With it’s dull, hot, tan everything. Its twang. Its you’re-not-from-around-here-are-ya stares.
With its bible belt lashing me at every turn and the dusty shit-kicking rednecks beating the ever-living-love out of me for being different.
With its big steak, big steers, and big ignorance.
I came to the place they said is bigger than all the other places. I came to that shit-hole when I was seventeen. My last year of high school forgotten, sloughed off the top like flour. I came to Texas because my stepfather got a new gig, one that paid more and funded my parent’s addiction to stuff and things and booze and idiocy. I came to Texas begrudgingly. I left behind Nan and Pop, Vina, and my quiet self. I became boisterous in Texas. I started speaking my mind. I dated the black boys and girls of any color and got All-State for soccer. I was going to shit-kick my way out of that southern travesty, but my dear Ma had different plans, the in-state college kind of different plans. My stepfather said, “Choose. Choose between your dream house or sending your kid to college.” She chose the dream house and kept me as a slave in memory of my dead sister for two more years before I tore my skin off and left it behind. I never went back. Or, as I like to tell it, I got out as fast as my damn Yankee ass could carry me.
Texas is a joke in the telling of my past. The place where I came out and was beaten with bible verses by my best friends. The place where I was chased by three men in a pickup, their rifles pointed at my head. The place where a restaurant napkin with the words, “some people deserve to be hated” was left on the windshield of my car to be found after my shift at the restaurant. The place where I explained to a high school boy that rape isn’t okay and he actually listened. The place where I fell in love for the second time. The place where I saw my family for what it was. Texas was a pause in my life, a jumping off point, that lead me to New York to write and live a real life. Texas is hidden in the recesses of my brain and that’s where it will stay. My mother hides herself there still. She has a weird mush of an accent, a mix of 40+ years living in New England mixed with the nails-on-chalkboard twang of North Dallas. I hate it.
I could have stayed with Nan and Pop. I could have finished my last year of school in New England like a normal human being, but my mother guilt tripped me, begged me, laid my sister’s death blame on me, and so I felt sorry for her for the seven-thousandth time in my life and left my Nan sobbing in the street behind our moving truck. I often think of how different my life might have been had I stayed, but I can no longer choose between good or bad. I can only see the path and the lessons learned from it. Eventually I came home, but it was too late. Pop was already dying. And after they took me away, I could never really return for good. Even now, I live in Boston, not in Nottingham, not on the corner of Little John and Robin Hood, not in that little ranch with the swimming pool where Max died, or the lake where we had winter bonfires. I can’t seem to stay there. I’ve tried. Six months here, three there. I always leave. Maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll find in the woods or that I’ll wander onto the dirt driveway where those six boys raped me, maybe that’s where I need to go. I’m forty-five minutes away and I barely think of home. And Texas is a nightmare. So I daydream in reality and in the now. I stay here. I write here. I wash Dallas and Wilmington and New York and Los Angeles away and I say Boston. I say Boston is really all that’s ever mattered. There is no mystery here. There is only home and a real life that I crawled through the desert to find. There is bliss and a future and the anxiety of my transgressions, which is the realest thing I know.