle it? Could she? The
last time she was fully herself they thought she was sick, or crazy. Many’s the
time that she did not fully put on her happy mask and the customers or her
family accused her of being a bitch, or worse.
But she was tired of shoehorning her extra large personality
into an extra small world. They were just going to have to make space for her.
Maybe they’d be inspired to follow her example. Or maybe they’d try to commit
(Started early June 2018
Completed late January 2019)