I picked my sister up in the Camry after work. I’ve preferred the Camry as of late because I have more control and more control equates to going faster. It’s not like driving the Explorer, which is all weight and no fluidity. There’s nothing gratuitous about driving a tank. We drove on auto-pilot to our restaurant, to our table – my camera loaded in the back, the weight of feeling everything at once on my shoulders. I had a beer with my lunch while we discussed Camaros and court cases. I had every intention of only going so far out of town that the fresh air would loosen the grip on my lungs. Breathing has been a labor of love the last couple of weeks; staying conscious has been accompanied by nausea and rage. The universe had other plans and I found myself bringing the accelerator to ninety as we careened around the snow-heavy mountainsides. Sometimes you go on a spontaneous adventure – sometimes you lie out of a ticket. Sometimes you talk about books and husbands but the words you need find themselves stuck between your teeth.
I wouldn’t tell her that the only religious experiences that I’ve had revolved around muscle cars, tattoos, and nicotine. The phrase “he was baptized under a stream of self-sacrifice and bare tree limbs but I see a sinner in the mirror when I tie up my hair” would not form itself without leaving the shadow of bitterness behind. I so desperately wanted to tell her that he had learned to love a god that had dragged me through embers and the only worship that I understand is self-destruction. I still have the hole in my palm where I had discovered how to turn their addictions into barbed wire while he brushed them away like sand. I wanted to tell her that he was the color of pine – a source of comfort and solidity – whose branches I could cling onto when the world tipped on its axis. I didn’t tell her that I was the color of a bruise blooming under tired skin, a storm of salt water and shards of stained glass. I would never vocalize that I felt as if smoke and ink replaced vital parts in me, my bones and blood had been insubstantial for longer than I could remember. The world was quieter when I was far away, under the tattoo needle, going too fast. I need substances to stay awake, substances to fall asleep… my own haunted house. I am a fragment of a constellation; the aftershock of a thunderstorm. I am petrified of heights but graveyards make me feel whole. I have bloodied my knuckles intentionally more times than I can count and he has always brought peace to any environment. He is the saved turned savior and I wear a crown of thorns to all my affairs.
My sister knows about anger. She knows the walk that I make from driver seat to front porch is stained with grief. She knows that when I hear the sound of gravel under my boots that the years are soaking through to my skin and I’m imagining the slick crunching noises are actually femurs and scapulae. She knows of the night terrors that follow me around and the stories I read to make them subside. She knows that I wear oceans inside my veins and frost bite under my nails.
I do not have to say it but