Issue No. 19 • Spring 2018
“San Andreas Fault
Moved it’s fingers
Through the ground
Such an awful sound.
– Natalie Merchant, San Andreas Fault”
It’s the eve of my twentieth birthday. I am sitting on a hard mattress pad that substitutes a bed in my grandparent’s condo. The walls are white with a texture that looks like skin. All the furniture in the room, two wooden chairs, an ornate mock antique nightstand, and a wooden table with a marble surface, are pushed to the sides to make way for me and the mat that I have been sleeping on for the past month. My mother calls this the “staging room” – a collection of suitcases and clothing racks that have been holding her clothes along with my sisters’ for the past few months while the house that we actually live in is being remodeled.
It’s almost 11:30 pm on January 12, 2018. I am about to turn twenty and I can’t help but think about my life so far. I have been to eight countries; seen seven states; owned two passports; been to the emergency room once; gone through three debit cards and two credit cards; applied to one boarding school and twelve colleges; got one C in Pre-Algebra; held one job and three internships; went through two laptops and four cell phones; had two major panic attacks (both in college); kissed two boys; had zero boyfriends; thought I found love once; and attended one funeral. A pathetic list to some, an okay list to me, and a life well lived to others. All of these events and numbers that define me, have now led up to me, sitting on a mat in a white room in Pasadena, California, staring at my computer screen.
I hate to say it, but if my life were a movie it be boring and predictable. I have tried for so long to break out of the mundane suburbia that has defined my life for 18 years, but in that process, I realize that I have been living out a cliché. When I decided to come out, I felt trapped and claustrophobic living in a town that is less than ten square miles where everybody knows everybody. In this town, my triumphs followed me, but more importantly so did my mistakes. I chose to go to school in New York City where every gay kid chooses to go to discover themselves. But I, along with every other gay with a pride sticker on their laptop, am living a cliché. A life that has not only been planned, but also a life that has already been lived.
I don’t want to be like this life forever, though, I don’t want to become a person that is predictable; I want to actually live something, through something. But as I speak this into existence, I know that I have to be careful because misfortune’s presence can come as suddenly as it’s absence. In my lifetime, I recall the daze and euphoria of the early 2000s that was abruptly ended by 9/11. After that, an air of caution and paranoia entered that still hasn’t quite left yet. Before that, I think of the dizzying happiness of the hippie movement in the 1960s that sharply ended in 1969 with the Manson family murders, but that period of time was laced with unrest, referencing the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. But, for all intents and purposes, the current climate of my life is peaceful.
In my twenties, my goal is to live a life with purpose, whatever that may be. I want to take this time, this year, and the next ten to come, as a period of self exploration and discovery, but I am also incredibly fearful of what’s next. My father told me that my twenties are a time to “make mistakes and learn from them,” but part of me wants to selfishly fast forward to the part where I have already figured it out and skip over all the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to solve the problem, I just want the correct answer. I want to cheat life even though I know that this is not how it works. I envy my parents and their age because of the fact that the made it out alive. They’ve seen it all and they’ve already beat their twenty somethings. They beat the simulation and are now eating the fruits of their labor. For now, I have already made my dreams, and my plans to achieve them, but I don’t know if I’m ready for what happens if and when I realize them. Or worse, what happens if they crumble before me and I’m left with a shattered picture of success and happiness?
I took a trip to Park City, Utah a little less than a month ago for a family ski trip. On our last day, my parents decided to visit Arches National Park, a place that was on my father’s bucket list. It was about a five hour drive from Park City to Arches and about a five and a half hour drive from Arches to the airport, where we would have to go to immediately after our impromptu day trip. We all woke up early, loaded the rental SUV, and embarked on our journey to the national park. My dad chose to DJ the entire car ride, which led my sisters and I to put on headphones and tune out the music my dad had saved on his phone – a mismatched combination of Top 40, classical music, and alternative rock. When we were almost at the park, the red orange towers of stone approaching our view and lining the rich blue skyline, my dad exclaimed “I love this song!” and raised the volume to a song I had never heard before.
“It’s Natalie Merchant,” he said swaying along to the song even though no one was listening to him.
“What’s it called?” I asked, hearing the song through my headphones and being enamored by the soft melody and the poetic vigor of the lyrics.
“San Andreas Fault!”
The song talks about a paradise, an Eden, that Natalie Merchant creates, only to have it crumble in her fingertips. A dream that collapses beneath her.
When I was a child I wanted to be a doctor, inspired by a family friend of mine who was an OB/GYN. After he told me what the schooling process was like, I was quickly dissuaded. Next, I wanted to a mortician or a forensic scientist, with my inspiration being Ducky or Abby from NCIS, but this was quickly axed when I realized that I have a fear of death and that I’m not good at science. Now, I want to be a graphic designer and a writer, and I have put too much time into these two professions to find something else I think I’m good at.
My dreams always looked the same. I would be rich, obviously, living in a big city, with two dogs, a cat, maybe a child, and a loving and caring wife. I would go to a job that didn’t really feel like a job, but still brought in the money. As the years passed, I grew up and discovered more about myself; new developments happened and the dream would change. I realized that I was allergic to cats and heterosexuality, that maybe a child isn’t the best fit for me, and the big city would have to be New York, but the meat of the dream stayed the same even if some of the details changed. But, in this Eden and in this peaceful paradise, I’m waiting for the San Andreas Fault to tear a crack in my dream and crumble it to the ground, but I want to have faith in myself that I can rebuild it again. Edit and the structures and build on the previous foundation for a fantasy that will stand the test of time.
It’s one in the morning now. I have been twenty for a whole hour, reflecting on what my life has led to thus far. The mattress pad is still uncomfortable but I am making do with what I have. When I look in the mirror, I see that youth still has its roots embedded in my body and in my skin. I am at the point in my life where I am still buoyed by my youth, but I have to start thinking about aging and getting old. The daydream of my twenties will not last forever, just like how the innocence and chaos of my teenage years did not last forever. Reality strikes. I will be on a plane in two days to New York City, back in school, back into my routine. The dream still holds. The San Andreas Fault is nowhere to be seen.
January 13, 2018