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Archive for the ‘Narrative essay’ Category

Worker in Rancho Grande, Mexico

I yelled and kicked with frustration at my parents, and I made sure they knew how I felt. I wanted to be a problem for them because they were forcing me to go to my grandfather’s house in rural Mexico, and I didn’t want to spend the next three months there. Even though I was a big embarrassment at the airport to my parents, I slowly realized nothing was going to change their minds, so I decided to give up and tag along for the journey.

As a ten-year-old boy, I knew that this three-month summer “vacation” was going to feel like eternity. I stayed quiet on the plane thinking about how dumb and disappointing the trip was going to be. I had no other option but to explore Mexico, a country that I had little interest in. The entire time I spent in Mexico that summer was difficult, but it made me appreciate the way I lived in the U.S.

My first impression of Mexico was just as I expected. It was 100 degrees inside the airport, and I could feel the sunscreen melting and dripping down my face. As it melted, it began to irritate and sting my eyes. The stinging sensation in my eyes made me start yelling again, but once again my parents paid no attention. I wiped my eyes with my sleeve, gathered my luggage, and dragged my bags into immigration services where I was slowly introduced to new family members.

Although we were complete strangers, my grandparents treated me like family and hugged and kissed me. Complimented on my height and looks, I felt loved and popular, but I still refused to crack a smile. We drove a couple of miles away from Mexico City into a small town called Rancho Grande. Our family of four was welcomed at my grandfather’s house. I had never met my grandfather before but was anticipating the meeting. However, he was was not there, and when I asked where he was, the only response was from my mother who simply said work.

They next morning I was forced to wake up early. I woke up around 6 a.m. to loud animal noises coming from outside. I opened my cracked window and found that a bunch of chickens were squawking in the yard. I threw a pillow over my face but the terrible noise was no a match for a pillow. I had no other choice but to wake up and see what the day had to offer. As I walked out of my room, a room without a door, an old, dark man stared right at me and held two shovels in one hand. He smiled at me but in a gruff, deep, and intimidating voice, he said, “Get ready, we’re going to work!” I quickly responded without hesitating, “Yes sir.” This man was my grandfather, but I had no idea what to think or say.

I quickly tagged along and drove with my grandfather to a job site. We drove and drove down acres of land that were being worked on. It was obvious that agriculture is what I was here for. The quiet ride finally came to an end. I stepped out of the truck and was not surprised to find the back of my shirt filled with sweat. We wasted no time. I was instructed to clean debris out of a blocked irrigation stream.

I could not believe that I was expected to clean a stream that was about two miles long. I gave my grandfather a serious look and asked him if he was for real. He laughed hysterically and said yes. The day continued with the sun burning down on my neck. I could not believe that I was forced to leave my good life in California and had been thrown into the middle of nowhere to work like crazy in the hot sun.

Each day there was filled with pain and emotion. My muscles began cramping and blisters became something I had to deal with daily. My legs where tired from lifting stacks of beans and molded hay. My hands were rougher than ever. They had blisters and cuts from different reasons. In the end, my painful hard work paid off. I was now considered a worker in my grandfather’s eyes. I learned that respect was big in Mexico and working was a way of earning that respect.

I began to build a relationship with my grandfather over time. Working with him made his serious personality less intimidating, although I dreamed of being at home playing my play station while lying down on a comfortable couch sipping on lemonade. Work made me realize many things and value what I had back home in the U.S.

When my work was finally done in Mexico, I accomplished something that I never knew was possible. I matured as a person and lived to see how hard life can really be. Traveling to Mexico was overall a good learning experience and most importantly I learned to value my lifestyle.

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Nicolae Ceausescu (1918-1989) ruled
the Communist Party in Romania
from 1965 to 1989.

I opened the Webster dictionary last night and I tried to find a word – fear. I found these synonyms: dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation – and I wanted to add another one – communism.

I will continue with another word, a name – Ceausescu. This name was synonymous with communism in my native country Romania. For more than 25 years this word inspired just fear in the Romanian people. But in one day, the hour of justice had arrived and that day was Christmas Day 1989.

On Christmas Day 1989, after 27 years of communist dictatorship, the Romanians had their two leaders, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, executed. I am not a religious person, but when I ever think of justice, that was it.

The endurance of a patient, peaceful and talented people had, finally, reached its limits. In December 1989 a spontaneous revolution surprised the government, the secret police, the military, and – yes – even the people. The two leaders, much feared by everybody, after killing civilians in one major city in Transylvania showed up to a balcony in Bucharest for a speech to condemn the people from Timisoara, the city where the Revolution started.

They condemned the people who were hungry and mad because of lack a freedom. The perfectly organized show, where thousands were demonstrating in front of the Presidential Palace their “love” for the “leaders,” sparked for a moment against him. A few followed, and in a minutes thousands. In less than one hour all square was invaded by slogans against the “beloved leader.” The Revolution in Bucharest began.

The army in Timisoara was against the people. The soldiers shot them days before. In Bucharest, was a different story. The General Commander of Army at that time committed suicide after the demonstration in Timisoara when he saw the killing of civilians. Ceausescu called him traitor the people called him hero. The orders for killing in Timisoara were given by the Ceausescu himself.

The Revolution in Bucharest had started badly for the people, even though the military had decided not to kill their own and sided with the people. For the first days, rows and rows of dead were lined up: soldiers, children, women, men, sergeants, captains, doctors, even colonels were killed by the Secret Police, who outnumbered all, and knew everything.

Arabian students, guests of Romanian Universities from Lybia’s Gaddafy were overnight armed to the teeth and killed hospital staff. They turned out to be mercenaries fighting for Ceausescu.

The people were terrified of their leaders, and, it turned out, their leaders were genuinely afraid of the people they abused, spied on, imprisoned and tortured. No country in the communist block had a good life, but Romania got the worst. People were spied upon, in a KGB style, in their own homes, at work, on the street. Their moves, conversations, likes, dislikes, or opinions, carefully recorded by a colossal collection of massive banks of cassette tape recorders. Files were kept for the older and younger generation with the precision of a Swiss watch.

The rules to avoid trouble were simple, and we all understood. First

· Do not think.
· If you think, do not talk.
· If you talk, do not write.
· If you write, do not sign (your name).
· If you sign, do not be surprised.

It was a diseased society, where the inmates have taken over the asylum. Neighbors were encouraged to spy and report each other. So were children, about their parents. The statistics on how much crops or food country produced, published by the government, had nothing to do with reality. There were no drugs, no medication, hospitals were applying tea leaves rather than running tests and operations.

Disease and depravation was the general standard of living. Homes were cold and dark. People were mugged in the street, right under the approving eye of the Secret Police. Television was non-existent. There was only two hours a day of broadcast and that was just about Ceausescu’s family.

“Private property” was considered a dirty word. Twenty seven years of living without electricity, without basic foods, without heat in the homes, without being able to talk about it … or anything else for that matter. Nobody smiled on the streets. Parents were constantly worried about the next day and how they would feed their children. Potatoes again, beans again, not any meat. It was starvation for children, starvation for parents. Chocolate became a dream.

People who had a chance to leave the country never returned; they were promptly declared “enemies of the country” and their homes were confiscated. The question, “What is a quartet?” was answered with, “That’s what’s left of the Romanian Philharmonic after a tour to Germany.”

People have become rude and mean to each other.

“We will win!”

And Revolution came – and people started to show their hate against the leaders, who for such a long time kept them in a dark – 27 years of dark.

On the Christmas Day – 25 December 1989 – Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, the Stalinist couple, was caught near by Targoviste, a small town in South Romania. After a short trial, they were accused of genocide against their own people, by the military prosecutor. They were executed together. Two old people with dementia. Two old people who kept Romania under terror for a quarter of a century. Their bloodied bodies were shown on television after 11 calling hours. After that – people cheering on the streets – Ceausescu died, Ceausescu died. So much hate, so much relief. Regrets? No, never. Forgiveness? No, never. A new Era of Freedom began for Romanians.

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My knee’s instantly lock up as I feel the shrilling goose bumps tingle down my spine. Suddenly I lose my breath, and for a moment I feel like this must be a dream. I clench my fists as I start to feel my heart pounding through my shirt. We just met, and I can’t believe that he has managed to make me feel absolutely crazy inside. I almost feel as if I should just jump before I let something bad happen, but I can’t move. I find myself completely numb.

It is a warm summer day, and I hear the birds conversing outside my window. I stretch and have a feeling of adventurous ambition. I go to wake my sleeping roommate, Alisa, and know she will help me think of something exciting to do. We sit and ponder for awhile before deciding to go out into the sparkling sunshine. Being cooped up in the house just doesn’t seem logical. We grab a fresh cup of coffee from our favorite shop and start heading over to the ponds.

As we arrive, I immediately notice that the atmosphere is everything I hope for. So much life fills the crisp air, fishermen, joggers and laughing children. We snatch our cameras out from the backseat and start to take pictures of the dazzling lake and the geese that mingle over the ripples. Then much to our surprise, we see two very good looking guys smiling at us from across the water. When they notice us looking back, they don’t hesitate to jog over in our direction. It doesn’t take long before we feel a strange connection. Kyle is 23 and he is wearing a hat on his head. As he approaches me, I catch the drift of an amazing smell that is on his loose t-shirt. Tony, 25, is dressed in similar attire; it’s quite simple to see that they are close friends. Butterflies instantly crowd my stomach as I smile from ear to ear. We can’t wait to learn more about them.

We begin walking around and making small conversation with one another and before we know it, the sun starts to slip behind the purple mountains. We want to spend a little more time with these new acquaintances, so they suggest going to a beautiful location in the Front Range to watch the sunset. As we walk to the fairly empty parking lot, we approach two shiny crotch rocket motorcycles. Kyle glances over in my direction and suggests that I go with him. The weather is ideal for a ride. I hesitate for a moment before remember my desire for adventure that morning. This really would be adventurous, and it sounds like a lot of fun. Tony doesn’t wait much longer before asking Alisa to hop on the back of his bike, and soon enough, we are riding off into the evening.

Even though Alisa and I are wearing nothing but small tank tops and a pair of jean capri pants, we manage to keep warm. As we arrive at the mountain, the scenery takes my breath away. Pink and orange cotton balls fill the pale blue skies, and the twinkle of the stars is just becoming apparent. We sit in the soft green grass for a short amount of time as we enjoy each other’s company for a little while longer. I stand up to thank the boys for spending the day with us, and I tell them that we need to get home before it gets too late. They agree and suggest that we swap phone numbers so we can get together again sometime. We take one last look over the city and the lights that are beginning to take over, then we start to progress back down the mountain.

The ride back starts with a different look and feel from the enjoyable ride in the beginning. There is now a faint chill in the air, and the two boys want to make a lasting impression. The highway is full of bright headlights and the sky is dark. I wish I had a jacket. I turn my head and see Alisa and Tony speed passed us. I know she wouldn’t be comfortable driving at high pace, so I begin to worry. Thankfully, it’s not long before I see their bike coasting next to ours again. Before I can finish my breath, they quickly become a part of the past. I know Kyle is trying to show off.

Our speed begins to increase at an excessive rate, and I think to myself that it will only be a moment before he starts to slow down, that he’s made his point. Weaving in and out of traffic quickly becomes very uncomfortable. The faint chill turns into a brutal cold as I tightly hold the little piece of cloth that separated us. I can see our speed reach 90 mph, and I dig my nails into his chest in hopes that he will realize I want him to stop. My gut tells me that I should look back to make sure Alisa is not close behind, but my body becomes paralyzed. I glance over his shoulder wanting the speedometer to read less, but we are now over 100 mph. I start to think that this can’t be happening to me but am interrupted by the flashing of blue and red lights in the mirror. Just as I start to feel incredibly relieved that we are being pulled over, he continues to speed up.

For a moment I try to tell him to stop, but my voice is carried away with the wind. As I hold on tighter and attempt to look back once more, my glasses are thrown from my face. Our speed has now reached 120 mph, and I realize there is no stopping him. My heart starts to pound harder and harder with every second, and my thoughts become incredibly unpleasant. I want to scream, but it takes everything I have to keep myself breathing calmly. I bury my head in his back and become completely lifeless. I don’t know what he is trying to do. Has he forgotten that I am on the back of his bike? Even though it seems like an eternity, we quickly arrive back into town. With the cop still on our tail, we approach the first red light coming off the highway. I am now wishing that this might finally put an end to the crazy race, but once again, he doesn’t slow down. Without looking left or right he flies through the bright red and starts gaining speed down the busy city street. I start to lose all hope. We are either going to lose the cop or end up in a terrible crash. My life rapidly starts to flash before my eyes. I’ll be leaving so many people I love with no answers and such sorrow. I question myself over and over, how I could let something like this happen, I don’t even know him.

We are on a straight path to the other end of town when he takes a sudden right turn, and I feel the bike’s tire start to slip from under us. I hold my breath and get ready for the impact, but by some miracle we keep going. The cop is never more than a couple of feet behind us, and I become more terrified. As if the situation isn’t bad enough, he manages to find another unusual path to pursue the chase on. We begin launching over speed bumps and soon we are riding through a deserted grassy park. I begin to lose track of our location and start begging him to let me jump off. He shakes his head no as he repeatedly promises me that everything will be okay. Just as I begin to think that the ride will never end, I find myself flying through the air. I become abruptly shaken up as my body slams to the ground. When I jump up, my adrenaline is flowing harder than ever before. I start screaming at him as he tries to embrace me with comfort. I had never experienced so many emotions all at one time.

Watching him being carted away in handcuffs is a huge relief. His new bike is still on the ground lifeless and bashed up. I take a deep breath and can’t believe I somehow escaped with my life. With only a few scratches present on my body, I drop to my knees and begin to cry. I scramble to find my phone and call Alisa to make sure she is okay. She is back at her car and hurries to come find me. As she arrives, I can see she is more shaken up then I am. She has found alcohol hidden in his bag. I hug her and we promise each other that we will never be so irresponsible again. Having that single experience makes me appreciate everything  I have and all the friends and family. Anything can happen in an instant and take you out of this world. Even though I will always be looking for a fun adventure, I won’t proceed again without more caution.

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Growing up at Trout Lake, Minnesota, I learned to appreciate and respect the wilderness and all it had to offer. I remember making forts in the woods. One fort was lakeside between Cabin No. 5 and the campground. It had a squishy bed of moss that stretched six-square feet I pretended was a bed. The pure and rich aroma of damp dirt and luscious moss were comforting. An old tree stump served as a kitchen sink, and through a break in the trees, I had a custom-built kitchen window with a view of the lake. I pretended to slide the window open and shut and could actually hear a difference between the two in my mind. With my imaginary window open, I heard a soft breeze through the trees, loons calling from across the lake, water as it broke on the rocky shore, and shouts of excitement from fishermen as they hooked a Rainbow trout. With it shut, the sounds disappeared and quietness came over me.

The cabin and resort had been built by my family. After long days of catching tadpoles and crawfish, fishing, swimming, and helping out with cleaning the cabins I could smell Grandma Nancy’s cooking rise over the unpolluted air of northern Minnesota. Whatever she cooked for dinner was a delicious closure to a busy day. The family, and sometimes cabin guests, would sit at the kitchen table in the lodge to share wonderful meals and stories. Each time they told a story, the fish got bigger. Often, we would add multiple card tables to the end of the table to extend seating. The more the merrier, Grandma said.

All of this beauty took an unexpected turn for the worse in 2009. My brother and I, having moved to Colorado, received a horrifying, early morning phone call from dad. His message frantically stated a fire had taken place at the lake and he was just leaving to find help and would call us once he knew more. He was shaking, and I could hear it in his voice. Stumbling over his words, he explained he didn’t know the extent of damage and said, “Everyone’s alright, but this is bad, real bad.”

I, too, immediately started shaking and crying in fear for the worst. Was is one cabin or seven? Was it the lodge? Could all our history at Trout Lake go up in flames? I felt helpless. As I anxiously waited, I received another phone call with an update. An electrical fire had spread throughout the lodge, and it was simply a pile of burnt wood and ashes.

Those roaring flames burned so many irreplaceable items, backed with so much history. The loom great-grandma Char used for making cabin rugs, my grandfather Bud’s Lion’s Club pin collection, my grandmother Nancy’s magic oven, home videos, family photographs, even grandpa Russ and uncle Mark’s cremation ashes.Family and cabin guests made it out safely, and we were thankful.

I was seven years old when my father received a call from grandma Char to help run the family resort. We packed up our Colorado life and moved to Minnesota. My mom, dad, brother, two dogs and cat left for one of the most beautiful places on earth. Once we arrived, great-grandma Charlet, grandma Nancy, and uncle Mark greeted us. We were all filled with excitement to be together.

Trout Lake was discovered by my great-great aunt Grace and her husband Bill in 1938. They were traveling west but happened to find heaven on earth and ventured no more. The lake was so clean, and pure fish could be seen swimming 25 feet underwater above the rocks that lay peacefully at the bottom. The rainbow trout were lively, colorful, and plentiful on the dinner plate. The land was screaming potential.

For the first years, Grace and Bill had no building on site other than an icehouse. They lived in a trailer and rented boats. A boathouse was the first structure built. In northern Minnesota, the construction and building season are short lived. With the help of family members, they built four cabins in the next few summers, making it a resort. In the spring of 1946, my great-grandparents, Bud and Char, moved from Chicago and bought Trout Lake Resort. The hard-working, task-orientated couple built the rest of the resort, with a total of seven cabins and a lodge. Through the years, they added electricity, plumbing, a water pump, and other necessities. They did it all themselves, paneling the walls, building cabinets, and putting in door frames. Every square inch was built with determination and a desire to make the resort beautiful.

Years later, Bud passed away and grandma Nancy moved in to help her mother. They, with the help of friends and family members, kept the resort up and running. My family moved north in 1991, lived at the resort for one year, and eventually found our own house closer to town, staying involved in the family business.

Now that the fire has taken place, grandma Nancy, uncle Guy, uncle Rusty, mom, dad, my brother and his family work each day on the rebuild. With every board nailed, we reconstruct the hope we so tragically lost in the fire. Once again, nights are filled with beautifully cooked meals, stories, and laughter. The new lodge is breathtaking, but more importantly, we’ve discovered the magic wasn’t in the old oven but in grandma Nancy herself, who continues to instill in us an appreciation for what we have, even through times of turmoil.

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Swoosh! My bedroom door flew open with my roommate yelling at me to get up. “Buy Tickets!” he raved, as I laid in my bed half asleep, and confused. He came up to me and started shaking me awake. I groaned and sat up looking at him blankly. He stared back at me with his Sean grin. I realized it was something intense by the look in his eyes. “We got to go to Texas, for Nocturnal Festival!” He said excitedly. He began to explain to me that it was a two-day jam and electronic music festival outside of Austin, Texas. With many of our favorite bands and DJ’s performing, including Bassnectar, Disco Biscuits, Lotus, Pretty Lights, Rusko, and Mimosa. I became excited, and the best part about it was that it was only $60. I bought my tickets that second and we began to plan our trip.

A month and a half went by, and it was time to travel to Texas for a rage fest during Labor Day weekend. Sean, another roommate Clayton, and I packed the Subaru and began to head south. We were excited to head down to Texas, because we are all from there and a bunch of our friends would be at Nocturnal. We arrived in San Antonio a day before the festival started. We woke up early that Saturday and met up with one of my buddies Thomas, who was going. We all drove up to Austin together, and picked up our buddy Hannah. We were ready.

We had a bunch of hummus, camping gear, and almost too much beer. The car ride was only about 45 minutes to the festival campsite from Austin, and the car was full of good energy during the whole trip. We arrived at the campground around 4:30 p.m. and started setting up our tents. There were already copious amounts of people there blasting music, getting drunk, partying, and getting ready to go to the festival grounds. We were all ready to head over to the festival to catch the first act we wanted to see.

We arrived at the festival grounds and were thrown in the mix with all the rave kids and electro nuts. We were getting hyped from hearing the massive bass drops in the distance. We waited in line, finally got in, and were observing our surroundings. The festival grounds were very nice with four massive stages and one with a giant LED pyramid for DJ’s. There were huge trees all around covered in giant glowing ornament orbs.

The main stage was called The Labyrinth and had most of the artists we were interested in seeing. Our buddy Hannah ran off to the Queen’s Ground to go dance to the DJ’s. We knew we would run into her randomly. All of us made it over to the Labyrinth to catch The Pnuma Trio. We made it in the middle of their set. The sun was going down, and the lights became more intense as the Pnuma Trio jammed on through the sunset. We were only able to catch half of their set and then we wanted to explore the grounds.

We started to head to other stages. We made our way through the queen’s ground, and were captured by the energy. Everyone was dancing and getting down really hard. We were disoriented as we pushed our way through the bodies of sweat to get out of the heart-stopping bass. We walked towards the water station because we had none. It was like walking through a sea of mad zoo creatures, with all the crazy lights and faces.

The water station was just in front of us when I heard someone yell my name. Everything was quick, and I was looking around because it was very noisy. I made a complete turnaround, and there was my buddy Paul. He smiled and gave me a big hug. We caught up a little, and then I introduced him to my roommates. We got water and then headed back over to the Labyrinth stage to rage Girl Talk. On the way back to the stage we lost two people in our group. Thomas and Clayton wandered away. Paul and I arrived there right when Gregg Gillis was coming on stage, and he rocked the house. He was throwing down really groovy dance beats and mash ups. The crowd loved it.

Paul and I were wandering around the stage area, and we ended up getting separated as well. I was by myself just wandering around, through the crazy lights and noises. Every person I saw had a unique characteristic about them. A lot of people looked very confused and lost, as if their minds were elsewhere. I made my way all the way to the front and was just dancing with random rave fairy girls. One girl who came up to me started hooking glow sticks all over me, and then her friend joined in. I was literally covered. They even put them through the gauges in my ears, so I had mad colors dangling off of me everywhere. The girls gave me a hug and pranced off into the crowd.

Girl Talk was done playing, and I gathered my thoughts before the Disco Biscuits came on. There was about an hour break before them, and I wanted to find everybody in our group. As soon as the crowd dissipated, Paul came running up to me. “Damn,” he said. I just laughed and drank a lot of water. We went to go back to the water station and got water. On the way back to the Disco Biscuits I ran back into Sean. We rejoiced and went into the crowd. I turned around and saw a huge group of our friends who we have not seen in a year.

The Disco Biscuits had really intense lasers, and they were not afraid to let them loose through the crowd. We showed up in front of our buddy James who was very confused and did not realize we were even there. I was even confused during this epical time in my life. I was lost in this paradox of the labyrinth of life itself. Finally he realized it, and he took us to everyone.

Thomas and Clayton were there, Sean, Paul, and I were the only people lost. Like it really mattered anyway because it was crazy. We all just chilled and laid in the grass and waited for Bassnectar. About two hours passed, and Bassnectar was about to melt the faces off of these poor helpless souls. We chilled in the back and watched him do just that. After he was done it was about 3 a.m. Everyone was beat, so we headed back to the campsite and the party was just getting started.

There was a lot of beer, and I began to drink heavily to sleep comfortably, as the hot Texas sun began to rise. I crashed around noon until Sean shook me and told me it was time to go. We still had a full day of music to attend. We arrived on the grounds with everyone, and we made our way to the upside down room to see Fukkk Offf perform. His genre was a unique style of electro. We were in the middle of the chaos, and I got separated from everybody.

I went to the back of the crowd and scoped out the situation. I pulled my phone out and saw that one of my really good friends Sophia hit me up. She was at the same stage as me and I asked where. She said at the front right, so I made my way up there and she gave me a big hug. She was wearing a crazy peacock feather mask that was very vibrant. I was lost from everyone else, so I just danced with Sophia all night.

A couple of hours went by and one of my favorite bands Lotus was about to come on. Sophia loves Lotus too, but she has never seen them, so she was very stoked to partake in this. Sophia and I got good spots and we were in awe as lotus tore it up with their funky, groovy, electro jams. They’re really talented musicians and kept a live upbeat dance groove going till the end of their set. During all this nonsense, Sean found us. We all had huge smiles on our faces and Lotus kept them up. They ended their set on an upbeat note and we were blown away. We went to go lay down for a couple hours before Rusko ended the festival. We made our way back to the upside down room and Rusko was just coming on. Sophia and I sat in the back and observed the dub step nonsense that Rusko put out. We were so tired. By then, 2:30 in the morning.

Sophia is a massage therapist, and she offered me a massage. I gladly accepted and right when she started I passed out. I slept through the whole set of Rusko and when I woke up Sophia was crashed out next to me. When she woke up we just looked at each other and made our way back to the campsite to sleep. Everyone was at the campsite, and I was sad when I realized this fun weekend was over. I acquired important realizations at that moment, and I tried to piece this puzzle together in my head. It was Memorial Day morning, and we had to make it back to Colorado the next morning for school.

Sean, Clayton, and I were not looking forward to this drive at all but it had to be done. We packed up the car around noon, and drove back to San Antonio to drop off our other friends. We slept for three hours in San Antonio then hit the road back to Colorado. We had class in 20 hours. The drive was awful and no one wanted to take the wheel, but we had too. We arrived back in Colorado with two hours to spare before school. It seemed so quick to be back in reality.

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Looking back, I realize the chain of events that turned my life upside down began with my heartbreak. It was early fall and still unseasonably hot in the Sonoran Desert. It was my second year living in Tucson, Arizona, and my existence up to that point had been somewhat of a fairytale.

The move from Pennsylvania with Jocelyn, a fiery redhead from a dying steel town on the outskirts of Philly, had been amazing. We settled in quite nicely to our new home, and things were going great until she had a change of heart and had an affair with another man. Still green in the ways of love and perhaps a little naive, I was completely smitten by this beautiful woman. The connection we shared was electric and palpable, and I wished for nothing more than it to be everlasting, which made it all the more devastating the day she said goodbye. I remember feeling lost, heartsick and abandoned.

I searched for solace in music and found comfort in my favorite melancholy songs. Weeks went by and my heart still wrenched with the ghosts of my departed love, so I decided that the best medicine might be a night on the town. I did what I could to muster some hope and proceeded to shower and shave. With a spray of my best cologne, and one last reassuring look in the mirror, I departed for the local watering hole.

The evening air was thick and the temperature was still well above 90 degrees. With the windows down and the system bumping, I tore off in the direction of my favorite dive. As I drove down Oracle Road, I noticed the city lights glowing in contrast to the black desert sky, and the chemical smell of the creosote bushes magnified by a recent rain. I felt through the pain, brief moments of excitement as I neared the night’s destination, The Arizona Ale House.

It was happy hour when I arrived, and they had this ridiculous deal on giant mugs of beer. I picked my poison, Dos Equis Lager then pushed my way through the crowd to a bar stool with a good view of the stage. Three or four colossal glasses later my ears rang with covers of campy rock anthems and the sedated drawl of the surfer dude karaoke DJ. The neon signs began to blur so I cashed out, and left to find my car in the parking lot. I hit the button on the fob, opened the door and hopped in.

With limo tint on the windows, and given my current fuzzy state, I decided to keep them down on the drive home to prevent any unnecessary traffic stops. Somewhere in the midst of exiting the parking lot, the thought of Jocelyn came rushing back prompting an onslaught of emotions and a knot in my stomach. All mixed up and on the verge of tears, the light turned green and I mashed the accelerator to the floorboard. I worked though the gears in a fit of rage finding 40, then 60, then 80. Topping the crest of the hill in a bit of hysteria, I glanced into the rearview mirror and to my nightmare, blue lights. “Fuck,” I said out loud as my mind raced in search of an excuse.

This was really happening to me, and it seemed to be the crescendo to all of my recent misfortunes. I did the best I could to feign sobriety while pulling to the side of the road. Spot lights on me, I think I could hear every heartbeat as if I were wearing earplugs as the officer approached my car. “Do you know why I’m pulling you over?” the officer said with his Maglite pointed in my face. I thought it best not to lie, and told the cop that I may had been going too fast and I was just trying to get home. “Have you been drinking tonight?” he asked me. “Yeah, I’ve had like two beers” I replied. “Two beers huh? I’m going to need you to step outside the car.” “OK,” I said complying with the officer’s request. He gave me a field sobriety test which I thought I passed, but according to him I had a sway in my posture so he gave me a breathalyzer and I blew a .17 percent , way over the legal limit.

Upon failing the breath test, the officer called for an E.M.T. to draw blood. We waited for what seemed like forever for the ambulance to arrive and the urge to urinate got pretty bad so figuring that I was already caught, I asked the officer if I could use the restroom. The cop consented, and I shuffled my way off the shoulder of the road amongst the sand and cacti. The paramedics showed up at last, and after a brief chat with the policeman they approached me with a needle, some surgical rubber tubing, and a clear plastic vial to retain the sample. The medic prompted me to extend my left arm then he tied the rubber tube tightly to make the veins pop up. He took the plastic safety cover off the needle and eyed my arm like a vulture. Seeing a capillary, he carefully made his move piercing my skin and then attaching the vial. Crimson red fluid filled the tube to the top, and the tech withdrew the hypodermic and swabbed the entry with some alcohol.

I felt violated by the involuntary medical procedure and hit bottom. I felt a lump in my throat and I started to cry. All the stress that I’d been under finally made its escape and manifested itself as the tears flowed down my face. I think the patrolman empathized with my situation. He told me that I had been very respectful and that he was going to allow me to have someone pick up my car that night and drive it home for me.

Because of the hour, no one answered, but I had one number left to call. Three rings and a familiar voice picked up. It was Jocelyn. In a twist of irony, the object of all of my sorrow would be the one to drive me home. She showed up to pick me up in his truck. I didn’t know what to do, but the awkwardness was gone and I just enjoyed her company on the way back to my apartment. After making arrangements to retrieve the car in the morning, we said goodbye and I traversed the stairs to my place.

It’s kind of crazy how emotion took over and led me down the wrong path. On the days that followed, I had to get a second job waiting tables to defray some of the enormous expenses. I chose a restaurant within walking distance to my house because I knew I would eventually lose my license for 30 days. The silver lining turned out to be a manager at the pizzeria with a rough and tumble biker boyfriend. At the end of my shift one evening, I told her about my ordeal and she quickly jotted down a name and number on a bar napkin. The lawyer that she referred me to had been the judge in the county courthouse for 13 years, so I decided to take her advice.

With a whisper in the ear of the court clerk, he got my sentence reduced from the standard 48 to 24 hours in jail. In hindsight, that was some of the best money I ever spent. Court was adjourned and my penance included addiction awareness classes, a onetime lecture courtesy of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, thousands of dollars spent on legal fees, and of course, the night in jail.

The scheduling for my stay in Pima County’s minimum-security prison was left up to me, so I picked a Saturday morning 6 a.m. check in. I remember the night before being sleepless while the wheels were spinning inside my head wondering what terrors lay in store. Dawn broke and there was no turning back. I had made my bed, and now it was time to sleep in it.

I arrived at the jailhouse wearing some tattered sweatpants, some tighty whities, and a white T-shirt, the required garb for the transition from civilian attire to the orange jumpsuit and plastic flip flops. I sauntered up to the reception desk and received a callous demeanor from the morning master at arms. After surrendering my wallet and car keys, a tired looking correctional officer entered the lobby from behind a locked door and escorted me back to a room with no windows for a strip search. I was ordered to shed my clothing and to reach down and grab my ankles and cough while the poor man looked on to make sure that I hadn’t smuggled anything in.

Completely humiliated, I was handed the aforementioned jumpsuit and led to the processing room where a couple of fairly pleasant looking ladies sat behind bulletproof glass to take my information and assign me to a cell block. The room was all gray with benches cast from cement, and it had a very unsanitary feel. Being early morning on a Saturday, I was surrounded by the cream of the crop from the underbelly of society. Homeless men ranted incoherently citing injustices they had endured, and a pissed off, borderline psychopath taunted the C.O.s when they came into his space. Mortified, and feeling totally out of place, I leaned back against the cold concrete wall, shut my eyes, and pretended to sleep.

My number came up, and I was assigned to D block, the minimum flight risk unit. Before being taken to my bunkhouse, the master at arms walked me to a computer desk area where my fingerprints were taken, and they took digital photos of my tattoos. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I was taken to the cell block.

The room where I would spend the day and entire evening came into view, and it was slightly different than I had imagined. Rather than cells with locking doors, it was a huge building separated into three parts. There was a day room, a rack area filled with metal bunk beds, and the latrine/shower area. After being shown which rack was mine by the C.O., I crawled up to the top and went to sleep. Hours passed and hunger pains stung my side, so I decided to venture out to the day room when the lunch announcement was made. I clamored down from the top of the bed and walked warily into the general population of miscreants.

My nerves were on end as I peered about the room, and I quickly gave up hope of encountering a friendly face. I got in line for chow, and after a 10-minute shuffle, a glop of casserole and a piece of green ham were tossed onto my plate by the mess attendant. Feeling a little queasy, but hungry nonetheless, I forced down the salty abominations.

Partially satisfied by the brick that was making it way though my digestive system, I headed back to bed. Ignoring the constant commotion of the room, I was finally able to fall back to sleep. I think I woke up about 20 times that evening, checking my surroundings for safety then struggling to find peace again. At last, the morning sun broke through the plexiglass windows that topped the jailhouse, and I was allowed to make my exit.

It took a while to retrieve all of my belongings, and when I finally stepped foot from the prison I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. I’ll never forget all that I had to go through because of a poor decision and still lament the series of events that sent me into the system.

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The roar of my 1990 Honda Civic hatchback heater tricks my brain into thinking I’m warm. My muscles loosen up for a moment, and it seems no other world exists beyond the pitch-black void outside my car. The glow of my radio makes the night outside seem even darker. I rest my head against the steering wheel, shut my eyes and hum along with a Pink Floyd tune playing on my cd player.

I try to remember the last time I saw my uncle and sit thinking about the story of Icarus I’d heard in school earlier that day. As my thoughts dance away, the passenger door bursts open. “Hey sweetheart! Look, who am I?” My uncle Willie slams a couple pills, takes a swig from a half-full bottle and gets in. “Now take me jail,” he says. I smile as I watch him act the part of Ray Liota from the movie Goodfellas.

In our family, we are the most connected, but the whole family only consists of five people. There is a grumpy father Erich and his son Rich. Nobody knows where he is most the time. My father Erich was the glue that held everyone together until he died. Then the island we all lived on shattered, and we each took control of one different, floating land mass. Willie drifted onto mine.

“Where’s it going to be captain?” I ask Willie in my most polite 4:30 a.m. voice. “Well I’m thinking a little here and there. Somewhere close, maybe far. You are young, and life is long, and there is time to kill today!” Willie answers, with a huge smile on his face. There is something about that smile that just makes it impossible to be mad.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond. Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky. Shine on you crazy diamond. You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze. Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine.

At 26 years old, Willie is full of life. He calls me in the middle of the night out of my warm house to give him a ride who knows where. Willie is a Pisces, a water sign and like a lake, he fluctuates and changes and is never fixed on any one point. Or like a river, he flows wildly wherever life takes him and is just as unpredictable and impossible to tame.

We drive through the night searching for the sun, talking about the dramatic life he’s led — not the extreme, wild events but the memories he can’t get rid of, coloring by himself in pre-school and eating gummy snacks his mother packed for lunch until a bigger kid took them away. We all have memories like this. They appear to have no real significance but hide in the dark corners of our subconscious minds waiting.

After a series of turn here and turn there we arrive just outside of Brighton in an unlit and lonely street. He asks me to turn the engine off and park facing east. Before us is a beautiful view of the horizon. My CD had been on repeat the entire time we’re together. The sun rises over the land, smiling. It seems as if the sun holds its breath beneath the earth at sunrise until it can’t wait any longer and must come up for air.

He begins to tell me about my father and how much he loved me even though he was gone most the time. He describes memories he had of me when I was a child. “I will always be here to take care of you, sweetheart,” he says. Then we begin driving again, and he continues to give me directions. I am a bit confused from all the turns until I see a sign that says Adams County Jail.

“Well sweetheart, thanks for the ride. Hope you didn’t spend too much gas on me,” he says in a calm voice, contrary to what he must be feeling. My stomach does somersaults as he opens the door, but a few words manage to tumble out of my mouth, “What? Why? How?”

“I am in some trouble, and I need to turn myself in. I have been putting it off for a while. No one wants to go to jail, but it will be alright,” he says as he hugs me goodbye and gets out of the car.

As I watch him walk away, walls seem to be closing around me. I feel as if there’s someone in my head, but not me. The sky has changed, and the sun is high above us now. It feels as if Willie is tumbling from the sun.

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