Chapter 3: Illumination

I had characterized my life as mostly linear until that day in September. The day I left. Daily routines abstracted to weekly routines; weekly routines abstracted to yearly routines. Linear. Would that seemingly endless train track of routine ever end, or curve, or branch? Would I know it if it did? The man I loved had become increasingly disrespectful and despicable, and like a frog being slowly heated in a pot of water, I didn’t notice, even when that water began to bubble and sputter. That September morning I did notice, though. It was as if a switch had been flipped inside me, and as I wordlessly packed a bag, I thought about how I’d explain it. Turns out I didn’t. I just walked out the door and never looked back.

I drove through the day with no particular direction in mind, grateful that our hybrid had the capacity to go far without stopping. The only real limiting factor I had to making progress in escaping the linear nature of my soon-to-be-prior life was the growing discomfort of my bladder. I did not listen to music. I did not cry. I did not call anyone. I just drove.

It was close to midnight and I was exhausted, so I pulled off an exit into a sleepy suburb of Denver. I’d always wanted to experience Colorado after the busyness of California, and it was as good a place to start over as any. I spent the next few weeks getting together some semblance of a new life. A new driver’s license, new apartment, and a decent job as a designer with a local web outfit. I made few friends, mostly through work. Emotionally I was still quite numb, not quite believing that my train had jumped those tracks and I was on quite a different track now. Did I like this? How far did this track stretch off toward the horizon?

As I walked the few blocks to work one morning, that emotional numbness evaporated as I passed a mother berating her child as they waited at a bus stop. I have never had children, but something maternal in me fired to life, and as I saw this woman almost abusing her child, and in public no less, I felt an urging to act. I was on her in an instant, peeling her cold grip away from her son’s shoulders, pinning her up against the poster-clad wall of the bus stop. My eyes met hers with an icy yet fiery gaze, and the words that came out of my mouth were not from my mind. “Do. Not. Do. That. Ever. Again.” I punctuated each word by pressing her body up harder against the wall. “Just don’t. Be nice.”

Just as quickly as I had engaged the mother, I was gone, walking briskly down the sidewalk. I passed one nondescript building after another, but then came to a block taken up by just one very ornate building, a Catholic church. I had not been to church since I was very little, but something pulled me in today. The heavy doors slowly shut behind me, dampening the sound of the outside world and leaving me standing alone in a great expanse of marble and wood, looking around at the patron saints on the outer walls and the weather pews longing for someone to sit in them. I walked directly over to the closest figurine. I wasn’t sure which saint it was, but I was sure that whatever it was, it would help me. I lit the closest candle to me, turned around, and sat in one of the weathered pews.

I closed my eyes and glanced skyward, hearing nothing but the silence of the vastness of the space. I thought of my candle and what I hoped it symbolized. Rebirth. Renewal. Hope. And I smiled.

This story is part of a series of stories I’m writing as part of a commitment to sketch each day of 2016. My #365daydraw project yields an image each month, by popular choice, to serve as inspiration for each chapter.
Read more about my #365daydraw challenge