After talking with the embittered old man of Centralia, I returned to my car and had to decide which way to turn. Continue on westward to Kansas to see my children and ex-wife and stoke the fires of my own rage, or turn back east and let it smolder? Westward, I would confront my resentment of being denied a place in my children’s lives. Eastward, I would watch the next American Idol get selected. Westward, I would inspect my grown up daughter and soldier-boy son and measure the distance between us. Eastward, I would listen as my answering machine took the calls from my daughter asking why, when I had the opportunity, I did not pick her up for our road trip. Westward, I would enter empty handed over the thresholds of homes they made for themselves without my help. Eastward, I had my garden apartment with no garden in a city with a rotten core.
Neither alternative appeared particularly attractive.
I’ve noticed a few things since I kept this blog. One thing is the amount of rage I have in me, bursting out everywhere. I surprise myself sometimes with my rants: Seasonal Affective Disorder, yelling at God, fighting with my mother over wearing pajamas, the standoff in Wisconsin, the supermarket not selling Yuengling, and on and on and on. Sometimes it takes seeing it all on the page staring at you before you can really hear yourself. It’s no wonder that people avoid listening to themselves too closely, the horror is too much to bear.
The old man of Centralia also got under my skin. Dwelling among those poisonous fumes, refusing to leave because the government told him to, he and his town embodied for me the consequence of living with resentment. He reminded me of my son, and daughter, too, back when they lived with me when they were toddlers, having a fit in the store over whether I would buy a certain kind of cereal for them, lying on the floor, screaming, refusing to leave.
I’ve got Centralia in the center of me.
I sat like that, idling on the outskirts of Centralia, for quite a while until it occurred to me that I had another alternative. I had forgotten that I was chronically suicidal.
I immediately hatched a plan and turned West and headed towards Kansas, not with the intention to reach the sunflower state, the land of Oz and Dorothy and Toto, but to be driving in that direction when I ran off a bridge and crashed in a ravine. That would be the solution to all my troubles, but I had to make it look like an accident. I pictured my daughter getting the news. She would mourn little the father she never knew, but would have the great consolation that he died coming to see her. My son would be stunned to hear, upon getting off the plane from Afghanistan, that death visited Stateside, as well. He would forget our differences and raise a glass of brew with his buddies to toast my willingness to drive two thirds of the way across the country and give my life to his homecoming. Dying on the way to Kansas was a way to go to Kansas without ever having to be there.
I would not at all regret missing the conclusion to American Idol.
And so, I continued west, seeking an appropriate bridge. It had to be just the right one.