1. Dirt Road Stories: An Introduction

On the dirt road there were nothing but stories. No one debated foreign affairs (unless it was to hate Muslims/terrorists). No one discussed books (unless you count the Bible). We didn’t talk about ideologies (because we contradictorily lived them, as is natural).

There was one story about a man who looked homeless. He worked in the concrete plant where everyone in our neighborhood worked because the couple up the street owned it. They mostly made pools. Words like “shotcrete,” “dry mix,” and “wet mix” swirled around bonfires where the grown-ups drank because Friday and Saturday nights were cheaper at home. Anyway, this homeless looking guy went into a bank. Supposedly none of the tellers wanted to take him. They all gave him dirty looks – clearly judging the guy. He swung a heavy, dirty sock around his hips as he walked up to the counter where the hesitant bank representative stood. He plopped the sock on the counter mumbling something about a deposit[1]. The teller called her manager over who tried to explain that a minimum deposit was required to open up an account. This guy spilled the contents of his sock onto the counter. The amount of money varied from hundreds of dollars to thousands to enough to shut up the bank teller and her manager. The story always ended the same, “Money talks.”

There was another story about a man who wouldn’t let anyone talk about God around him because he lost his wife and his daughter in a car accident. No one really knew if it made him sad or angry, he always just left the room when “God” was spoken. The woman who was half of the ownership of the concrete mill apparently could talk about God with him though. She saw him leave the room during some discussion about judgment and followed him outside to share a smoke on the porch. She tells everyone that she prayed over him and he broke down in tears, and since then he went to her for all spiritual guidance. This was the story as the woman told it, but when it got repeated it ended differently. The ending often entailed a conversation about her bragging, which was wrong[2].  Sometimes the re-teller felt there was some spiritual position this woman held that was not to be questioned[3].

Once, there was a story about a real life Muslim terrorist at the Lil’ Champ. Nabil ran the gas station and he called all the kids “cowboy” or “cowgirl” with his thick foreign accent[4]. Nabil was okay because he would give the little ones free chick-o-sticks; however, one of his “towel head” relatives visited. The man who told the story supposedly delivered a number of veiled accusations referencing Sadam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden. He wanted to rip her towel off. She was in America. In some stories, he did pull it off and explained that the woman was in America and she should act like it. Often times, the result of this story was someone or another

[1] This guy, he did a lot of drugs like most of the guys who worked for the couple. So what he actually said is up for debate. Depending on who told the story: If it was a co-worker, he was totally lucid, if it was one of the Bible thumpers on the dirt road, no one could understand him.

[2] Matthew 6

[3] You know, faith.

[4] We all called him Nay-bill though my mother said it was pronounced Ha-beem.

 

around the bonfire announcing what they would have done in the situation: Mostly pulling off her hijab or outright threatening her for whatever terrorist acts she had planned.

Then the stories started about the woman who cheated on her drunk common-law marriage husband. They began, and I saw it myself, when the husband and his best friend/neighbor got drunk one night. The husband, a stout man, slammed the supposed cheatee on the ground. It was another bonfire night. It must have been summer because I was allowed to stay up late. I find it difficult to remember what happened directly after that, but I’m pretty sure the next morning my mother brought one of our ratty couch blankets out to cover up my step dad who’d passed out in the dirt driveway in front of the dirt road.

(Did you catch that?[1])

As the story goes, my step dad knew without question his “best friend” was fucking his “wife.” First off, that guy was his only friend – “best” was by default. And secondly, I thought it rather silly that anyone considered it cheating. Even in junior high my younger brother knew that if your spouse slept on the other end of the house from you, and no one talked about it, the relationship was practically over.

I’d like to say that this is where the troubles began, but there were always troubles. My life experience at this point in the story could be summed up as nothing but trouble. Lots of moving. Lots of fighting. Lots of drinking. Lots of drugs. Lots of being poor[2].

Why do I want to tell these stories? Good question. Who would want to read them? Also a good question. Well, for one, I clearly want to read them…And reread them, and revise them, and rearrange them, and fret about them, and think about them – because that’s what you do when you write. But also, consider this: A story is a living breathing thing. Look at yourself now. When you read this sentence are you reading it out loud? Are you reading it in your head? Is there a voice with which you read this sentence? Does it call to mind someone you once knew? Wish you knew? Thought you knew? Loved? Hated? Do you process this sentence? Like, is there no voice? Regardless of your answers to these questions, as long as you continue to read you make the words come to life, then the sentence, then the story. What you’re doing, if you’re still with me, is being brave. I mean a monster could be breathing through you right now, and yet you sally forth.

It’s brave to read. I will stand by this statement 100%. You don’t know what kind of life these words had prior to finding you. They laid dormant in the storyteller for quite some time…In this case only peeking out when I, the storyteller, tried to gauge how intimate I could be with someone, or was drunk enough to let something slip, or when I tried to identify with someone who experienced similar stories. In relation to these stories, do you know what you bring?

[1] My mother was the one who cheated on her common-law marriage husband.

[2] No one wants to talk about the finer points of being poor – just that we’d rather spend money on iPhones than have health insurance. (I’ve never owned an iPhone.)

Believe it or not, you bring the power to dismiss, to acknowledge, to agree, to disagree, to discuss…You bring your experience, though it may be nothing like mine. Then again, I could be wrong about all of this[1]…But clearly, if you’re reading this, you’re still here. You’re doing something.

And so, I tell my stories. They’re suffocating in me, and I’d much rather them not. They’re suffocating me, and I’d much rather them not. I breathe out. You breathe in. Deal?

What follows won’t be chronological because when you’re remembering you’re remembering. Everything has been dismembered. I’ve tried my damnedest to kill all of these brain cells, but mostly my success lies in making the memories fuzzy and jumbled. Sometimes I may even repeat myself because that’s the definition of trauma, and didn’t we all have traumatic childhoods? I may wake up with some idea in my head of one day or another and feel the need to expel it. I may wake up and not want to think anything of the past. Then again, I may not have a choice. I imagine my tone will change fairly regularly, but I assure you that I’m the only one with the password to my wordpress blog.

[1] Death of the Author

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