6:59 PM-7:28 PM, February 21, 2020; 11:50 PM, April 15, 2020– 12:26 AM, April 16, 2020

I'm sitting in the backseat of a truck, a Carl's Jr. bag warming my left hand. My companions talk about how this is a little ring for fast food, and I suppose they're right: Burger King, McDonald's, Del Taco (which earns a snort of recognition for the good ol' days), Arby's, Carl's Jr., Wendy's... If I rearrange them, it sounds like a song from my middle school choir, one that we would sing as a warm up.

My companions talk about how you could get basically whatever you want here, but all I really see is a shithole. Not a poverty stricken 'shithole' third world country, either; not the type that you would get a smack on the wrist for if you were holding a certain important position. No, this is an actual shithole.

The streets are lined with trash. I can count four motels and three gas stations (one of them advertises an Ethiopian buffet... I can see the stolen Chick-fil-A cups from here). All from the cozy viewpoint behind the dusty car window, always reserved for the lucky passenger in the backseat.

This is an actual shithole, because it could be something and it's not. Really, anywhere could be something that it isn't, but at least other places get the excuse of needing assistance. This place doesn't need assistance, or maybe it does. (Couldn't anyone use assistance?) Surely not as much assistance; all it needs is for something meaningful to be here. Then, I suppose it would be meaningful, a welcome reprieve to a truck driver tasked with thousands of miles.

Perhaps 'shithole' was a bit harsh.

For all the glitz and glamour I might normally muster, I look around this stupid place and feel nothing. Sure, maybe it's a meaningful truck stop, but would any city people really miss this place if it was gone? What if it was used for something worthwhile instead of just some exceptionally dingy additions to fast-food chains?

Damnit. For what all of this is worth, I couldn't even give it the ol' razzle-dazzle. I'm convinced that nothing could make this place feel sentimental, except for perhaps the poor bastards who awaken alone in motel rooms. I must admit, there is something romantic in the utter desolation of such sojourns.

Or maybe it's just hopelessness. Such feelings become intoxicating if you write them down enough.

Still, the fact remains: there's nothing romantic about such a stupid place. There is no past or future here. I'm almost certain that the apocalypse could start and end, and this place would still look exactly the same: strewn with trash, with a homeless person (body?) on the street corner, all the windows dusted over, etc.

This place is a shithole, and I'm not going to take that back. I almost forgot the welcome defenselessness that comes with private thoughts. My companions can't correct me if I'm not saying anything, can they? Alas, I'm tired of making exceptions for people who refuse to return the favor.

It's cold here. Late February, and finally the winter moves in. It settles over like a blanket, muting colors and numbing skin. The thin, torn leather of the backseat doesn't hold warmth well.

It's freezing here, and yet here's this bag of Carl's Jr., warming my hand. Am I really all that above this shithole? I'm in a freezing, old truck. (The heater is never enough for cold winter days, and this truck isn't nice enough to have seat-warming in the back.) There's a sort of comfort in fast food, one that only comes when you're desperate.

You know, it's almost enough. I never really wanted to leave my state. Actually, I always did. It was always hard to distinguish if that was typical teen angst or for once warranted. Indeed, I just wanted to leave, to flee and never come back— hiding would be a more accurate term— but I can't ever think of somewhere better to go. I spend most of my days dreaming of California, the only place in the world where I might be welcome... according to my father, another shithole.

There's really nowhere in the world for an abused kid, and I figure that if that's the case I may as well not leave. I grew up with my greatest memories in other countries and my worst in various modes of transportation, and my life is stretched thin across different corners of the world.

They say the problem with traveling is that you leave parts of your heart in every place. And that's not quite true; I can remember countries I'd never return to. Still, I long for the days of naïveté, where I was just a little kid, taken to see the world and yet still protected from it by a loving family.

And then as time crawled on, I spent my time crying in airport and plane bathrooms, wondering why this world that claimed to care so much couldn't protect me from the people who were supposed to love me; by then, the abuse wasn't horrible. Things hadn't even gotten bad yet, so maybe I'm still a little bitter. Even then, all the kindness of airline employees and smiles from hotel clerks weren't enough to make up for how unloved I felt. Nothing had happened yet, nothing really bad, and yet I was so desperate for love at the time that every smile, every person that tried to help me, lingered.

And yet the world never tried to help me. Looking back on it, it was all wary. I always had this knack for making people think I was going to steal from stores, and this was more apparent in some places than others. Indeed, I was followed through Greece. Smiles were forced.

Time kept crawling on, though, and soon I had neither the protection of my parents nor the protection of the world. My family was kept aware of the bad things I did, of how bad I made my parents feel, of what victims they were. They were made aware the third time I drank, the first time I was caught. They weren't made aware of the other things. They didn't care.

There are so many places that I can't return to. Corners of the world. Trailers that are in a junkyard somewhere, no matter how much I long for them. A restaurant in Malaysia. A music store that I used to get my flute from.

So then— church. Some of the most caring people I've ever met have been in churches. They've welcomed me inside for a warm drink and a conversation, the few times I've ever been downtown for community work. I'm an atheist, but I think I could believe if only I felt something other than fear. I know that's selfish, that I'll probably go to hell anyway for having the audacity to stop having faith in a God that allows me to see a million people without a single true helping hand. But maybe there's repentance. Maybe there's heaven. Maybe there's forgiveness. Maybe I could still find hope. Maybe—

That's a ridiculous idea. As if a church would ever accept the queer kid with nothing to bring to the potluck. Perhaps I'll be forever condemned to feel God's grace only in cups of shitty hot cocoa, losing it as soon as I realize I can't see all of the friends I've lost, even from the best vantage point I've ever had.

I want to leave this shithole and never, ever come back, but it breaks my heart to imagine never returning to some of the places here.

Why should I care about a country that doesn't care about me? I wonder. Why do I feel loyalty at all? Where do you even go, when your home has shunned you? How many people have left their favorite places in the world just because they felt there was no other option?

For a moment, I can almost imagine myself safe in a motel a few blocks down. Alone with a suitcase of my possessions, maybe a backpack too. Waiting for family from California to come for me, to prove that they loved me even despite all the bad things they knew.

It's a fantasy, really, one that's not entirely legal. And yet I'm bitterly reminded that I've no actual family— none that would believe anything I say over my parents, because they suffered abuse too and broke the cycle, as they have made so clear. I have no family. I have no place in the world; I have no future, and now I've taken everything for granted, for I've no comfort either. The warmth of the bag of fast food is long gone, and my hand is freezing.

Wow. I almost fantasized about this shithole; surely this must be a sign of a decreasing quality of life. Now there's clarity. I can see how abandoned this place is again. I can see how every single building is rundown; I can see the trash running down the streets again, but for the love of God, I cannot see relief on the horizon. I can't see anything to begin with, what with the dusty window and my ever decreasing vision, aided only by the glasses that haven't been replaced in over a year. I think that maybe it'd be available if only I was worthy of better vision, but alas, I'm not. All I can really see are hotels with unhappy staff, gas stations that probably hosted shoot-outs, a Waffle House where the staff members all want to die. My hands are numb with cold.

Decided to clean out some of my storage on my phone while procrastinating work, and came across this. It was unfinished, so I finished it. A review would be awesome.