mantis -part one

i was sent to a suburb of chicago, a town called naperville, for job training. i was on my own in a strange town. i felt a great sense of freedom but at the same time a looming dread that i was going to disappear on this trip. for instance, when i arrived at o’hare, the car that was to meet me was not there. i had a phone number for the training facility, but it was a sunday and there was no answer when i called. i had the address but i had no idea where i was in relation to naperville. i felt anxious and annoyed.

i decided to just wait it out at the airport, thinking perhaps my transport was stuck in some situation and would be along shortly. i bought a pack of cigarettes. i didn’t smoke, but i thought that i might use this trip to change things about myself. smoking seemed like a radical shift and i was bored and started plotting other ways to transform myself.

my grandfather told me to be careful on this trip, that chicago was a big town compared to my small town life and i would be a target for all sorts of nonsense if i didn’t pay attention. indeed, when i was on the pay phone trying to get through to naperville, my little boom-box was lifted by someone and it and the person had vanished. i was pissed off and embarrassed that within minutes of being on my own, my grandfather’s warnings had turned out to be true.
i was a small town local yokel target.

i finally took a cab to my address in naperville. i arrived at my hotel around ten that night and checked into my room. it was small and i felt trapped, so i decided to take a walk. i crossed the overpass of the highway and off in the distance i could see the lights of a strip-mall with a tremendous, empty, sunday night parking lot. the training site was located in this strip-mall. looking at the dark facility, the crappy hotel, and naperville made the dread of disappearing come back to me.

as i was heading back to the hotel, i looked straight up and into the sky. there was a loud clap of thunder and a flash of lightening as a torrential rain storm came down upon me. it was as if i had caused this deluge by looking up; within seconds i was soaked to the bone. i didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so i think i did something like both. i chalked it up to the experience of living life; besides, it sort of erased my loneliness for a bit. i was hungry now and the small restaurant in the hotel was still open.

the lady at the cash register showed me to a booth, looking at my wet clothes with a combination of pity and something else. she brought me a menu and some extra napkins to dry off. i decided that i would have a steak and in the spirit of transformation, it would be the last red meat for me, forever! i would become a vegetarian, a smoking vegetarian, for no other reason than the sake of metamorphosis. i instructed the lady to cook my steak rare, flip it for five minutes only and bring it to me. i ate it and for the first time in this long day felt free and full of life. i was in a new place and i was a new person.

after this ceremonial meal, i bought another pack of smokes because my first pack was soggy. the rain had stopped so i stepped out of the hotel and walked to the fence at the edge of the property. i breathed in a dizzying puff and stared at the highway that in the distance disappeared into black. i remember thinking, maybe even saying it out loud, this chain-link fence, is the only thing keeping me from just walking off in the night.
it was the only thing in this world that kept me from vanishing.