When I was 17 I went on a trip to Washington D.C. as a finalist for the Junior All-American 300 meter hurdles. I was shy at this point in my life, especially with girls. No matter how many times my dad told me—”Knox, women are like bears; sure, they could fuck you up if they wanted to, but more often than not they’re more afraid than you are.”—I couldn’t get over it.
After getting third place, I took a walk around the nation’s capitol to see the various monuments and buildings, and I found D.C. to be a terrible place. I quickly grew bored, convinced a hobo to buy me some fortified wine, and brown-bagged it alone on a bench near The White House. As I felt the buzz begin to come on, a gaggle of Catholic school girls, all more or less my age, walked by in what seemed to be slow motion. I was transfixed. All of those giggling voices, holding schoolbooks against their chests, and their legs—those legs tapering downward to white stockings and petite loafers. I watched them walk past, skirts slightly dovetailing behind them, and I felt the same way I did the first time I ever entered The Cathedral of Segovia—like that I wished I believed in a Christian God. It murdered me that I would never know any of them and that they would never know me.
When I got back to the hotel I asked my dad if I could transfer into the private Catholic school back home for my senior year, to which he gave me a sideways look, grimacing as he swallowed a pull of liquor from a plastic pint bottle. “Now what the fuck would you want with all of them prudes?” I listened to some game show on the television that was turned up way too high and thought I wasn’t sure about what I had ever really wanted with anything. I suppose “them prudes” just made me feel more pure of heart than I was capable of being.
Bears still terrify me.
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