Gay Writes

Ticket to ride

By Christine Ireland

My hands are cold and shaky as I lift the pipe to my lips and light the bowl. A deep breath in, hold it; burning and aching just beneath my breastbone followed by tightness in my chest. “Rookie,” someone says. “She has bronchitis,” says another. I try again.

Lift-off and freedom. Wrapping anonymity around me like an invisibility cloak, the receding world is sliced into parking lots, industrial complexes and roads. Like an airplane leaving the gate, I pull away from my responsibilities. I tell myself I don’t care where I go as long as it’s away from this city.

Dreams of gondolas over paths of dark water fill me, and then I take a trip over Excalibur Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. At the New York New York, I get my thrills on the world’s first coaster to feature a 180-degree “heartline” twist and dive maneuver. The city recedes as I move toward the nothingness of the clouds. Below me I see the Great Salt Lake, deep red swirling with orange and wide flats of salt I can nearly taste.

The world is so far away that I can barely remember my ex or dead-end job. I could be anybody, going anywhere. For a moment, the pressure of time is withdrawn. I can visit Santa’s workshop or create a world all my own.

Now I’m afraid. Without all my responsibilities who am I? Beginning my descent, I hear my earthly father’s voice speaking as clearly as if it were yesterday. “Get off that shit!” Then the author of my soul looks at me with penetrating eyes, “I can’t use you, when you’re high. Moreover the LORD saith, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.’”

Suddenly, my high heels are an offense to me. I’m not sure why I put them on in the first place, I kick them off.

Unable to remember my name, hobbies, tormentors or pleasures, I look longingly at my so-called friends and ask, “Who am I?” A dim outline of my face is reflected back to me in their eyes. “It’s a round-trip ticket,” says Julie. “That’s your problem. You need a one-way ticket out of here.”

I swallow hard, but the lump won’t go down. “Try again,” she says and passes the pipe to me. Lift-off and freedom, again. I pass over the Great Salt Lake and ridged hills until land doesn’t meet sky anymore.

Some question why Robin Williams, who accomplished so much in his life, would take it. Though my own experience holds only momentary glimpses of fortune and fame, my mind can conceptualize various pitfalls and perils as well as rewards associated with celebrity. I remember reading that Williams entered a rehabilitation program prior to asphyxiating himself. Maybe that was his problem: being clean and sober in an insane world.

Scientists claim the government should invest in meteor detection to prevent earth’s demise. I once thought God was harsh when he cleansed the earth with water and separated the continents in the days of Peleg. Now I know that 75 percent of juveniles in correctional facilities will remain in the system. The most successful alcohol recovery program, AA, claims five percent of its members never drink again. Israel and Palestine have agreed to a 48-hour cease fire.

Whether by meteors, man-made weapons or Christ in his coming burn all the earth’s inhabitants as stubble, all I can say is I’m ready.

People say it doesn’t last, that moment in the sky, but I wrap myself in the dark clouds, stretch my whole body, and cry out in joy—here where time is withdrawn.

I have always wanted to live in the sky.

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