I didn't know I was in trouble.
Now, years later, I suddenly do see it.
We're not talking drugs. I never did drugs. Any. Ever.
Nothing is worse than stone cold sober.
What I did was more destructive: I had mainlined on GOD.
A weird brand of God: Jehovah God.
I was shredded and unaware. If you'd asked me (the day I climbed into the car and stepped hard on the pedal) how I was doing...?
I guess I'd have said, "Great."
I really thought so. And didn't think so. Both at the same time.
Furious anger boiled inside. Unknown. How is THAT possible?
It was mid-afternoon. A hard rain had come to stay. The freeway glistened slick and sloshy as cars whooshed and slushed along, tires hissing off a hot Texas highway.
My speedometer bragged up to a boastful 140. Somehow, I got it into my head..."Let's just see..."
What was going on inside my thoughts? Was I feeling bad?
Nah. I wasn't feeling anything.
I stomped down and pushed my leg straight into a winding roar of horsepower and sheer determination.
The previous owner of the ugly Plymouth Fury (fury=anger)
said it was a 383 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. No Daddy--no car savvy.
It takes years to learn.
Now I do know. Zero to sixty in seven and half seconds! That's what an engine that size really means.
I was fresh out of Federal Prison. A Jehovah's Witness.
22 years old. Mind splintered from two years of hard education inside. Totally clueless why I was in a Fury with a fury inside of me.
The highway blazed by in a long stretch of damp, blurry accelerated images flickering and flashing in my peripheral vision.
Pure... Exhilaration! That's what was going on--I was trying to get some feeling back and it was starting to happen. Yeah. I could FEEL IT HAPPENING.
Being numb kept me alive those two years behind bars. It was survival mode. Hunker down. Pray. Fold up your feelings and keep moving.
Like jumping into river rapids...carried along in the white water. Dangerous.
Too dangerous to fight my way out.
Hanging on for dear life, hope was a raft...only a possibility.
Toward a mystery date of release.
A solemn and mysterious secret held by a Parole Board.
Twice per year, I performed an "audition" for unsmiling assholes.
I flunked 3 times. Smartass. Couldn't keep my damn mouth shut.
I sunk into warp drive and felt my body push back against the seat
(no seat belts back then) and then my heart began pounding like rock n' roll.
Fast. Faster. Fastest? There was no "fastest"--that magnificent motor kept winding and purring like a giant turbine at Niagra Falls--exploding with preposterous energy...enough to light a metroplex.
I didn't know three things all at the same moment.
I swear to you: I thought I was okay.
I didn't know I was in trouble. Like I said at the start.
Now I know.
I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning with my heart pounding...remembering that drive...that plunge into the abyss.
I can see the image inside my brain: incredible speed gathering under me, gliding on slick asphalt, passing dozens of cars on the left and right.
Woosh. Woosh. Woosh!
I wasn't married. Still a virgin. I hadn't begun to live life. But I couldn't see a tomorrow I wanted to own.
I felt trapped--WAS TRAPPED inside a cult---not even knowing it was a cult.
Something snapped--like waking up to the sound of thunder inside a nightmare. I pulled my foot up. The speedometer was screaming "135" on that stretch of the glistening void between life and death. Straightaway I awoke to white-hot consciousness in a Plymouth Fury on my way to a funeral of my own reckoning.
The speed shifted downward like a musical dimenuendo...flowing like honey on toast..creeping away from madness toward hope and possibility on the other side of the storm. 130...120...100...70...
My body convulsed sharply at a stab of consciousness of what I had done!
I suddenly pulled to the shoulder of the road and braked hard.
Heart pounding in my chest. Mad thoughts --a spooked flock of birds frightened from a lake by the sound of gunfire.
I awoke sitting up this morning on my bed...49 years afterward. It was anger at myself. That's what. I had done myself in before I ever sat down inside that car on a rainy afternoon. I had chosen it all--everything--so utterly stupid, naive, trusting and blind.
I could see the faces of my children and grandchildren smiling at me.
"If you had died--we would never have lived."
There's plenty of life left for a 22-year-old.
It was my business now to see for myself how I could possibly make it. Back to normal.
It would be another 5 years of struggling inside a cult before a glimmer of "wake up" began to form. Slow. Slowly. One foot in front of the other.
Instead of a dead JW on a highway, somewhere this side of a life unlived.
“My God--what have I done?”