Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
My mom didn’t walk me to the bus stop. There was no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunchbox. I left my pillow because there’d be no nap time this time around. I grabbed a plastic sandwich bag to pack my snack, for snack time of course. The night before, I checked my alarm clock three times. But when morning came it was the butterflies that awoke me. I staggered to the shower, ready, but not ready, for my first day of graduate school. And believe it or not, I didn’t take the big, yellow bus.
I’ve had this drive envisioned for some time now. I would step out onto the freshly fallen snow, zipping up my fleece as I did so, and clutch my bag closer, just in case I slipped on ice. I would shiver for the first five minutes of my drive before the engine reached grilling temperatures and blew warm air. My mind would race as I quizzed myself for Dr. Crabb’s test. My focus would dissipate, however, as the clouds on the horizon dispersed to reveal the Rocky Mountains that shadowed Denver. I would pull onto campus to see some classmates encircled around a picnic table as they plotted the coordinates for our next fly-fishing excursion, once the snow had melted, of course. Just before stepping into the classroom, my friend would yell, “Hey Luke, wait up! I’ve got an extra ticket to the Rockies’ opener in three weeks.”
That was scenario one.
The other had me cruising down Pike Street as the morning sun reflected off the glasses of the florists that arranged their stands. I’d pass the fish vendors rubbing sleep out of their eyes, dressed in their orange jumpsuits suspended like overalls. I’d pull over to park briefly in the hard to find spots, which of course would be vacant at such an early hour, to grab a coffee at the original Starbucks. As my mocha cooled, I’d pass through the market to get a peak at Mt. Rainier, because it would be a clear day. The mountain would look over me as if to say, “Climb me, climb me.” I will, I would whisper, even though I probably wouldn’t. I would drive on only to stop at two more local coffee shops because everybody does in Seattle. I’d wave to the folks in the Space Needle before I walked into the red-bricked school. And just before stepping into the classroom, my friend would yell, “Hey Luke, wait up! I’ve got an extra ticket to the Mariners’ opener in three weeks.”
I passed by Greer Stadium, home of Nashville Sounds minor league baseball, and didn’t notice it. The sun shown without a cloud in the sky, and yet I couldn’t see the Smoky Mountains. I pulled off the interstate and looked to the left. There sat a graveyard. Grass grew above the epitaphs, and small tombstones cluttered the field guarded by a 6 foot metal fence. A quarter mile further, the graves ended and I took solace in the grassy pasture. Then I saw another tuft of flowers and foresaw the future burial ground. I took a right and passed a housing development fenced securely like a prison, apparently the projects. Steel bars lined all of the store windows. I imagined they subtracted from the view of the Purity plant across the street. I locked my doors. I felt safer once I drove onto campus, but I couldn’t help the feeling that God had written my story a bit differently than I envisioned. My first stop in the bathroom further founded my conviction. Words scratched into the stall wall read, “God said it, I believe it, and you can suck it.”