I left university in 2011 with a degree in English and a desire to possess and experience something somewhat like the grand design hidden within the world. The Success on the horizon. I entered the world like a writer and drew deep breaths of the landscapes of our country. I barreled onto the blue highways of America; a life counting time on an aluminum frame on the edge of civilization and the whirr of engines making music of the silence. I pushed my legs until the miles seeped into my pores and came out as drops of sweat.
But, all rides end somewhere and in Colorado in 2012 I hit an inch lip after a four mile hill going somewhere in the vicinity of 40 miles an hour and lost control of my bicycle. I wobbled wider and wider until my bicycle fixed a trajectory that ended with the guard-rail. I bailed, covered my arms and rolled into the pavement.
Oliver Sacks wrote that “a man needs a narrative to maintain himself,” a framework, I think, that enables the experience of enlightenment to morph into feelings of the sublime. The color of the exposed palm is a radiant red, and when the bones are visible then they are white. At 40mph, with the palm extended to stop the body rolling, the skin is pushed under itself and curls. Each turn collects different pieces of rubble, but most of the gravel stays touching the palm.
My experience with the ever-burning creation of all humanity—a quarter of a century of collected moments. The opportunity that Florida Atlantic University presents is to put to torch my own narrative and forge and bend into existence an ember of the sublime outlined red against the enveloping darkness of our cosmic insignificance. There is nothing as pleasant as a mote of dust captured in the light. A bicycle ride on the shoulder of the highway in the rain.
Alan Watts wrote, “the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scripture is like eating paper currency.” All I do as a scholar and writer is in pursuit of the world of life that is beyond myself: it is not to idolize, not to bankrupt, nor to destroy the literary scripture, but to inhabit my own lens and share with others this opportunity passed down to us. Communion.
No man is an island entire to himself. The edge of the ocean is only another highway—an extension of the land—from here I am connected to my home. This is my home. I have rejoined my family of new faces and set foot down on the pages of my narrative to continue in pursuit of the god burning within our collective imagination.
Can I explain this?
I landed in Florida before the New Year and felt the rejuvenating wonder that comes with endings and beginnings. The narrative continues onto another chapter and if it had to end anywhere it would start on the night of the 9th.
It was a Montana spring rain, or an autumnal high desert downpour—but the land did not need to be quenched—and from moment to moment it changed from torrential downpours to spring drizzles. It is all in a different climate, but the experience is forever a reminder of somewhere else and tonight the sky was sobbing.
Dark. Warm. Rainy. The stars are hidden and the city lights burn.
Out into the streets on a well-oiled Trek 530 Multi-Sport, a mature pine green. North along the sprawling empty lots scattered between buildings and stadiums, to another shoulder off another local road that somewhere meets with another blue highway.
We join our hero barreling north toward the only slight rise in the area—an overpass across Spanish River—2 inches and rising of rain collected on the northern side of the road, the winking white line of the shoulder flirting through the percolating clouds. At the summit, the grand 200 foot summit, he attacks the rain and slaloms—wider and wider—throwing waves with each carved and precise motion to the outsides of his saddle.
The skin on his left palm is white as opposed to the rosy right. His smile grows as the water fans further and further—the ground is flat and he studies the road intently. The pitter-patter and the whirr and the callback of pedestrian walkways break the raining silence.
The narrative continues and descends into illegibility as what is written blends with what is lived. And all the while here we sit and read. Communion.
Jason Stephens graduated from Boise state in 2011. He joined the MFA program here at Florida Atlantic University in the Spring of 2014. He is the son of Jim and Joan, brother of Jenn, Josiah, and Justin, uncle of Hunter, Wyatt, James, Alex, and Scarlett. He rarely misses appointments, regularly exercises, and doesn't swear too often.