“Helpless,” Heartbreak and a Gasoline Baptism



I want to smoke a cigarette, but I am covered in gasoline.

“Once gasoline dries, it can’t catch fire.  You’re fine,” Alex says.

“Well, okay, but my hair is still wet.  Do you have a hat or something?”

“Yeah, look on the seat behind me.”

Minutes before, the numbers on the gas pump had clicked to a halt.  So, as I had done a million times before, I grabbed the nozzle to return it’s home and… gasoline.  Gasoline in my mouth, gasoline in my eyes, gasoline all over the dress I wanted to wear to my Dad’s Father’s Day dinner.  In short, I received a gasoline baptism.  So, I said a prayer to the Gods of gasoline: “Please, no one light a cigarette.”  And really, who smokes at gas stations, anyway?  But when you’re as flammable as Chicago in 1871, you think strange things.

I donned the hat, sparked my cigarette, and hoped for the best.

“You pick the song,” he says.

A… Animal Collective, maybe.  B… Band of Horses?  No, not right now.  C… Crosby Stills Nash & Young.  “Helpless.”  Ding, ding, ding, we have a winnnerrr.

You know how there are songs that take you to a moment in your life you had thought you had forgotten?  A memory from your past is brought to your present, and for a moment, you are a person you once were.


Alex is driving, and as the hot wind blows against my face, Neil Young breaks my heart.  In my mind’s eye, I walk to summer school on a hot July day in Boulder, Colorado.  Most of the  town has been abandoned, giving the campus’ red brick buildings and tall cottonwood trees a sleepy, almost too-quiet feel.  In the foot of desert mountains visible out my window, faces of guy friends I miss dearly, but will rarely see for the rest of my life, come into view.

A well-known magazine is going to include a four-page feature about The Surfer Stoke Project in their next issue.  20,000 copies of the issue will be printed and distributed all over San Diego.  This is my dream come true, and I was asked to write my story.   I submitted it on Monday.

I finally met someone I really like, someone who really gets me, who really cares about me – and he’s leaving in the fall.  For someone who rarely has boyfriends, I can’t tell you how nice it is to hear the words, “You can tell me anything.”  Or, “You don’t know how great you are.”


Day to day now, I don’t know what my life is going to bring.  I don’t know if people will read my work, if my editors will like my stuff, or if I am going to be heartbroken.  And as the crow’s feet around my eyes deepen, my grip on my past grows more slippery, and my grandmother’s ability to remember things loses it’s gusto, wariness of days to come casts a shadow of sunny June days.  And sometimes, I do.  As a human being, I feel helpless.  Afraid of the days when life, inevitably, will go for my jugular.  But not knowing what is going to happen is the stasis of life.  And as is written on the ceiling of Swami’s Cafe, “Life might not always be beautiful, but it is a beautiful ride.”



I was stressed out the other day, and I vented to my Dad, and he told me I had a case of “weltanschauung,” a German word which means anxiety about the world in general.  And think he was right, but I think all human beings come down with weltanschauung.  Each of us has to deal with the all-pervasive uncertainty that comes with being a human being.  All of us battle doubts and fears associated with impermanence, change, and death.  The key to happiness is learning how to be okay with it.  To seeing possibility in that uncertainty.  Accepting it, and even trying to throw a positive light on it.

As Alex and I drove home from Big Bear listening to “Helpless,” I reflected on how short life is and how I want to live it rightly.  I want to try my best every day, work hard every day, and be happy every day because at 25 and a half, life does seem to go by quickly.  But, instead of being fearful of what’s to come, we should know, that no matter what happens to us in life, we are enough.  We are strong enough, we are good enough, and all you owe today is to have enjoyed it.  And whereas two months ago, I knew almost exactly what would happen every day of my life.  Now, I find myself enjoying the uncertainty.  Thank God I don’t know what’s going to happen, because basically being Bill Murray in “Ground Hog Day” threatened to suck my soul away.  Relishing the moments of your life is the most important thing, so when fear and doubt come in, look them in the eye.  Know that everyone feels the way you feel, but life is too short to be afraid.  Do as Helen Keller says and turn your eyes to the light, because then you won’t see the shadows.

2 thoughts on ““Helpless,” Heartbreak and a Gasoline Baptism

  1. One day down the line when you’re the one being interviewed, someone is going to ask “Where did this all start?” and you’ll be able to point back at this and say “Here”.

    And there are probably other people, when asked that, who will also point back to this and say “Here” too.

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