Being a rural kid in the Pocono mountains of northeast Pennsylvania had its moments. Sledding in the winter, biking in the spring. Tree forts in the summer, skipping stones at the lake in the fall. These things were fun when I was 12. By the time my teenage years came along, however, I was bored bored bored.
And I was lonely.
While all the other kids were getting drivers' licenses at age 16, discovering their freedom, I plateaued at 15 and found myself stuck there. No car for the kid with bad eyes y'know. No freedom either.
Lucky for me, that's when one of my sisters landed on the Lithium merry-go-round: on the meds, off the meds, on the meds, off the meds. She kicked off the suicide parade at both of the high schools we attended. She was a popular girl - so, when she tried [wink wink] to kill herself, well, naturally, the other popular girls tried it too.
None of them tried hard enough though, and I think that's a shame. Maybe they did a little better with the teen pregnancy parade.
It's easy to understand why most of the teachers were afraid of me. "The sister's a freak, and now this one is blind." Woo frigging hoo. They did their best to leave me alone, which worked out great because I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a crack in the pavement and disappear completely.
Yes indeed, my childhood was great.
At age sixteen, each child in my family was given a car - used, but reliable. My oldest sister, Lisa, was given a Pontiac Sunbird. She was then given a Reliant somethingorother when she graduated college. When Karen turned sixteen, she was given some sort of Hornet station wagon. Not exactly a 'cool' car, but it was a car nonetheless. When a drunk driver came along in the night and totaled it, she was given a Yugo (remember those?!).
On my sixteenth birthday, I was given a car.
It weighed less than a pound and was made of solid milk chocolate. It probably cost five whole dollars. I'm not even sure if I ate the damn thing... I just felt so god damned mother fucking insulted. And humiliated. I knew the gift was intended to be clever, as if to say "Everybody in this family gets a car when they turn 16... so here's yours." Oh, yeah. That's hilarious.
I thought about killing myself that night.
...well, I thought about trying to think about killing myself, but I couldn't even get that far.
I had two key issues with suicide:
Issue Number One: I liked myself. It was everyone else that I hated. If suicide meant everyone else would die and I'd live.... then I was all for it so long as I didn't have to do the killing. Killing is messy, and anyone who knows me knows I don't like messy. I don't even like to eat shish-ka-bobs because I have to push the food off the stick, and I always somehow manage to get my fingers icky. I picture murder to be a lot like that, but worse, with lots of guilt of course. Icky fingers and guilt? That's not for me.
Issue Number Two: I liked stuff. Even by age sixteen, I knew there was too much stuff to live for. Too much stuff to see. Too much stuff yet to do. Six hundred years could not be enough time to take it all in. Surely, sixteen years were too few.
I still like stuff...
I like how stuff looks.
I like how stuff smells.
I like how stuff tastes.
I like how stuff feels.
I like how stuff sounds.
I like how stuff interacts with other stuff... like how yesterday's rain made the streets glisten, and how a kiss makes a woman smile, which then makes me smile all the more.
Simply put - stuff kicks a serious amount of ass. Really. It did at age 16, and it does even more today.
It took me nearly another sixteen years to cope with the fact that I live in a car-oriented society and I will never drive. The answer should have been clear all along: move to a city where not having a car isn't an issue. Portland is the closest to that answer I've been able to find. Even though I haven't been able to find a chocolate streetcar, I live the good life here.