I had no cell phone service. No way to leave. I had ridden here in the back seat of a minivan, lurching through miles of winding and branching dirt roads, through a night black with trees and dust and stories of fights.
Once called “a modern-day Jack Kerouac” by NPR after he hitchhiked 7,000 miles through the United States, Josh deLacy has since found homes in the Pacific Northwest, the Episcopal Church, and the post calvin. He is the managing director of Branded Look LLC and communications director at St. Luke’s Church. Josh’s writing has appeared in places such as The Emerson Review, Front Porch Review, and Perspectives.
I want selfless people to have blissful, perfect lives. When I argue with someone about selfishness—“it’s a virtue. The Golden Rule just makes betas feel better about not standing up for themselves”—I want to point to loving families and say, “See? This is possible. This is good,” but I can’t.
I don’t do anything for the man who bangs on the church door and tells me about his probation and court date in Bremerton an hour and a half away and the company that let him go after thirty years to save themselves a retirement plan and the chronic pain in his shoulder and the botched knee surgery and how he just needs eight dollars and ten cents for the ferry or else they’ll throw him back in jail over a lousy eight dollars and ten cents and could I please, please, I know you’re good guy, please just give me eight dollars and ten cents for the ferry?
Ten-foot-tall green letters shout 21+ MARIJUANA to every northbound vehicle on Martin Luther King Jr Way. The arrow that runs beneath the letters points across the street to a stubby building marked by a green cross. 21+ Recreational Marijuana! hangs in the front window.
D.A.R.E. to explore the unexplored. Here be monsters and suddenly we’re the first ones, wading through myth and legend and finding freedom, happiness, and warmth. We don’t see dragons or lose our grades. We don’t get pregnant. We aren’t shoving suppositories up our asses à la Trainspotting or whoring à la Requiem for a Dream. It’s just nice. Warm and cozy and soft. One of us uses the word “underwhelming.”
I don’t know about Saudi Arabia. I’m not rich, either. I don’t lead an empire. I don’t have Kurt Cobain’s talent or Robin Williams’ fame or Donald Trump’s confidence. I’m just another guy. Another unexceptional guy. Every morning I shower with second-guesses. I brush my teeth with self-doubt. Half of my personality comes from insecurity. Maybe more. I’m not sure.
It’s not a pretty place. The hazy opium dens and the tobacco-smoke saloons disappeared from dusty California mining towns long ago, and they’ve since set up shop here. You want opium? You got it. How about Craigslist prostitutes? pirated textbooks? fake I.D.s or stolen credit cards?
No one believes it. I didn’t believe it, until I grabbed the bumper, tried to lift, and realized I didn’t even know how to grip the thing. I’m writing about an experience I still don’t fully understand, and the sharing of it is even more incomprehensible.
We promise love between sheets and in delivery rooms and at hospital bedsides. We say “God is love” and “the greatest of these is love.” But when it comes down to it, whenever we talk about love, none of us are really saying the same thing.