Highways: A prose poem

Moments line themselves up neatly into minutes, like soldiers into platoons.  The minutes arrange themselves into hours, they are platoons arranging themselves into batallions. 
 And me, awake.  Me, awake.
 The darkness is this movie screen for my worries and fears to play themselves out on.  There is some secret switch inside of me that did not flip itself off when I laid down.  I have lived through a dozen worst case scenerarios in the silence of my home, now.  I try to not feel jealousy at my family, deep asleep. 
 I am awake.
 To be honest I don’t know what I do next.  There are two things and somehow I do them both.  At the same time.  It is like a multiple choice test.  Both “B” and “C” are equally correct, and mutually exclusive.  It’s all mixed up in my head.
 I know that I’m awake.
 I am sliding on my shoes in the kitchen and I am sliding down into the computer seat om the dining room.
 I unlock the door and open it only half way so it does not hit the point where it squeaks.  I think that perhaps I should leave a note, perhaps I should turn around and go into the dining room and jot a note on a scrap piece of paper with one of the kids’ crayons.  Strangely, I know that it would be a green crayon that I’d find.  Strangely, I realize that I’m already in the dining room, as I walk out of the house.  Somehow this is enough and I keep going.
 And yet I am also moving the mouse left-to-right so that I might kill the screen saver.  It was a picture of a star cluster named with numbers and initials.  A whirring hum from the innards of the computer tower, and I am online.
 Keys in the ignition, lights on.  It is not as cold as I think it should be, but there is this dampness that makes everything look damp and artificial.  The only cars I see are parked ones.  The houses are all so dark.  They look warm.
I drove down my street.
 I push down my gut reactions as I always do as my blog appears on the screen before me.  There is something ridiculously self-indulgent about the whole blog thing, but I don’t give this much more thought than usual.  I notice that the ceiling fan is on, and beneath it’s subtle whirpwhirphwhirp I hear my son snoring.  Nothing much new on my blog.  I check out the stats in my obsessive way and see what’s been read and by whom.
 I’m more or less on autopilot.  I don’t notice the gas station/donut shop as I drive past it.  Except that the lights are off.  I didn’t know the place ever closed.  But then again, I’m more of an amateur insomniac than a night owl. It’s possible I’ve never driven past at stupid o’clock in the morning.
 I clink the links from my blogs to some blogs I know pretty well.  Interesting stuff on them usually.  And they have pretty cool graphics.  I contemplate how I haven’t yet uploaded a picture to appear next to my postings.  I notice how somebody has a picture that looks like a Simpson.  (Cartoon, not O.J.)  I want a picture like that… It’s quirky but preserves annonymity.
 I used to do this in college: random lefts and rights.  Discover new places.  I’m just winding through boring residential streets at this point, though.  Places I’ve been before.  Places I have no reason to come back to.  I turn on the radio.  I’m embarassed that I enjoyed the song when the syrupy DJ comes on trying to say deep things about love: it’s one of those syndicated radio shows where people dedicate songs to each other on their thirty fifth wedding anniversary. I turn the station to a local public radio outlet.  It’s jazz.  I don’t really like jazz.  But I leave it on for a while because I want to like jazz.
 There’s nothing that looks worth reading or responding to on the few blogs that I often read and respond to.  I’ve used the links on these blogs to get to blogs that I’ve only checked out once or twice.  I survey these, too.  The cat jumps on my lap and I scratch him and he purrs, almost a melody above the percussion made by the cieling fan in the next room.
 Neighborhoods I’m not so familiar with.  I’ve been on other parts of the highway but never this stretch.  It’s the sort of New England highway that has a street name and a highway number, and traffic lights every couple miles.  The lights are all blinking red.  In California they used to do that, in the middle of the night.  I didn’t know that they did that in New England, too.  I’m watching them blink, and inexplicably, wondering if they do that in New England.  I’m in in New England, and watching them blink, and wondering if stop lights blink in the middle of the night in New England.
 I’m still revved up.  I click the links from these blogs and end up on blogs I’ve never been to before.  They are far enough removed from my blog– three clicks away and counting– that they aren’t quite so similar.  I mostly write about theology and politics.  On these blogs they are focused on other stuff.  Pop culture, some times.  Families I’ll never meet, other times.  Some of the subjects begin to run around my brain.  It’s hard to pin down what they are saying. I feel lonely, terribly lonely, suddenly.  I think about getting up from the computer and waking my wife.  But I don’t know what I’d say.  I try and post a comment in response to something I read.  My response would probably be nonsense.  But the computer won’t let me.
 I start to wonder if I’ll be able to get back.  I haven’t been gone that long, but there’s chain restaurants I’ve never seen.  There’s freeway numbers I’ve never heard of.  I think I saw a person.  But I felt something: he was different than me.  I’m not proud of that.  I’m usually pretty open.  But he was different than me.  I turned right and I approached a sign.  I did a double take and then I stopped, right there in the middle of the road.  Yes, it said what I thought it said “Now entering a place you’ve never been.” The worst part was that it was written so matter-of-fact.  White letters on a large green sign, a rectangular sign.  Like it’s informing you that a park is nearby.  I could not turn around, in that place.  The lane going the opposite direction was seperated from mine by a concrete divider.
 And there was this message in the middle of the screen.  It was in the middle of a grey box.  It looked like an error message, or like one of those pop-ups designed to look like an error message.  It said “allow undocumented pathways?” There was a box for “yes” but that was all.  No “X” inside a square to click in the upper left hand corner.  No rectangular “No” next to the word yes.  I tried to move the box out of the way and continue.  But it didn’t budge.  I almost smiled in the dark.  Maybe the computer would be frozen.  Maybe that would be a good excuse to get back into bed.  But I was still out driving.  I new I was still out driving.  How could I be still out driving?  I clicked the “yes” box.  And then I clicked the link from the last to blog to yet another blog.
 I turned off the radio because it was only static.  On all my presets.  I tried listening to the CD in the player.  But I was sure I had never heard any of the songs before.  I wondered if the songs were in English on that CD.  I wondered if they were in any language I’d ever heard at all.  But I just pushed “stop” I couldn’t work up the nerve to listen to it again, or to eject it from the player and look at it.  It was part way cowardice and part way that everything was changing.  I had to pay attention to the road.  I turned a left, a gentle, sloping left.  The roads weren’t intersecting at ninety degree angles anymore.  It was too bumpy to be concrete I was driving on, but to smooth to be a dirt road.  The buildings were all wrong, too.  The doors looked too narrow.  There weren’t enough windows. 
 It was like modern poetry on the blogs now.  The meanings taunted me, I was so close to understanding.  But I just couldn’t get it.  I tried to respond.  But when I did it wasn’t any letters that I’d ever seen that were popping up on the screen.  I’d push a “t” button but I’d get this strange thing on the screen, a curly letter that didn’t belong.  It hurt my eyes a little bit to look at.  I looked at the screen.  I didn’t understand any of it but I surmised where the links to other sites were.  I clicked the third from the bottom.
 The road I was on ended.  There was this tremendous arch, and then a building.  A mansion, a community, a compound.  Something.  There were lights on.  And there was such a happiness in that place.  The sun was rising.  I knew that this place was home.  No, not home.  Home.  Home with a capital “h”.
 A blog.  The meanings started to run together for me again, sense started to congeal.  These tears ran down my face as things started to make sense.  Things that had always hurt.  I read greedily.
 It wasn’t yellow light that came up from behind that strange building.  The color of the sun was terribly wrong.  And there was stirring behind the windows.  And a curtain, a strangely colored curtained moved.
 No.  No.  No.  There was something, some terribly thing, that I was required to accept if I wanted all that peace.  There were these lovely ramifications and implications.  But I’d just gotten to the source of them all.  And it was a brutality that I have not allowed myself to remember.
 It wasn’t human the inhabitant of that house.  But it smiled at me… I think.  The thing in the window beckoned to me, too, I think.  It was willing to share.  The door opened.  Some other thing was coming toward me with open arms.  It had something slimy running off of some unspeakable body part.
 I reached out and pushed the small button in the center of the computer.  I wanted to get away from it.  I didn’t want to get away from it.  The screen began to fade.
 The road was not wide enough for a U-turn.  I ran over something, something that was almost a plant that grew in the shoulder.  I turned around. 
 
 There are some times I get this little itch.  There are some of those nights when the moments line up like platoons.   These worst case scenarios play themselves out while everyone else is sleeping.  I wish I could say I never tried to find those truths again on the internet.  I wish I could honestly claim I never tried to find that strange place again by car.
 The truth is that every time I’ve gone looking I’ve known I’ll never find them.  And maybe, that’s for the best.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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