Tuesday, January 22, 2008


My name is John. I guess you’d say that I live a transient style of existence – always moving, from one place to another. My dad was in the Army, and I spent most of my childhood growing up in places like Georgia, Texas, and Alabama… until I was 15. That was when he was sent to Iraq during the war, and I came to live in Portland with my mother, to be closer to her relatives. Not that I really cared – I had only briefly met them once or twice for some holiday or other.

I spent most of my time avoiding my mother as much as possible. She worked downtown as a receptionist; she had to to be able to feed my sister and I. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep her away from the bottle, and she drank. A lot. She got angry a lot, and sometimes hit my sister and me. So I just stayed away… the streets of Portland, the hills, the parks, the trees… gave me solace, an escape for me. Looking back, it wasn’t that I didn’t care about finishing school, or what my sister or mother did – I just needed to get out, get away from it all.

After my father came back from the war, things were pretty strained. My parents fought a lot… and they eventually separated. That’s when I knew – I just had to get out, to escape from this town. I sometimes took the Greyhound up to visit my father in Fort Lewis, skipping classes on a Friday – against my mother’s wishes, of course.

After my sister got pregnant and moved to California, I didn’t feel that there was much point in sticking around anymore. I dropped out of school when I was 17 and finished up my GRE before most of my peers even graduated high school – it just seemed like one more obstacle to my getting out on my own. Like they wanted to hold you back.

I remember those last few years in Portland, waking up to the grey morning light filtering through the east-facing windows. Watching as the sun slowly burned away the bitter heaviness of the clouds to reveal the glistening whiteness of The Mountain. I would stretch out my arm to it; as if it was a jewel just out of reach… it felt special, like the world was revealing some of its beauty to me. I remember feeling elation, awe and mystery at the site... a mystery that would drive me to seek out my own path away from here.