The Sun Always Rises

I’m content with how I’ve lived it. It’s been interesting to see it happen, live, as it happened, as it’s happening still. Some ups, some downs, excitement, boredom, interesting, and boring. Just life. I’ve always lived life with the intent of eventually telling a story. I’ve always, or at least often, tried to pay close attention to even the most mundane of events with the purpose of telling that moment’s unique story. Beautiful moments in time are not always significant at all. Some happen in the half moments between breaths, when we least expect them.

Like that 12 seconds when that cloud had that little bit hanging off one side that was shaped exactly like my dad’s smile. To learn how to recognize that blink of a moment for what it is, when and where it is, is the power of time travel. That cloud smiling at me with my father’s smile floated above a camel-shaped rock on a winter day in early December. 1990? 1991? I went there hoping for an earthquake but not expecting an earthquake. I remember standing there, looking up. Recording. Someone on my left that I don’t remember passed me a joint that hit and passed to my right. To another someone that I don’t remember. You might remember that same moment on that same day except you were somewhere else living it differently. I remember mine because I made a conscious decision to keep it.

I’ve missed many moments because I wasn’t trying. I have long stretches of time with almost no memories at all. I’m sure they are there, filed away with all the rest, just not relevant enough to recall. I can close my eyes and see virtually every square inch of a 3 acre farm I lived on from 2nd grade until 6th. I cannot remember the exact layout of a 1 bedroom apartment in lived for a year as an early 20-something adult. I know the name of a truck driver who picked up my then-future-wife and myself while hitchhiking and driving us across several states. I don’t remember my neighbor’s name even after four years.

Early in the pre-dawn morning of July 4th,1994 I was driving east through Missouri on interstate 70. I had driven long into the night before with little rest before. To promote wakefulness I had taken a healthy, but not at all heroic, dose of LSD under the assumption that my shift driving would soon be over. Long before the acid really took hold of my mind I would be a passenger instead of pilot. I knew that I would be soon driving into an amazing technicolor great plains sunrise so my internal memory backups running. Any new day’s longest hour is the night’s last. The sky began to lighten almost imperceptibly. The sky just barely evident and separate from the shadowed earth, but only only under concentrated observation. In the dark along the roadside I saw the glint of eyes that I thought might be deer. I saw shadows of bushes that startled my exhausted brain. Several times I swerved away from what appeared to be animals bolting in front of the massive Chevy van I drove only to discover that they were bushes and their shifting shadows confusing my reactions. As the sky lightened all perspective changed from second to second. Along with constantly changing visual world, my mind was also searching flighted shadows. I grew anxious and thought of horrors. I flinched from a blowing piece of trash, seeing an old woman’s head rolling into and through my lane of high speed travel. A child on a bicycle dashed onto the road. He was stopped directly in front of the van as I pulled the wheel to the left, looking up into my eyes. I was too slow. Time split then split again then split into smaller and smaller increments spinning the next 3 seconds into a thousand futures each populated with a different outcome. I could see him staring up at me as I failed to avoid him. Nanoseconds clicked by as frames. The right front of the van clicked closer to flesh. Click… click. As I watched the child became a deer it collided with steel. Time skipped to normal as the van exploded into a chaos of confusion and screams.

The wet, pounding thud in the front rolled through the van like a wave, returning back toward me carrying angry and scared voices of the unexpectedly awake. My mind was stuck between the nightmare of killing a child and the knowledge that it was a deer. Someone screamed ‘what did you hit?’ as I steered onto the shoulder to a stop. I heard myself answer that I had run over a kid. Then after my mind caught up I confessed my mistake, assuring them it was only a deer. Unbelieving and fearful for what they’d find, everyone exited the van sprinting back towards a child’s body lying in the road to discover a deer. They came back in two pairs, the second pulled the body off the road.

I laid in the grass on my back arms splayed. I watched the sky come alive in a spectacle. The sun always rises. Even if we’re not watching. Not remembering.

–Jake Denotsko

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