Monsters in the City
Loren Yelluas | Art by Michelle Jiang
Seven years ago exactly, I moved out of my childhood home and drove away. I left my mom, dad, and our two bedroom townhouse to explore the world outside with no real plan, expertise, or conviction to make anything of myself. I convinced myself that I was leaving to find new opportunities and gain life experience.
I told no one I was leaving until my last box was stowed away in my car and I was sitting in the driver’s seat. I nearly drove away without calling my parents out, to see how long it would take for them to call. But of course I didn’t. I went back inside and found both of them in the kitchen and told them. Every bit of me prayed that my mom would give me a hug and my dad would cry and that they’d say they were proud of me for taking this step, andl would miss me while I was away. My dad yelled. My mom yelled at him to stop yelling. He yelled more and I stood there without hearing a word. So I left.
I slept in my car most nights for the first month, until it broke down while it was trying to haul me and my 8 tons of clothing and books up a mountain. I had to push it backwards back down to the main road. Eventually, I found a small town with an auto repair shop that agreed to buy it. I stayed there in a motel for a while before I could figure out what to do next. There was no real urgency to think of a way out, I had enough money to stay in the motel for as long as I wanted, and it was a nice, folksy sort of town. There was a library and diner with good coffee, and the people were fine. They wore flannel and leather hats at all times, and I got the sense that they hadn’t seen a new person in decades. I read a lot during that time, and eventually sold the books that I got sick of and bought new ones. At some point I got bored and started dying my hair wild colors and playing loud music that everyone in the motel could hear from their respective rooms each night. They complained and I pretended to be sorry. Once, I yelled at a store clerk and threw a can of green beans at her. I don’t remember why, but I doubt she deserved it.
Around that time, a group of motorcyclists rode into town. The townspeople didn’t like them, but they were good business and didn’t stir up trouble, so they were let stay. On their last day there, I sold everything I couldn’t fit into my bag, bought a motorcycle off of one of the members, and left with them. I didn’t have to worry about goodbyes.
Travelling with them was nice. Learning to ride a motorcycle was easier than I thought and I saw the ocean for the first time. The band that we were following wasn’t very good, but they were loud and we all got drunk at every show, so I didn’t mind. Every day we would wake up early and drive until it got dark. I liked the routine. There was a stability in the everchanging road beneath us. Every day, I could ride with absolute certainty that I would end up somewhere other than where I started.
A few years passed, and still the same routine rode on. I got a tattoo on my neck and a new haircut. Eventually I got bored again and started stealing things. Nothing big, just earrings and card sets and cash. I wasn’t caught for a while, but one of them saw me digging through his clothes one night. I’d heard his footsteps in the hall outside of the motel room, but I kept going. I don’t know why. He let it slide, but three more offences with others and I was out. I told them I was glad to go.
I still had my bike so I rode up and down the coast, stopping at gas stations to pee or to get a sandwich every once in a while. Every time I’d get back on my motorcycle I’d rev the engine as loud as I could and speed off. I could feel the glaring looks of anyone within earshot on my back. I laughed and never turned to look back.
It’s been a few years since then.
Yesterday I decided that I should go back home for the first time in seven years, to show off my new self. To show my tattoo and motorbike and spiky hair. To see what they’d say.
And now I’m here, nearing the town now. I see the welcome sign up ahead and get ready for the sharp turn just around the bend, but it doesn’t come. The road goes straight. It’s flat and clean.
The trees clear and figures high up in the sky come into view: skyscrapers. Their tops higher than I can see, and their bases where townhouses and lawns used to sit. Fog curls hideously around broken lamp posts and reaches into my throat. I swallow it down and venture on. I find a building where my home used to be. I try to peer through its wall of windows but I only see myself. My small, angry, terrified self. The same self I saw seven years ago in my rearview mirror, backing out of the driveway I stand on now. My same flesh and bones, as the world turns to plexiglass and steel. My tattoo washes away in the fog and my motorcycle melts away. It begins to rain.
I never changed.