Old Car

This story is my first attempt at creative nonfiction.

Dan's Rock

    Dan's Rock, a mile long, narrow jumble of rocks that hosted a radio tower, too much graffiti and a view of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, is where I came to realize I was lost. Not physically, mind you, though that would have been easy enough. It happened during my second year in college, and I was trying for the first time in my life to fit in. It was like trying to force one more sweater into an over-stuffed drawer, all it did was jam the drawer and leave me too wrinkled to wear.

    There were usually five or six of us who would go there, me being the only one who always went since I no longer cared about my classes. We never went on the weekends, when it became a popular party place. We never partied there, either. We tried roasting marshmallows once, lighter fluid flavored treats. It's an acquired taste.

    Dan's rock was forty- five minutes away from Frostburg, and hard to find. It was down a small dirt road in what wouldn't even be classified as a town. When we got there we parked and climbed the steep slope to the cliff side. On nights when the moon was full, or close to it, we were active. We played follow the leader over the sharp rocks, the game quickly turning to something dangerous as the leader got closer and closer to the edge. We pretended we were explorers in a new land, or strange bugs scuttling in and out of shadows. And we danced. On dark nights, we patiently inched our way to the giant, flat slab often called copulation rock.

    Except in winter, the flat rock saw more action than a married couple's bedroom. As far as I know none of us was ever in on that action, though we speculated about it. Ten people could have slept there without falling off. Five or six of us of us sometimes did. Slept there, that is. On chillier nights, we snuggled under blankets and watched the sky, hoping to see a shooting star. Sometimes the rest of them sang, started by Bill, or Lynette. I never joined in; I couldn't carry a tune even if it had handles. I still can't. I would close my eyes and it seemed like the rocks were singing. It was eerie.

    Eerie. One time we told ghost stories, and scared ourselves silly. Surrounding rocks became hideous monsters waiting to devour us. A mad scramble found us sitting in the back of Tony's truck, finishing the story. Tony's eyes widened.

    "Oh my god! Something just ran across the road!" He squealed.

    "Are you joking? This isn't funny, did you really see something?" I was calm.

    "So help me god, I'm serious. It was big and white. And it ran right across the road." I believed him.

    "Then what in the fuck are you doing back here, get your ass up there and drive!" All rationale flew out the window as we tore down the small dirt road at eighty-five miles an hour. An hour later, at Denny's (our trips always ended at Denny's) we mentioned being at Dan's Rock to our waitress.

    "Oh. Did you see the goats?" After that, Dan's Rock never scared us. Only the weather did.

    The winter months chased everyone away from the rocks. Even the spring months were sometimes dangerous. One cold spring night, while the others huddled at the base of the radio tower wrapped in blankets, Bill and I crawled towards the flat rock. Halfway there, the wind picked up and it started to hail. We continued forward and sought shelter in the small fissure under the flat rock thinking about, but not speaking of our own mortality and how we had just risked it. Twenty minutes later, the storm ended and we slipped and slid back to the others then headed out to Denny's, dreaming of warmer weather.

    On the warm nights, when the moon wasn't bright, we would talk. We thought we were so deep, bearing our souls to one another, when all we were doing was bearing the souls we wanted to have. Our conversations were coy and witty, designed to impress, revealing enough to tease, showing nothing at all. "If you were a…what would you be" was one of our favorite topics.

    "If you were a tree, what would you be?" Asked by someone.

    "A towering Oak, with wide branches. The kind of tree you build a tree house in." Said by one of the guys with dreams of being mighty.

    "A Weeping Willow." Said to be mysterious, I would pick a prickly Pine were I asked this question today.

    "I was going to say a Willow, oh well, an apple tree I guess, since I'm so pure and wholesome." Lynette only named a label many others had placed on her.

    "If you were a book, what would you be?" Todd asked. He was one of my roommates.

    " Ooh…ooh…One Flew Over the Coo Coo's nest." Everyone laughed at Bill, another one of my roommates. I think he's been over that nest many times.

    "The Edible Woman." Lynette gave me a look that said I had again stolen her answer.

    "Stranger in a Strange Land." Adam I think, Frostburg's resident Lord Byron, or so he thought.

    "If you were a sweater, what kind would you be?" The sweater reference was a private joke between Jason, and me and I asked it although he, a good student, wasn't there. Jason, six foot three, shaved head, combat boots, and hands twice the size of mine, we found out what kind of sweater he was the past weekend, in my basement room while the frustrated virgins watched Caligula, the uncut version, upstairs. Their comments filtered through the ceiling air vents. 'Look how big he is! Nobody's that big! Eew…that's disgusting!' The last one was definitely said by Todd.

    "If I were a sweater, I'd want to be a warm one." Said Bill, in shorts.

    "I would be a wool one." Maybe from Todd.

    "Does that mean you shrink when you get wet?"

    "I would be a well worn, oversized, comfortable sweater." Lynette, my mirror twin. We were so much alike, and so opposite. Virgin and slut. Whenever I cashed in a ticket to hell, she kept me company. Together we rode out my grandmother's death, bad break ups, the stalker, and my abusive relationship with JD that ended the night he almost killed me. The conclusion of every episode would find us sitting on the swings in a local playground, chain-smoking cigarettes (the only time we ever smoked), not saying much of anything. Everyone should have a friend like her. Everyone should be a friend like her.

    We eventually got bored and our conversation would drift on to other topics. And I would start to drift away. In pretense of examining the rocks, I would wander, until I could hear them, but no longer see them. While they talked of things serious and silly, tears would fill my eyes then fall. In the dark, where no one could see me was the only way I would cry. I cried for not fitting in, for being alone, and lonely. I grieved for the people I had lost, and the ones I would lose. I held my head, wept over the secrets I had there, secrets that would remain there, like when JD put his hands on my throat, I hated myself so much I almost didn't fight back. Or that I still slept with Bill, pretending, but never believing sex meant love. Silently breaking down, I would hide in the dark until someone wondered where I went.

    "Should we go check on her?" Todd asked, once.

    "She's okay, she always goes off by herself." Just because we dated for six months, Bill thought he knew me. His words had angered me, so I picked up a big rock and threw it over the side. It tore through the trees and brush, making a satisfying thud as it landed on the ground below. There was an immediate silence from where they were sitting.

    "Hei, are you alright?" I laughed as quietly as I had cried as they scrambled to their feet to look for me. Then I flew in the opposite direction before turning around and heading back.

    "What was that crashing sound?" I asked. Eyes widened, I was the picture of innocence. Lynette narrowed her eyes, but didn't say anything. Todd hugged me and stayed close to me for the rest of the night. On the ride to Denny's that night, I pretended to sleep. Bill leaned over to Lynette.

    "Is she okay?"

    "Yeah, she is." This wasn't the strangest thing I had done. Once I climbed a tree and only came down because I thought they were serious about calling the fire department. Lynette worried, but she knew when I went crazy, I always came back early. At Denny's, I laughed and joked, pretending that my eyes weren't red and swollen. They pretended with me.

    Almost ten years have passed since I've been there. I think I've done a pretty decent job of finding myself; but I realize now that I'll always be searching for one more piece or two to make me whole. Of those friends, only Lynette is still around. I've heard that Dan's Rock has been turned into a scenic overlook, with steps leading up to the cliffs, and railings to stop people from falling off. Even still, one day we're going to go back. We're going to sit in the dark and talk about the future, and the past. And the present. And maybe one day she'll learn what it took so long for me to find out. You can't fit in with the world; you have to fit in with yourself.

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