The View From the Top

The View From the Top

There is a dirt road that borders the south side of this valley city. It runs past the rodeo grounds, just along the base of one of the mountains that circles the city. Along the base is some rolling grassland referred to affectionately as ‘the flats’. It is along here, hidden in among the rolling hills and various sagebrush and thickets, many a bush party was hosted, filled with dozens of teenagers, even more alcohol, bush trucks, and the occasional fight.

But my spot was further along this dusty bumpy road. I would take my 1972 Dodge Dart Demon out on this stretch, sometimes several times a week, stretching out its legs as I drifted through the winding corners, weaving my way along the valley, slowly higher and higher up the base of the mountain. As this dirt road pulled away from the valley city and the rodeo grounds, the meandering river – one of two that weaved its way through the city – emerged at the base of the mountain, racing me along the valley bottom to destinations unknown.

I climbed higher, gaining a better view of the opening valley, giving way to agricultural lands and a smaller community just west of the city. Eventually the road came to a sharp corner that had a jut-out, a place where a vehicle could pull off, allowing the fully loaded logging truck, coming down from the opposite direction, room to pass. This vantage point was large enough to have the car facing perpendicular to the road without taking up the road, providing the occupant a spectacular view of the valley unfolding in front of them.

However, it was at the bottom of this vantage point that interested me. When you walked to the edge of this point you released that this was a rocky face of the mountain, a cliff, that was several hundred feet above the ground below. When you looked down you saw that the river had stayed with you the entire way, hidden beneath your view but still meandering its way through this valley.

At the very bottom of this cliff was the shore line – perhaps sticking out a hundred feet or so from the rock face before the river washed things away. Gathered as monuments to the past, scattered in-between the trees on the shoreline were the remnants of vehicles. There must have been at least half a dozen of them – their fates obvious to me standing above. It was an eery sight. Each of these crumbled and crushed vehicles had a story. How was it that each of them came to know this fate at this place and in this way?

It was here, in this place, a few miles up from where the other teenagers would party, that I would find solace. I would find an escape from my misery, my pain, my depression. I would spend hours out at this place. It would be here that I would bring memories with me, dig a hole, and burn them ritualistically, seeking to eliminate all existence of who I was. It was here that nothing mattered and where the birds stopped singing. It was here that silence became my friend.

I would go and stare down at those vehicles and long to join them in their final place of misery because there was something escaping about it – something that gave peace to my wretched soul. I would look back at my car, knowing that it would be content ending its journey there as well. The perfect combination. The fitting end to it all. The cliff was calling me. The darkness desired me. The voices down the road had forgotten me.

I would sit behind the wheel, with the motor running and my foot on the accelerator. The engine would rev and the car would jerk to one side under the torque of the motor, longing to lunge ahead into the unknown, the darkness. Despair would open up the passenger door and invite itself in. My hands, firmly clasped on the steering wheel, I would inadvertently drain all of my strength into my grip, collapsing into deep emotional sobbing, mixed with an intense anger rising from the depths of my lungs, and with clenched fists I would hurl insults at the air, screaming out in anguish – desperate to have it all go away.

I would lose this battle. Shouldered once again with the misery, the deep broken sadness, and the intense loneliness, I would back the car up onto this dirty, dusty road and slowly meander my way back to the city. Tomorrow I would try again to find a release from my hell. Maybe tomorrow.

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