Optimism One – Five Photos, Nine Lives

Five Photos, Nine Lives

 

My grandfather sits on the cement in my parents’ garage taking the training wheels off my bike. I stand above him with my arms at my side, shaggy hair shielding my eyes and fear.

“Okay, Craig, you ready?” he asks. “I think so.”

I started drinking when I was 8 years old.

“When I let go, just keep pedaling. You’re going to be okay.”

Window blinds shut tight, doors locked, phone unanswered, answering machine turned down, car parked in the backyard. Drunk and spun again, a CD case, driver’s license, and hollowed out pen on the table next to me.

I remember watching M*A*S*H every day after school, fascinated by the breaking and repairing of relationships and bodies.

I am sitting on the bike, each hand gripping the handlebars and my feet resting on the pedals, my butt at the closest tip of the long banana seat, and my grandfather is running beside me, his right hand on the back of the seat and his left hand on the edge of the left grip of the handlebars.

When I got to the top of the stairs, my mom was already on the phone. She had walked out of the bathroom and not zipped up her jeans. Her hand on her mouth, her head dropped.

Passport #: 477646535. It says my birth date, 17 April 1970, but it doesn’t say my sobriety date, 5 March 2002. It also doesn’t say my birth name, but it does say the name I gave myself.

My grandfather walks into the garage and asks, “Why do you still have training wheels on that bicycle?” “I can’t ride without them,” I respond. “The hell you can’t. You’re too old to be riding around like that. Gimme a wrench.”

At the end of the last episode, from the sky and zooming out, color-faded rocks spell out ‘G-O-O-D-B-Y-E’ on the clean dirt.

I am obsessed with (addicted to) fear, Korea, addiction, China, escape, Japan, booze, Vietnam, pills, Laos, powder, Cambodia, needles, Thailand, health, Burma, exercise, Indonesia, guitar, England, meditation, Ireland, recovery, Italy, service, Guatemala, friendship, Belize, family, Costa Rica, reading, Nicaragua, writing, Mexico. I am obsessed with (addicted to) kissing love and life on the mouth. And running from it. I am obsessed with (addicted to) riding my bike.

My grandmother told my mom that my grandfather had called the sheriff to report finding a dead body in his field, then walked out into that field and shot himself in the chest with his shotgun.

“Okay,” my grandpa yells, “one…two…three!” He pushes me even harder than he had been running, launching me forward into a speed and freedom I have never known, my tiny legs like pistons, my hair pushed back by the wind, and a grin on my face that I have never grinned.

I never wanted to stop.

I am on the beach on an island in the Gulf of Siam, having taken several planes, buses, tuk-tuks, songthaews, and boats to get here, and am staying at a remote resort called The Sanctuary.

I never want to stop.

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