I finished my cigarette, and climbed down from the house-sized boulder where I was sitting. By the time I returned to my car my spirit had returned from soaring high above the treetops and grassy meadows in Moraine Park. I loved this place nestled deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and the National Park by the same name. I felt renewed and at peace--a feeling I had not experienced in a long time. I gave myself to the mountains and they in return washed me clean.
Whatever had caused me to flee to this secluded place far away from any person was forgotten. Leaving that place, I felt as if I had left something behind, the wind had it now and it was unwilling to give the secret back. I wanted to make sense of it all, so I told myself I needed to get away because I had decisions to make, like what college I was going to attend or what I wanted to do with my life. I even thought that perhaps I was still angry at God for taking my father away from me, or angry at my father for abandoning me without any direction, guidance or hope for the future. I wasn’t completely sure any more, but I knew I did not want to really know what I was leaving behind.
The true reason I needed to be quiet and get away from people was that I needed to forget. Something was so gruesome I simply could not process or assimilate it into my long term memory. As I rounded the corner and parked in the driveway to my home, my memory had been wiped clean. I went on as if nothing ever happened. I don’t believe it was a conscious effort, but a kindness either God or my mind gave me in order to survive what I was living through.
As often as I could between meeting with AFB, school, drama club, and my job as a cashier at a gas station, I would get up early in the morning and drive to that same house-sized boulder, smoke cigarettes and let my spirit soar into the wilderness, exploring the many beaver dams in the valley and high above where the eagles nest on the rocky cliffs hundreds of feet above the valley floor. After a few hours, my spirit would return to me, I would put the extinguished butts into a plastic bag and drive home. The horrors of before were forgotten once more to achieve normalcy in everyday life.
It was going to Moraine Park that saved me during those times. I am not sure what would have happened if I couldn't go somewhere and find peace. I still hold that place as sacred and even though I don't get to visit as often as I would like, I always leave feeling refreshed.
Numbness began to eat away at my very humanity, I craved to feel something. Even though the memories were compartmentalized safely away. I felt like I was always trying to catch the shadow of what I left in the park. I turned to drugs and alcohol to help me feel something and to help me forget that I needed to forget. After a while, I felt that the drugs and alcohol wanted more from me than I was willing to give, so I turned to pornography. With it I was able to completely dissociate from reality. I would stare at the computer screen for hours and hours, not even realizing I had forgotten to eat or leave the house the entire day.
Eventually, as the needs of my body became more and more urgent, the need to eat or use the toilet. I would feel suffocating shame and guilt that I had been neglecting even the most basic needs of human survival. I promised myself that I would never do that again. Only to be caught in the continuing cycle as the next day I would start all over again of euphoria, shame and guilt.
I hated myself for what I was doing, I found it ironic that I was smart enough to get away from the addictive hold of drugs and yet I was wholeheartedly giving myself to pornography. I almost wished I was a drug addict instead, “At least I would have a social life,” I told myself, “not trapped in this house all day.”
Upon graduation from High School, I was given my first opportunity to reinvent myself. My mother and I moved to Reynoldsburg, a suburb of Columbus Ohio. She had found her dream job at a large church as a pastor's secretary. I felt that the new surroundings would cure my addiction and I could be whomever I wanted to be without all the baggage and false expectations that growing up in a small town placed on me. I thought that if no one knew me from before, that they would like me, that I would like me.
Sadly, I was still me, struggling with the same things as before, the only thing I was able to completely leave in Colorado was my drug abuse. I had been an intern at a local radio station, it was natural to me that I would find a trade school and eventually find a job in broadcasting.
After the nine month course, I found a position as an overnight DJ in Millersburg just south of Wooster. It was there I could finally put the shadow memories behind me, I could be whomever I wanted to be. I could be “Joe Knight,” the worlds most famous and loved radio personality.
I packed a small suitcase and moved out of my parents house for the first time to live my dream. Even though I had a regular time slot, the few hours spent on air each day was not enough to pay the bills and keep me fed at the same time. I then found a job as a part-time prep cook at the hotel I stayed at before my apartment was ready.
It was there I was happy almost truly happy. In the mornings I would leave my spartan apartment and walk to the kitchen to prepare lunch for the hotel’s guests and local customers. In the evening I played music, read the news, and produced my own commercial advertisements. It was a short lived picturesque life in a picturesque town in the middle of amish country.
A few months passed. Tourist season was over and I lost my job the hotel. I began to deliver pizza and broiled chicken to the many residences around town. Working as a delivery driver alongside working at the radio station simply wasn't enough to keep from being evicted out of my apartment. It was there that my dream died and I moved back in with my mother.
I decided that I the reason I failed was that I needed a degree in journalism and since the local community college did not offer any of those courses I would study literature and creative arts. it was there I met someone who would change my life forever. Andrea or Andy, as she liked to be called, ate at the same lunch counter as I did. She invited me over one evening for dinner and to watch the presidential election results. We were both disappointed as the Democratic nominee won the vote. For the rest of the evening Andy and I drank wine and wondered how the world would end with Bill Clinton as our new president.
Inseparable after that we became as close as friends could possibly be, given the soon coming political apocalypse.