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The Hiding Place
In the days when I was young, vulnerable, and timid, I spent most of my time at a place where none of that mattered. I called it the Hiding Place. It was there that my friend justin and I drank champagne from a plastic cup on the night of my 17th birthday. justin asked me all kinds of beautiful questions that night.
“Why is your butt shaped like a ham?”
“Shut up Justin, you f*ng ahole jerk piece of s***.”
“Dude, stop pronouncing my name wrong.”
“Yeah, you are, you’re pronouncing it with a capital ‘J’.”
“Much better. Anyways, where are your parents.”
“Probably out having dinner together; smiling gentle smiles, secretly wishing that they were strong enough to press the self-destruct button.”
I don’t know what made me say things like that, but I said them often at the Hiding Place. The Hiding Place is where thoughts were found; not just regular, boring, everyday thoughts like “what should I be when I grow up,” but also how-the-hell-am-I-even-thinking-about-this thoughts like “aren’t parallel lines tragic in the way they follow one another into infinity but never quite meet.”
Every Saturday morning I would speed walk/slow run to the Hiding Place with a notebook tucked at my side and a pencil wedged behind my ear. I would take a seat, find my pencil after a good 2 minutes of contemplation, crack open my notebook, and begin to convert my white-hot teenage angst into pretentious prose about disillusionment, cognitive dissonance and that b**** who broke up with me in homeroom. When I was finished, I would stare at my creation, feeling like I had just crafted my magnum opus. Then I would look away for a second, and when I looked back, all the brilliance would be missing. All that I could see was rambling; sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, rambling.
I feel like I was birthed and raised in and by the Hiding Place. It taught me to smile, speak, and when to stay quiet. It was there that I learned how to swim, float, and drown. It was my Mother and my nest.
It was also a great place to take chicks. They always thought that I was letting them into my world, when really I was just trying to get into their pants. (I know that made me a little bit of an asshole, but I supposed that if I compensated for that by holding doors open and recycling, I’d still get a pretty good spot in heaven). I may have been being fake, but so were those girls. They pretended like they saw the Hiding Place, but really all they saw were rocks, grass, muddy puddles, and the opportunity to get a boy to need them.
Only one girl truly saw the Hiding Place. In fact, I think she saw more of it than I did. Her name was Crystal, and she had the clearest eyes on the face of this universe. I took her there on a luke-warm evening in the beginning of summer.
“This is a pretty shitty place. You actually get laid because of it?”
“Well, don’t you think that it has a certain rugged beauty or something?”
“Really, “rugged beauty,” is that what all those bitches told you? This place isn’t beautiful. It is monkey-butt ugly.”
“So then you doubt my love for it?”
“No, I do think you love it. I think that somewhere along the bumpy road, you found this place. You were probably in pain, you were alone, and this place was here to keep you and only you company. You don’t love this place because you think it’s beautiful, you love it because it feels like the only thing that’s truly yours.”
I smiled at her, and grabbed her hand, “Now I actually want to share this place with you.”
“Even if that were true, I’ll never experience this place the same you do, unless you can split your soul in half.”
In that moment, oh God, was she beautiful. In fact, she was something even better than beautiful; she was right. I felt a lovely burning sensation in my lungs; it was like I had swallowed vinegar after days of dehydration.
“Crystal-“ I began.
She pulled me towards her by my hips. We stood there for about a minute, just staring at each other, before I finally decided to kiss her. It was a sparkling minute, just ours and no one else’s. When we broke apart, I resumed staring at her, and I swear that in that moment, she was all that was left of the world.
That moment stretched itself into 3 beautiful months. Three months of fighting, and loving, and talking, and crying. Three months of feelings that I never thought I would have the privilege of feeling. Three months of greedily scrubbing the life out of each precious summer day. And then, like the summer, she was gone.
I remember my last day at the Hiding Place. Thinking about it still sends spiders crawling down my spine, because I didn’t know it was my last day. Does anyone ever know that it’s the last day?
It was a Saturday and I was sitting there, furiously scribbling at my notebook, trying to make magic out of graphite. The angry sun was biting into my back, and that was fine. That was good. I kept writing; words followed each other like they should, and my paragraphs all stacked on top of each other like building blocks. I finished, and like always, I looked away. When I looked back, what I saw was insanity. I had written the same sentence over and over again for 5 pages. And that sentence, oh good Lord, it was disgusting; completely awash with grammatical errors and senselessness. It was evil:
“he fell so hard into this pit, he began to call it Home.”
I started crying out of anger, and frustration, and fear, and hunger. I cried on each page, until every scrawl melted into an incoherent smudge. Then, when I was all dried out, I tried to do the same to myself. I chose a puddle, and dunked my head into it. I stayed there until there wasn’t a pint of air left inside of me, and then lifted my head back up. I tried again. Again. Again. Again. But no matter how often I tried, or how hard I tried; I would always save myself, I refused to disappear.
Someone found me soon enough. And instead of doing the polite thing and leaving me to my self-destruction, they rescued me. So, now I’m here. I’m here and I’m “just fine.” Or at least that’s what the nurses tell me. The doctors ignore me, and toss all kinds of big, ugly words back and forth to one another. Crystal visits me every week. I hate her seeing me this way, but I’d hate her not seeing me at all even more. Sometimes she even brings her daughter.
I’ve been away from the Hiding Place for 10 years. They won’t let me go back. They don’t think I can. To be honest, I don’t know if I even want to go back. I can barely remember it, and I’ve been feeling worse and worse every day.
However, if you (yes you) could do me one favor I would be eternally grateful. Please go to the Hiding Place and send me a picture of it. It’s located in that forest across the street from John’s gas station. I know the forest looks intimidating, but it’s the gentlest, most welcoming thing ever; you can just waltz in. When you see a huge, deranged looking tree; turn left. Keep walking until