There’s this painting. It’s by a guy you’ve never heard of before, R. Contellious. You can look him up, he’s really never done anything. Except this one painting, it’s of a boat. One of those old beautiful sail boats from back in the 1800s. This boat, it’s in this storm. The sky is that heavy grey that it gets right before everything comes undone. It’s like the weight of God’s disappointment is all going to come up and out in this one storm.
Sometimes I just sit and look at the picture. I think it’s where I’m at right now. I’m on this boat. So far out in the ocean that I know I should probably be afraid, but instead I’m just numb. The waves are getting bigger and the sky’s turning a hateful color. But it’s quiet. It’s all silent. Like heaven is holding it’s breath, worried that if they make a noise God will turn on them. They saw what he did to Lucifer. They know what he’s capable of. So they sit and watch.
The thing about silence is that it only really impresses those who are in the midst of it. You realized that it’s something you’ve been longing for since you were born. It’s one of those things you can’t ever get your fingers around, it’s always slipping, like those floaters in your eyes. But for those brief moments between breaths and heart beats you get to experience it. There’s nothing like it. It’s like those empty spots between the stars. There’s something beautiful about them. People are always trying to fill the empty spaces, I never understood that, I think you need them.
This storm is coming. I can feel it. It’s like I’ve been taunting the sea and he’s finally ready to prove that he’s bigger than me. There’s a chill in the air. There’s a creaking of the wood on the boat. There’s something that sleeps in the walls of this ship of mine. It gives voice to a forgotten time. Like the breath of a tree. It’s like a mother I once had, she’s trying to hold me and tell me it’s all going to be ok, but I can hear the hushed voices of the grown ups in the other room. I know it’s not all going to be ok. I’ve known it for awhile.
When I was a kid, I was out in the field behind our house. There was this tall grass right before the woods started. My parents never knew it, or maybe they did, I’m not really sure, but I used to run into the forest. See I had built a little castle back there. It was mine. I was safe there. I was in control. Well, I was out in the field looking for bugs that I could bring back to my castle, when all the sudden the clouds start getting real low. Then the trees started talking. And then off in the distance I heard the galumph of the mountains starting to shake. So I ran as fast I could to my castle. I had just gotten in when it started firing down on me. Hail the size of golf balls, thunder and lighting, wind like you’d never seen before. So strong it started making firecrackers and gun shots go off and the tree branches were falling all over the place. I sat there for what felt like a week waiting for the storm to pass. I knew when I got home my mother was going to yell at me for making her worry. “You should have been home…I was worried sick…Where were you!?” When I walked in, I just heard silence. I didn’t even know if anybody was home. Well I walked into the living room and I just saw my mom sitting there. Looking at the wall. The phone laying on the floor.
I’ve got this brother. His name’s Jack. He’s older than me by four years. I don’t know if he liked me much growing up. I mean we got along and all. We loved each other and stuff. But some brothers want you around, Jack normally acted like I was in the way. That’s why I liked my castle so much. I wasn’t in anyone’s way out there. It was mine. I always wished Jack didn’t think I was in the way all the time. Jack’s birthday is next Thursday.
“Mom?” I said, “Mom, you ok mom?” She turned her head towards me all slow like, her eyes were empty. I’d never seen her like this.
This boat. In the painting. You can tell it doesn’t stand a chance. It’s all about to come undone. It’s only a matter of time before it’s overtaken. There’s no sense in running from it. You can’t outrun God. It’s like that guy in the Bible, Jonah, I think his name was. Well God tells him to go to this city, and this guy gets on a boat and heads the opposite direction. That’s when things get bad. The storm comes. Like I said, you can’t outrun God. Well these guys on the boat end up feeding him to the ocean. I guess they thought if you just give God what he wants he’ll do you a favor. I’m not sure if God works like that, but I think the storm stopped.
“It’s your brother…” It’s my brother? Grown ups sometimes just say halves and expect us to fill in the rest. I guess it makes things easier on them. “It’s Jack. There was an accident.”
There’s a moment immediately before the silence ends. Something always breaks it. Then the rain comes down, the water rises, the wind pushes against your chest like a bass drum. Water starts making it’s way into the boat. You can’t hear anything. And you’ve just got to take it. You’ve got to take the weight of God’s wrath. It’s not something you can bare though. That’s the thing about being human, we can only take so much. Then you break.
“There was an accident” She said it again. I still don’t get it. It’s not sinking in. But I feel this pressure sitting on my chest. It’s getting hard to breathe. It’s like my body knows what’s happening before my mind does. “He’s in the hospital, your dad’s there right now. He was hit by a car honey.” I just sort of stand there. I can feel it all building up. “He was hit…” keeps repeating like one of those old records my uncle Gary has. Sometimes when you get dust or something in the grooves it kind of locks up and just repeats over and over again. “He was hit… He was hit… He was hit…”
When you’re older you start to figure some things out. You start to understand that some things, like storms and God, you can’t outrun. But when you’re young. When you’re young all you know how to do is run. And it doesn’t matter if you get skinned knees or scrapes on your palms, you just keep running. It’s what they tell you to do if things get bad: run. So I ran. It’s all I knew how to do. I ran like Jonah, I ran like a coward, I ran. I just kept running.
When I got to my castle I locked myself in. I was safe there. No one could touch me there, nothing could get to me. It felt like no one was around for miles, it felt like no one knocked for years.
Jack’s birthday is next Thursday. I haven’t seen him since the night of that storm. My parents always told me he would have understood. They say it wasn’t my fault that I ran. I think my mom still blames herself for not chasing me down all those years ago. I haven’t talked about Jack in awhile. Next Thursday would have been his birthday. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it though. I feel the storm breaking. This boat of mine doesn’t stand a chance. I’m no John Newton. I’m not making it out of this one. You can’t outrun God. Eventually he’ll catch up to you.