Immediately I recall my rote biographical information:
20 years old, between junior and senior years of college, an English major, a
summer intern at a magazine, a lifeguard on the other days, newly broken up with her
I lean against the pewter grey downtown building, warm in early Oklahoma City summer, wind coming up the street, around the corner, finding its way past everything. Wisps of hair float around my face. I light a Camel Light and inhale. Smoking is an escape. The wind is an escape. I look at the screen of my Samsung slider phone, at the fifteen unreturned text messages and unanswered calls. This is not a moment of inescapable weakness. I don’t respond.
I inhale again and consider the name on the screen.
As in, a course or path that one follows, a mark left by something that has passed, to follow the footprints of.
I think about this name as it has defined me; trace its significance in my life over my own life and it’s validity.
In one way, purely spatial, I am free.
Am I, completely?
What I wasn’t prepared to learn then:
Anger may move someone physically distant, but psychically you are bound to them through it.
What I now know:
Tiptoeing to the edge of and peering down time’s bygone rabbit hole is precarious. On June 21, 2007, as I leaned against that sturdy tower, there was a freedom I both craved and feared. Back against a wall, I was a student only of forward perspective. Paths, structures, tracings went out from me, connecting me to distant horizons. I have been afraid that by looking back, I could somehow once more lose that emancipation.
By not lingering, I am bound. By not looking back, I am bound. This binding keeps me as one version of whole. What other story will I hold on to? What about the making of, the preservation of me?
As a child I was taught the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and of Lot’s wife who looked back.
Lot and his wife, unnamed in the Bible, were told by visiting angels to flee their home and the city of Sodom. They were instructed to not look behind themselves. To just go forward. Lot’s wife—maybe fearful, sorrowful, simply hesitant—stopped on the plain and looked back toward her home once more. She was turned immediately into a pillar of salt.
This June, 2017, a dream:
Trace and I are staying in a hotel. It’s hard to navigate—full of hexagonal and oddly-shaped windows, tilted walls, triangular corners. There are crowds of tourists snapping photos and separating us. We miscommunicate about the elevator’s location, about which car to take to the airport, about when the flight leaves. I leave the hotel first and arrive before him at the airport. The attendant smiles, nods, gives me priority boarding. I get on. I peer around as the plane fills. We take off. I look back, out the window, and never see him again.
Liz Blood lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she works as managing editor of The Tulsa Voice and lives with a cat named Oatmeal and a dog named Raisin. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her work has appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, Hunger Mountain, Queen Mob's Tea House, Numero Cinq, United Hemispheres Magazine, and elsewhere. More at lizblood.com.
Liz urges you to check out Warrior Sisters, a women-centered, empowerment-based, judgement-free, cost-free self defense training. Besides physical training, the courses teach women verbal and awareness skills, boundary-setting, confidence-building, and de-escalation techniques. Visit warrior-sisters.org.