An excerpt from a much longer journey…

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Those last few days of breaking ties from the unholy matrimony of Redwood High were the longest of my goddamned life.

No sleep from the horror visions of the future; no semblance of normalcy from house party after house party; no stability because after graduation, there was nothing ahead but the great unknown. All this on top of a looming, invisible scythe swung back and forth above my overwhelmed psyche, threatening my fleeting grail of youth.

My body felt beaten, torn to shreds, gouged…as if a team of disgruntled minor league baseball rejects hopped up and humming on back alley steroids had gone ham on me.

What had I ingested? Better yet, what hadn’t I? There was Captain Morgan’s, the Chopin vodka, and the innumerable amount of Budweiser heavies over those final days. Then there was the Hennessy, the Tanqueray, the Jack, and the Hypnotic. Throw in all that smoke from the wood fire on the beach that final night, plus the cigarettes and that horrible horse leather concoction…what was it called…Amal nitrite…I’ve never had my junk suck back up into my body so fast in all my life after that stuff. Sprinkle a little bit of this and a little bit of that, then leaping over a blazing bonfire and burning my bits and it was no wonder I was in such a broken state.

Lord, please save my guts, my insides, my soul — they were on fire!

At 18 years old, in the year of our lord 2006, my insides and outsides should be beaming! Gleaming! Teeming with an energy that would make a cheetah envious in their spots. Stripes? You get the idea. I should, for a second, defend my biology for a moment because it shouldn’t ever have been asked to endure such heinous alcoholic poisons; such hasty, vapid revelry…such downright abuse. Those last few days before my high school crew's release, my mind at half-mast, I couldn’t even convince myself that my cells were still fresh, my skin visibly still smooth, my liver as clean as if a plumber had just roto-rooted the pipes. It worked in the past: these lies, these biological loopholes with gallons of Gatorade and gaggles of Ibuprofen, these subtle pleadings…so what the hell? What was the deal? Had I pushed my soul and genetics so far that I couldn’t even trick them anymore?

Some nights, when I finally was in my bed, would I, after this final hoorah with two middle fingers in the air pointed up at Redwood, able to go back to the way things were? Had I gone too far? Could I ever go back?

These thoughts and then some were hard queries to dwell on while at cruising at an altitude of 35,000 sitting in the back of a 747 United flight bound to London from New York the day after high school graduation.

It was Chinese New Year of the dog and goddammit if I didn’t feel and look like a mangy one as I sat in that faded, blueberry seat, its hinges rattling. I was all alone except for a pair of God-fearing nuns to the left of me and an unusually chipper overweight man forced to buy a seat solely for his bag of unknowns and overflow. The stewardesses had been nice enough to me considering my state. They had literally shown be to my seat at the sight of my skateboard, most likely assuming I was stoned and drunk — which I was. I don’t blame their impulse to take precautions whenever they see a young, red-faced boy with no friends or parents accompanying them on a 14-hour flight across the Atlantic.

After being directed to my seat, waiting for take-off, the metaphorical chains of my juvenile world falling from my wrists and hands, I looked around at my first taste of pure freedom, only to see a newborn baby vomiting all over itself and their mother. I looked at the mom’s face. She was dead asleep. Sometimes that’s the only way to get through such trials: go full unconscious. I leaned back, my head finally comforted by something other than fire hot sand, a wet sweatshirt, or a dirty pair of shoes. I couldn’t have been happier.

As my mind drifted off into the dark realms of the subconscious, I began to ponder, as I suspect all fledgling, wannabe existentialists are prone to do, how a free and responsible agent like myself, bent on determining their own development through acts of will, had gotten there.

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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