I was running from a lot of things—things people thought about running from and never did, or if they never thought of running, it was a feeling they couldn’t quite place, an unhappiness that couldn’t be given away. Each summer brought new possibilities with lingering obligations and a real chance to run, but those who might run, always talked themselves out of it. What meaning was there in it? It wasn’t a race. There were no awards. And there was nowhere to go. Even if they made it to some destination, any changes that lingered would get erased by the job or people who couldn’t run, and these types of thoughts weighed on my running legs. Suicide was a big part of my life; I couldn’t stop thinking about killing who I was, but every time I thought about these glorious deaths, I became afraid of wiping my ego clean, not being able to return to society, never being able to reenter acceptance, and being an outcast forever, rather than an in-betweener who had rich fantasies that comforted him while doing paperwork.
The office was a comfortable killer of people who endlessly pretended. Death was something I looked forward to, a kind of reset, or an end to it all.
And even with these thoughts that frequently emerged on dates, and often worked against me, especially with well-adjusted women, I decided to drive my truck across the desert. I started early on a dewy morning, even though I knew I’d forgotten things. And the byways and lakes were full of weekend water-skiers—people I didn’t have anything in common with.
I didn’t drink, or do drugs, gamble, fight, or hook-up with maladjusted women. I was a church-going man who had taken the following types of phrases to heart during his teen years, “Don’t drink or chew or go out with girls who do.” And as I grew older and read more propaganda, I could see the artificial lines drawn in the sand. None of that mattered anymore; it was a real encounter with something real, or nothing at all.
I was hungry and there wasn’t going to be a place to eat for 50 miles. So, I stopped at a biker bar in my polo shirt and cargo shorts, the epitome of a beta male.
I was scowled at by a cook with more visible hair on his chest than on his head.
“Do you have hamburgers?” I asked.
“One hamburger,” he said.
Any questions got placed as an order.
“Coke, fries, and fruit,” I said.
“We don’t have fruit.”
“Okay.” I sat down to wait on the bar stool and some bikers entered. I could feel myself being looked at; maybe it’s the way a fly feels before it’s about to get squashed.
“Jackson, what’s this?”
“What do you think it is?”
“Looks like soft serve ice cream to me.” I tried not to look at his eyes; they belonged to a tiger who had been behind bars for too long. “If you want to give something up, meet me in the bathroom,” he said.
I was becoming younger, like my innocence was retreating into itself and I ate my hamburger without tasting it and left as quickly as possible. At twilight, the sun looked like a giant egg, plopping into a frying pan as it danced on the horizon. And when it sunk for good, the night left me feeling alone, until I noticed half-a-dozen headlamps riding behind me and the hellish hogs charged past with rumbling rebellion as I released my breath, like I had been holding onto my life, and when I felt the danger had past, one light lit me up from behind. It was Mr. soft serve, as far as I could tell and there wasn’t a friendly soul within 25 miles. He rode up on my left and pointed something at me. I pressed down on the gas and flack went through my windshield. I could hear him screaming, “Pull your fine ass over,” and I had no intention. My truck went up the center lane at over 100 miles per hour, climbing the mountain with a dead drop on the right-hand-side. He shifted and moved to the outside. And without thinking, I cut close to the edge, and Mr. soft serve flew into oblivion like a ghost from hell. It was suicide, I told myself. I didn’t kill him. I couldn’t face that. On the outside, I took a man’s life, and on the inside, life was more tolerable because of it. It was the half-accepting fantasy I told myself at work which allowed me to cope with reality, and now I was dangerous. I pictured disagreeable people at the office on lonely canyon roads where the rules of the highway kept them in their lanes, until I would cross over.