I am haunted by the quiet spaces of comfort in my life. They creep up on me and envelop my body, like a warm blanket that smothers a child. I had a rough few years there, and I have to joke about them sometimes to steady my breathing; it's somewhere between the hiccups of an asthmatic teenager and the rhythmic chant of an OCD schizophrenic.
Making lists helps, so I mark most of those dark nights of the soul with the unusual places that I slept:
- a lot of curbs
- a few park benches
- under a bridge
- a motel filled with bed bugs and a sad stain on the ceiling
- that one time on top of the abandoned Hooter's
- the couches of strangers who become friends
- the beds of friends who treated me like a stranger
If I'd known the story I was going to end up having, teenage me would be so jealous of all the juicy things I could sensationalize. But now I torture myself until the birds beg me to rest, and it's still too hard to write down. It's too quiet, and these blankets are too soft. I have a fridge with food in it and a lock on my door but I still feel like a kid with my thumb in the air begging for a ride to the bar. I can feel myself get that lost look on my face sometimes, and people ask me if I'm sick or tired or pissed off. It's hard to explain that I'm just remembering how goddamn lucky I am to be here, and how it knocks the wind outta me sometimes because it all still hurts so much. Now that I'm not just surviving, now that I'm living, I feel removed from all the sparks that used to keep me fighting. All that time I was fighting to get HERE. And now I'm HERE and all that fight has nowhere to go. I'm a grown up now. Grown ups know when to use their inside voices.
That boy who saved my life a lot used to shake his head at me and say, "Oh shut up kid, you're five-star homeless," as he pulled off my mismatched socks and duct-taped boots while I tried to grab one more beer, black-out drunk and throwing fists into the darkness. I had a lot of nightmares then, and I didn't always know where I was going to sleep. So I'd keep my body awake, but let my brain take a rest, impressing at least a handful of crusty regulars that I could drink with them shot for shot. That's how my face found the curb, more night than one. Not from anything so glorious as a fight; the only fight I lost was to keep my goddamn eyes open.
I drink a lot less now, and I always spend the night in my own bed. I have my own bed now. But I still can't sleep. Sometimes I think I slept better on the curb.