Time. It slips through interlocked fingers like loose grains of sunlit beach stand. She kisses me with soft lips in the rain while a fog coats the hills in haziness. Time. There’s never enough of it. Life is composed merely of months that feel like minutes, days fading into the subconscious, seconds and split-seconds.
I let myself live and breathe and experience despite the pain I know I will feel later just for this reason. Wrong timing is only one theme of a life lived in one hundred places all at once. A day here, a month there. I survive and love and touch on six continents. How can I explain to her the inexplicable? That rootlessness tears at each of my limbs at every second of every day. That I wish we had more time. With each step I plant seeds, but each seed is uplifted before it has the chance to grow. I love my life but
the subjunctive allows us to think of what could have been, what should have been, or what might have been. Regret, hope, doubt. All three are permanent residents of my headspace. I learned recently that the Vietnamese language doesn’t have a subjunctive tense. How incredible it must be to live in the moment and the moment only. Where time is the present and all else simply is as it is.
This brings me to a room. A place I once knew filled with people I once loved. The walls are painted white, and the carpet is clean but smells of spilled vodka and lemonade. Smoke burns my lungs and I exhale. Each inhale is an attempt to feel something, but with each exhale I feel less and less until the room around me is blurry and my eyelids heavy. I yearn to feel what I should feel. This is home… isn’t it?
When people ask I tell them I grew up under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. This month I’ve basked in their warm sunlit fields, been drenched in their summer rains, and made love under their sky full of stars. The closest to home I’ll ever feel is the parking lot off Highway 93 when clouds soaked in night-time sleepiness settle over the mountains. The city lights and their golden glow are hardly visible in the distance. I sit shirtless in the driver’s seat with the windows down and cool air resting on my chest. My left hand, pen, and paper are resting on the steering wheel. I can’t drive so instead I follow with my eyes the headlights of each car that passes down the road in front of me. It’s hardly ten pm and I wonder where they are going. Home, to a lover, to children, or to an empty house where the carpet smells like vodka and lemonade? I can’t drive but I let words take me somewhere, anywhere.
If these walls could talk. Between these walls six bodies in 23ft of space breathe together and a chill breeze drifts in through open windows. I wonder if this is the last time we’ll ever be together in this way. Just one more month. On the cusp of 18 I both crave and fear a life of my own. With enough options to count on two hands I’m scared to make the wrong decision but equally scared to make the right one. If there was a bridge between all continents I call home, between all the people I find home within, I would walk across it each day until my shoes dissolve into dust and my ankles are tied down to the Earth with stones.
My sisters and I wash our hair in the bathroom sink with a plastic cup and store-bought shampoo. Vulnerabilities are exposed in the Walmart bathroom. We share blood but also childhood and fears and hopes and dreams. If I can’t count how many beds we’ve shared, it would be even more impossible to count how many times we’ve laughed and cried together.
As children life hardly ever extends past the safe confines of the family unit. As we get older we begin to seek out something new. Maybe these are experiences, or people, or ideas to help us craft our more authentic identities. We question our upbringing or decide to settle comfortably within it. I’m not a parent, so I can’t imagine what it feels like to watch something you created and nurtured learn to walk and walk out into its own life. I wonder if this is scary. Maybe that’s why my own parents feel so much pain each time I seek to escape. I wish it was simple to explain why I do so, but I can hardly explain it to myself.
Riding the train on a Saturday afternoon I watch as the Denver skylight comes into view under the midday sun. The man across from me is wearing a crisp button-down shirt and reads a self-help book. He seems to have everything under control, yet maybe no one really does. I’m early to Union Station so I walk back and forth down the terminals. People surround me, all leading different lives, all heading in different directions. I wonder what their stories are. There is a train going to California that leaves in an hour. What if I got on that train?
When I walk into a new place I always look at the walls first. The girl I’m seeing lives in an apartment with art on the walls. She writes poetry outside and the kitchen stools are the same color as the ones in the home I grew up in. I wonder if she notices the same things I do.
We sip beers and hold hands in the kitchen. I don’t think she knows how long I lived not knowing this could be my reality. I kissed a girl for the first time when I was 17, months ago. On the list of things I don’t tell anyone this fact is at the top. I feel young, inexperienced, and though these things are true I like to pretend they are not. Everyone else seems to know what they are doing, how can I compete with that?
I started lying about my age when I was 15 because all I wanted and want is to be taken seriously. Each year added on was a step closer to being who I truly wanted to be. Childhood has always felt like a roadblock, and maybe because I haven’t spent a lot of time with teenagers I’ve lost whatever feeling of connection I should have with my age and peers. Instead, I yearn to be like the confident, educated young adults whom I spent most of my time with. So fifteen became sixteen and sixteen became seventeen and seventeen became eighteen in rapid succession.
Time is fleeting. No one has ever complained about having enough. Months and years pass in what feels like minutes and all you can do is hope you’ve done the right thing and enjoyed the ride. The road holds no clear path aside from the white lightning bolt down the middle that divides here from there. I’m not sure anymore if there is such a thing as right or wrong timing. Life happens when it does and I have no control of it, I can only choose to take what comes or let it slip through my fingers without a second thought.
Published July 24th 2018 from Flagstaff, Arizona