Lessons I Learned On The Road
Hotel rooms are sad places. A facsimile of someplace familiar. A lie. As a child, I lived in a lot of hotels rooms between the ages of 7 and 9. Back and forth, up and down the east coast, from Florida to New York. My father was often evading prosecution for sticking a knife in someone or other that had said or done something that ruffled his feathers. Dear old dad.
As a child, I loved staying in hotels. Every new room was a new adventure. A stranger's bed. A stranger's empty dressers and night stands. A curiously placed bible everywhere you go, almost without fail. Soda machines and shuffleboard courts. I liked meeting new babysitters as my parents left for the evenings to carouse in the local swill houses or whatever else it was they were doing. What would the next one look like, dress like, smell like, would she bring coloring books, would she talk to me or watch television, would she be pretty, would she be kind.
I remember the run over skunk smells of the highways going through North or maybe South Carolina. Seemed like a filthy backwater to my city born sensibilities. The taste of store bought tuna sammaches and semi stale twinkies. I loved fast food, store bought food, anything that was sweet or greasy and could appear magically before me from out of nowhere as we roamed the eastern seaboard. I still prefer the cheapest and unhealthiest restaurant meal to anything that can be made at home. It reminds me of simpler times, I guess, when everything was always in motion. No time to stagnate or for the walls to close in. Times long past, now.
Police were always the enemy. These officious and foreboding looking men in their uniforms, their walkies squelching out unintelligible bits of information like street addresses and their innumerable and indecipherable codes. I learned to keep my eyes open, keep a watch for them, but to look nonchalant. These dogs body oppressors could smell fear, read an out of place look on your face in an instant.
The past is not gone. Not entirely. Who we are is the inevitable result of who we were. I was that little boy who loved junk food. I am that man that still does. I mistrusted the police and still do. I learned lessons early in life that stayed with me to this day, shaping my perceptions and decisions. I learned of violence, of domestic violence, how the people closest to you are the ones that are likely to hurt you the worst, and most often. I learned of shame, the weight of it on your heart, the desperation to keep it off your face, out of your voice, how awful it would be to have it laid open before those who had not suffered as we had. I learned how to hide in plain sight. How to laugh and smile when everything within me practically screamed for sobbing tears. I learned that what you left behind you stays gone, retaining a vaguely ghostlike shape in the miasma that is a child's memories. Somewhere down that long stretch of road behind me, my home was someone else's strange new adventure. My family was someone else's family now. I learned.
Sometime later, we moved by the ocean shore. I slept bridled for war, beside the waters.
Lessons I Learned On The Road
Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Christensen
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