In Motion Monologue
I can’t remember for the life of me, the last time I stayed put. By the time I was 10, I’d lived
in 5 different homes. Seemingly nomad-like, I grew accustomed to a life of being on the
move. Laying foundations one moment then uprooting the next.
By the time I was 15, I’d become agitated if we’d been in one place for more than 2 years.
Like an allergic reaction, I’d itch and get anxious and feel the walls closing in on me. It also
didn’t help when Mum and Dad were racing up and down the stairs hollering at each other.
Hollering? I put that lightly. More like full on screaming matches followed by objects
hurtling through the air. I became so numb to it like background noise – a soundtrack to life
per say. As long as I wasn’t directly involved, it wasn’t my problem. Having said that, it was
inevitable that I’d become a direct target of my mother’s accusations and abuse especially
when Dad had enough and crashed at my uncle’s place for 6 months straight before getting
his own place.
To say that period in life was a dark time is an understatement. It was perpetual, agonizing
and plain confusing. Brainwashing is no joke and once you’ve reached the point where high
school feels like the best 8 hour escape of your life per week, you really start to lose grip of
what true joy is and start to question if you really are worthy of happiness.
Fast forward 10 years, I’d somehow managed to climb up with hands on work experience,
sorted myself a decent job with good pay, rented out a great apartment and had not spoken
or seen my mother in 8 years by this point. I remember having nightmares and being
flooded with guilt about not being able to withstand the physical beatings. I often told
myself I’d chickened out.
It just hurt too much both mentally and externally. There’s so much battering and bruising
your psyche can take. You naturally burst and have enough. So, I left…just like that.
I can say I’ve tasted momentary freedom a couple times to say the least. While naturally
fleeting, there’s always a crash. Without guidance, the concept of freedom transcends into
repression. Suddenly, you look around and see solid communities and friend’s families
looking at you funny because you’re used to serving yourself first and putting others second.
You are the only thing that matters to yourself – to keep surviving.
Out of the rotating partners, fair weather friendships and hazy nights under the influence,
the one thing I couldn’t shake off was not being able to stay put. I knew once the agitation
and itching set in, it meant having to uproot yet again. I’ll never know where I’m heading in
those moments but one thing I know for sure is to keep moving.
By: Karina Curlewis
performed by Ashley Wilson
Made in a Trailer Park
I remember the broken years you lived
in that rumpled land submarine
someone else had run aground at the park
behind the drive-in. The faded
green trim. The once upon a time
white, a wind-buffed shade of bone.
I remember how we would make up
stories of all the lives given to it, lost
to it, as if that dented trailer
were a ship night-mangled on a reef
of failed dreams, again and again,
over the years before you and your mom
pieced it together for your own doomed
voyage, which seemed destined
to leave you stranded there.
I remember the way your mom rigged
up that shower out back. Those three shivery
buckets. The way you squealed
from the cold, even in summertime.
I remember the way she would rinse
between double features. The glow
from the giant screen filtered
through the two small windows
of your home, brightening her shoulders
as if she did have stardust,
as if she might have been
a washed up, washed out, shooting star.
I remember all those movies.
The hollow sound of the tin roof
beneath our feet as if the world might
swallow us whole. The day
that hail storm pinned you
down for hours, as if trying
to break through, trying to break you.
I remember how you swore
you’d get out. You’d wash your hands
of that place, of that life.
Here it is all these years later,
someone else catching sight of you
from that not quite collapsed abode.
A girl, maybe, on the one-eared
rocking horse you left behind,
corralled in the stony yard. A mom,
or dad, or aunt, maybe, looking up
from a feeble kitchen chair
plunked by the new water hookup,
watching your massive face,
that long ago ache in your eyes
something you have turned to gold.
No one even noticing the rotted corner
of the big screen. Peeling layers of paint.
All they see is the tear you have trained
to run down your right cheek. As if
you have channeled some part of you
that never got out, that never truly got away.
by Lafayette Wattles
Video by Meg Willing
By Kansas, her neck sloped down to her shoulders as gently as the prairie rolled out and away from the road. By Oklahoma, her heart was a plateau she was ready to push everything over. By Texas her skin began to peel. She stopped for gas and almonds and sunscreen.
She’d wanted it her whole life. She built it once when she was a child, and had been revising it in her mind until three days ago, when she signed over her Tercel as down payment.
For that first draft, she’d collected wood scraps from the construction site next door – from the growing skeleton of a house that would soon harbor the freckled shit-wad who would publicize everything she wanted to keep from view, so that her life became a series of deeper and deeper retreats. Then, in a Dumpster behind the JoAnn’s, she found scraps of linen and burlap and vinyl that she used to cover the miniature windows, to upholster the tiny bench seat where she dreamed a real version of herself would read books while mountains rose up behind her, behind the glass.
Always, she’d preferred gray days when the sky hung low and heavy, hemming her in. When she was twelve and needed x-rays of her mouth, they’d lain her on a table and spread a heavy smock across her body. She was disappointed the x-rays took only a couple of minutes.
For the real Winnebago, an ’06 Voyage 34, she signed over her Tercel, and thought the chances were fifty-fifty that Jeremy would take care of the monthly payments as the statements arrived in the mail, until he heard from her. Did the hope in his brain make her love him more?
The gas was cheap, the sunscreen was Banana Boat, and the almonds were dry-roasted. The boy who took her money had the same indestructability of her own son; she would have hated him before she became mother to a boy. Now all she had was her love and this other, aimless energy.
The air outside was cool. The sky was wide and open and pink. The Winnebago ticked as it cooled itself and she counted off seconds between ticks to see if they occurred at regular intervals. Have the humility to learn from others. She did love her strange husband, who took so much more than he could ever see for granted. Her phone rang in the glove box. It hadn’t rung as much that day as it had the day before, or the day before that. And its tone had changed. She let it stop ringing then took it out of the glove box and turned it off. Either there were limits out there to catch her, or there weren’t.
She watched the boy watching her through the window, though with the sunset reflected in the glass, there wasn’t much she could see about his face.
by Meghan Gilliss
Photos & installation by Willa Rose Vogel
Vignette for a Vignette
She cursed as the twig cracked beneath her boot. The sound, nearly imperceptible to human ears, easily startled her quarry back into docility. The hreinin’s amenability served well for hunting and normal work but was not what she needed today. She cursed again as she trudged to find another vantage point to fade from the herds awareness.
The gravel crunched and spat as she careened down the narrow road. Her father’s not quite anachronistic letter had found her, dragging her back into a life she had fought hard to leave behind.
The tiny dilapidated trailer loomed in the tree line, smelling of molder and rot instead of roasting meat and mulled wine. The sleigh to the side, once one of her favorite of her father’s toys, lay in shambles.
The letter, written with quill in a tight script, had given little indication as to what had caused him to abandon the trailer or the job, or why he needed her instead of one of her siblings.
She began a quick mental assessment of the things she would need to repair the slay as her truck came to a halt.
She squinted towards the herd as she pulled her hood tight against the wind. She no longer remembered if it had been days or weeks since she had moved from the spot, having no way to mark the passage of time.
The herd had slowly forgotten her presence, gone back to playing and fighting amongst themselves, digging through the snow for scraps of food below.
She had had her eye on a spritely little doe for some time, hoping she would be the first. The little doe had a way of prancing and charging that kept even the adults on their toes.
She could not keep a small smile from creeping towards the corners of her mouth as she watched the little doe thunder towards an aggressive buck.
“You will be my Thunder”, she whispered to herself.
The buck lowered his head to meet Thunder’s charge and the hunter’s trace of a smile turned into a full-blown grin.
Instead of completing the charge Thunder leapt.
And Thunder began to fly.
by Joe Sanchez
I’m sitting in our tent right now, camped outside of Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Virginia. They let hikers set up in the woods near their...well, I guess it’s a campus really. They have this huge brewpub and an outdoor stage with outdoor bars, small stone bonfires, and cornhole and horseshoe sets. There’s a “Royal Flush” pinball machine like the one you used to play at Mountain Fire Pizza, before they got rid of it..
After the past few days of hiking it was such a huge relief to hitchhike down here. There’s no shower, but I did give myself a towel bath in one of their outdoor bathrooms. The beer was great and I’ve never eaten fries so fast in my life. Some of my trail friends are camped around me. We wandered back here with our headlamps, fairly drunk (or at least tipsy), and crawled into our tents. One of them, See-More, just sleeps under his rain fly--he doesn’t even use the tent itself. I couldn’t do that. The thought of ants and frogs and stuff crawling on me at night gives me the creeps.
I was long overdue in writing this. To tell you the truth, I have been so busy hiking North that I’ve rarely thought about you. That’s one of two things I hoped might happen with this trip; I would either obsess over you, or I would “forget” you. Of course I can’t forget you. It’s been over a year. There was a long time where I cried myself to sleep every night in our apartment. I don’t really know when that stopped. Months. Judy and Amos finally talked me into seeing a therapist. I know you aren’t haunting me, but I have been haunting myself. I felt like a ghost in our apartment. Around our friends. Around town. I clinged onto every scrap of you that remained. I miss your dark hair and how you would smile more with your eyes than your mouth. I always wanted to know what you were thinking--what was going on behind that hint of a smirk.
I did leave my customer service job. That’s good, right? You hated how much I hated that job. I’ve been making ends meet by substitute teaching, dog walking/sitting, and a lot of freelance work. None of it pays particularly well by itself, but together it’s not a bad living and I rarely have time to be bored. What am I saying; “have?” Had. I guess I got ahead of myself. I’m on the Appalachian Trail right now! It just felt like the right time to do it, you know? We always wanted to go and I’m not chained down to my work, so. I thanked the landlord and broke the lease. Used our, well, mostly my at this point, savings to buy gear. Did the research. Talked to Cara about it. Your sister has been so supportive in general. She gave me her maps, loaned me her stove, and some other things that didn’t get trashed during her hike. I haven’t really used the maps because everybody out here uses this phone app called Guthook’s, but I still carry them anyway. I like to pretend they’re a protective totem or juju or something.
Every single day out here is beautiful. Hard, but beautiful. Each step feels like a small triumph, in a way, and it seems like the most successful hikers (or, at least, the ones most likely to complete the trail) have the mantra that; “There’s one way out of this, and that’s to finish. One foot in front of the other, keep walking north.” I’ve relied on that, and them, a lot. We all have trail names at this point, if we’re going to. There’s See-More, of course, which is a play on his name (Seymore) and the fact that he frequently struts through camp in his underwear. I have become pretty close friends with Way. She carries a copy of the Tao Te Ching and talks about this trail being her Way, and “infinite mysteries this” and “unknowing that.” You would have gotten a kick out of her, if her woo-woo talk didn’t annoy you too much. Camped across from me are Ted and Young Ted. They’re brothers. The older one’s name is Ted, and I don’t actually know Young Ted’s name but somebody called him that and it stuck. I cheated and gave myself a trail name. It’s not really a big deal if you give yourself one, but I didn’t like a lot of the names people were suggesting for me. I thought a lot about it through the Smoky Mountains and decided it should be Hummingbird. I hum, you liked when they’d migrate through our backyard, I don’t know. It works. And there hasn’t been another Hummingbird this year yet, so people know it’s me (if they know me). My gear is too drab to really stand out. You know at least half the guys hiking out here wear girl’s shorts in the most ridiculous colors? I’m talking hot pink booty shorts. Nobody really cares. It’s obvious who the hikers are, and when I go into town it’s impossible to blend in even after a shower and stowing my pack somewhere.
I had been so focused on my own physical pain and struggle as I hiked through the cold southern states that I didn’t think about much. I either tried to push the thoughts out, or think about my next week of hiking and plan it out in my head. I’ve been snowed on three times, thought for certain I would freeze to death one night, and though I haven’t had any bear encounters yet, I have nearly stepped on two huge rattlesnakes since entering Virginia. The weather is hot now, and the trail is full of flowers and shady green leaves. The past couple days were really intense though. I came down off a mountain into a two-story shelter next to a waterfall. Spent the night there with Way and a few other fast hikers we had caught up with. Then, I had the long trek up The Priest, a mountain I’d been hearing about for weeks. The first 4k footer for a long time! When I got near the summit there was a shelter (also called The Priest shelter) where hikers confessed their “sins” to the mountain in the trail log. Some were funny, some were sarcastic, some were heartfelt and sad. A lot of confessions were about not burying poop properly or hanging bear bags right.
I picked up the pen to write something funny, but I just...started writing. I wrote an entire page of all my regrets, all my anger that you left me alone. My frustration of being unable to move on, and my disinterest in seeing other people while our friends would hint at; “how long it’s been,” in their loving but tone-deaf way. I wrote about how I just want you, and our future, back; and how I don’t want a new future without you. It came out very real, and very sudden. I lost myself in my writing.
Way hiked into the site and set her backpack down next to me on the picnic table. I realized I was crying and I tried to hide my face so she wouldn’t see; regardless, she could definitely see that my hand was trembling over the page. When I had finished writing, I moved to rip the page out. She placed her hand down on the log so I couldn’t lift it. “I had no idea,” she said. She had been reading over my shoulder. I hadn’t told anybody on the trail about you. I’d avoided talking too much about myself anyway, but I didn’t want to invite your ghost to follow me. You left for work one morning and there was a snowstorm and you never made it home. I was alone.
“It’s nothing,” I told Way. She nodded.
“Everything is Nothing,” she replied. Her matter-of-fact nature combined with the absurdity of everything she says is probably my favorite thing about her. She gently took the shelter log and pen from me to write her own confession. I sat there and ate a flavorless granola bar. The oats rolled around on my tongue and felt like lumps going down my throat. The more I thought about Nothing, the more hollow I felt inside. I wanted to shred that page up; not to prevent others from reading it, but to somehow get rid of all of those feelings that were tormenting me. Way’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Would you hike to Devil’s Backbone Brewery with me?”
“You know I hike slower than you.”
“That’s fine. The beer will wait for us and I’d like the company.”
So here we are. The hike down here was silent until we got to the road and hitched in with a friendly, local trail maintainer. We met up with the Teds and a few other members of our extended trail families, drank our beer, and ate fried foods and fresh salads. Everybody acted the same toward me because, of course, only Way knew now--but I felt different. That entry in the hiker log had been the first time I had opened up about my feelings. I hadn’t even done that with my therapist, really. I felt quiet and exhausted. Laying down in this tent--our tent--and writing this by headlamp has been the catharsis I’ve needed since you died. I’ve thought a lot about you, and why I’m hiking this trail, and what will come next for me. I think a part of you is all over this trail, but in that, “we are all made of starstuff,” way. I don’t think there’s life after death. Your brain stopped working, and “you” are gone, and you couldn’t possibly care about me or if I date again or move across the country or anything like that. If I go back to Gorham, I’ll just be haunting it as a surrogate for you. Maybe I can crash with my cousin out in Oregon for a while. I need a new start, something to let me get over this monumental sadness that I carry everywhere. I know, intellectually, it’s not what you would want for me. We had a great life together but it’s gone. Now, I hike every day, sometimes in excess of twenty miles, and eat noodles mixed with instant potatoes, and dig holes to poop in the woods. I hike like it’s my job, but I hike because it’s my life, and that’s enough for now. I think the only way forward, for me, is one footstep at a time. Ever northward. Katahdin awaits! After that, I’ll see what comes.
It felt good to get this all out. Maybe it’s the exhaustion or the booze or something else. Maybe I’m just ready to finally start talking about this. I feel like I should burn this letter, somehow, in some special place. Maybe when I hike through NH. I’ll stop by our old apartment, swing by the fire pit in the backyard, and light this on fire to send it to you. Everything is Nothing. I’ll say one last goodbye to our apartment, our town, and our life. Then, I’ll keep hiking.
I loved you, I still love you, and I will always love you. But you knew that.
by Joe Noel
installation, trail journal, and trail snacks at the event by Jenny Wittmaack
66 OURS - Collaborative Writing Project
Starting with Phase 1, writers had 66 days to base their writing on 1 anonymous person & 1 vignette, dutifully and judiciously assigned to each writer by Amelia.
Photos given to the writers
Each writer was given a combination of 1 person + 1 vignette from the following: