There’s a comfortability that comes with silence. The way that the background noises come into full focus. Passing cars, squeaky shopping cart wheels, and the gentle chime of bells ringing as shop doors are pushed open; all become the soundtrack of one's own life.
On the right there’s a restaurant that’s been there since the seventies, you can tell by the yellowed menus that they still use. The owner Stan has been there his whole life, right behind that counter. He grew up in this place, opened his restaurant in this place, raised his three kids in the small two bedroom nearby; and by the way his hands shake every time he makes your meatball sub with extra sauce, he’s going to die behind that counter. Perhaps his kids will bury him under the big oak tree at the cemetery near Los Caballos, or maybe they’ll dump his ashes in the river bed. Pray that rain will come soon so that his remains can somehow make it out to the ocean, finally leaving this place behind.
Across the way there was the Saint Matthews church, and every evening the sun sets right behind it. On Sunday you can find Father Gonzalez leading mass, his small congregation staring up at him seeking the answers of the universe with questions that they don’t even think to ask. How could those who believe in God ever question the nature of him? He is the father after all, the one to rule over his children, and dictate the very nature of their lives. No matter where they went they would always be watched over by him, tethered to him by some divine web. One that connects all people and places within a non-linear form of space and time. This is the web that all beings find themselves trapped in, and as you sat through Father Gonzalez’s sermons you realized questions began to form as to where your place was within this universal string.
In the middle there is a convenience store that used to be a right of passage for children to steal from. You weren’t really anyone in this place unless you had snuck a snickers in your pocket, ran out of the store with the cashier yelling after you, and presented your misbegotten treasure to your peers. The way that everyone’s eyes would widen when you showed them that you had actually done it, the thing only dared to do and never intended to execute. The way that deed had stamped you as the bravest amongst them, someone who wasn’t scared to break the convention of this place.
That didn’t mean that you didn’t face holy hell back home though. Your bible thumping parents putting the fear of God into you. The months after where every morning you were forced to wake up at four and walk the mile to Saint Matthews. You remembered the way your breath fogged on the walk over, and the cracking in your knees when you stood up after your hour of praying for penance. That was all easy compared to what occurred after school when your father would force you to recite lines of verse. The face your father made as he screamed lines of verse at you, the way it grew red and hot.
You knew that face well.
You saw it once five years ago staring back at you in the mirror of a run down bar near Modesto. The drunken fight that had broken out and the way that they swung with a heavy hand, but your upbringing had hardened your nerves into steel and if you had learned anything it was to never back down. So when you swung it was with the pain in your bones from those early morning prayers for penance, and when you fought it was with the ferocity that your father recited his verse. After it was over you stumbled to the bathroom to wash the blood and sweat from your face, and cleanse the pain that was seared into your soul. Then looking up you saw the red hot face of your father, and it made you sick. His web was attached to you like a fishing line, always bringing you back to him.
That was when you decided to leave behind this place once and for all. Depart from the narrative that you had always been forced to be a part of, and finally find some silence within your own mind. You made your way south, and settled down in San Diego. There you were able to make a life for yourself, find someone who loves the person you try so hard to be, with a kid coming in June. The thought of this place had finally left your mind, and that string long cut. That was until you received a funeral notice in the mail. The thread that you had cut yourself had finally been cut forever, with the death of your father.
You made your way north once again to this place, the memories of it returning to you as you drove. Saint Matthews was barren for the funeral, only you and your mother watched as an elderly Father Gonzalez held his sermon. He prayed to God and heaven, and said that your father was a complicated man who tried his best. When in reality you remembered your father being quite simple, it was just the anger within his holy heart that masked complexity.
It was an open casket, and as you stared at him one last time you realized that the face you once saw as your own seemed so foreign to you. The person that you had become seemed to have grown up a million miles away from this place, and the control that this man once held over you now appears to never have existed at all. It was under the big oak tree at the cemetery near Los Caballos where your father was buried. You watched as any memories of him were forever covered in the soil of the earth.
Then, as you got in your car to drive back home you decided to stop and say goodbye to this place one last time. It was just some little strip mall at the end of some small town, but it was the place where you were raised. A place that you once thought you’d spend your entire life at, a place where you thought you’d always be the same person within. However as you stood in silence and gave one final glance to this place, you realized you were a different person standing there now then you were when you first left. You had finally set yourself free from the web that binds us all.