I don’t believe in luck. Well, to be fair, it’s not luck in particular I don’t believe in; it’s everything. I have no faith. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada.
I don’t believe in god, destiny, the afterlife, heaven or hell. I don’t believe in horoscopes, omens or superstitions. I don’t avoid black cats, throw salt over my shoulder or avoid cracks in the sidewalk. I don’t tend to walk under ladders, not because of superstition, but because that’s generally a bad idea.
I don’t believe that people are either good or evil. We are all gray to varying degrees. Some are gray like a bright winter day; others are gray like soot, but no one who has ever lived has been entirely good nor entirely evil. We all are capable of both and we choose which to act on.
If you knew my history, you wouldn’t begrudge me for giving up on such concepts as universal fairness, justice, luck or an all-seeing power. I couldn’t live believing that there’s a system that would allow or predestine anyone to live through all the things I have; the anger would swallow me whole. As it is, chocking it up to “shit happens” keeps me from exploding.
That said, I collect lucky charms. I am incredibly nostalgic. I have shelves full of treasures that don’t mean much to anyone but me. Each item has a story. Here are just a few of them.
When I was a kid, I collected rocks. I’m not sure why. Probably because they were free and I had no money. We traveled a lot when I was little and I used to have a rock from each of 48 states (I’ve still never been to Hawaii or Alaska, but if I go, you can bet I’ll bring a rock home).
My mom, tired of lugging rocks around everywhere, made me disperse them in the yard of the house I grew up in. When I was fifteen, we moved and they remained there, but unbeknownst to my mom, I kept some of the most unique ones and some that had significance.
This rock didn’t come from a faraway place in our travels. It actually came from the lake where I spent all summer, every summer–my own backyard. I picked this rock up when I was seven years old. It is one of the few I kept when I dispersed my rock collection.
In all respects, it’s a perfectly ordinary rock. There are no fancy minerals threaded through it. It’s not an unusual shape, color or texture. It’s not pretty or unique in any way that makes it worthy of sitting on my shelf half a world away, but I have kept this rock with me for decades.
I picked this rock up and added it to my collection the first time the monster came for me in the night. It marks the start of a year of child sexual abuse, and the destruction of my faith and trust. It represents the turning point between an ordinary child and a child who was completely alone and bent on self-destruction.
I was eighteen years old, homeless, strung out on drugs, hungry and passively looking to die. One day, towards the end of fall, I was walking through an empty lot that used to be part of a neighborhood in Detroit, but had turned into just another empty lot.
I can’t remember where I was going–it was most likely either to score drugs or to sell my body in order to score drugs–when I tripped over this object.
It was half-buried. I was curious what it was, so I pried it loose from the ground. It’s a small baby food-sized jar that someone had filled with glitter, water and red food coloring. I cleaned off the dirt, shook the jar and it sparkled. Something about a whirlwind of sparkle in the wreckage of Detroit and of my life at the time made me smile. It was the first time I had smiled in months.
I put it in my pocket and it became part of my collection. I have no idea how long it had been buried in the dirt before I found it, but my ghetto snow-globe has held up remarkably well. Every once in a while, I see it on my shelf and give it a shake. It still makes me ruefully smile.
When I was in my twenties, for eight years, I lived with a domestic violence monster. It started with verbal abuse and control, and every year, it got progressively worse, until by the end, he nearly killed me, nearly every night.
One day, I went to a friend’s house after a particularly bad incident of abuse. He was folding laundry as I told him what happened. As he listened, he played with the dryer sheet, then he handed me this.
He said it was an angel to protect me. The monster tried to kill me many more times after I had that dryer sheet angel. It didn’t protect me nor did it slay the monster–he is still out there preying on others–but in the end, after so many broken teeth, black eyes and bruises, I did eventually escape.
I still have the dryer sheet angel. When I look at it, I think of how powerless I once thought I was. I think of how, towards the end, I actually wanted him to kill me just to have an end. I thought death was the only way out. I was wrong. This year, I am celebrating 18 years of life after monsters.