True Story, Issue #27
"Where Am I" by Heather Sellers
True Story, Issue #27
True Story is a new home for longform nonfiction narratives. Published monthly by the editors of Creative Nonfiction, each pocket-size issue of True Story showcases one exceptional essay by one exceptional writer. From issue to issue, this new mini-magazine features the widest possible variety of voices and styles and subjects.
Offering vivid, immersive reports from real life, every issue of True Story is a small celebration of the larger-than-life stories and experiences that make us think differently about what it means to be human.
ABOUT ISSUE #27: She gets lost on a straight line—that’s what Heather Sellers’s father said about her, and it wasn’t an unfair description. But a chance encounter with a stranger in an airport proves to be a turning point. How can a person learn to reorient herself after a lifetime of being lost in the world?
From "Where Am I" by Heather Sellers
I have struggled with left and right my whole life. In kindergarten, I looked at my thumbs to see which hand to put over my heart for the pledge. The hand they wanted us to use was not the one where my thumb had a bump on the knuckle.
To this day, I hold my thumbs together and look at them closely before I turn on the stove, L or R. When my doctor says to hold out my left arm so she can draw blood, I sneak a peek at my thumbs.
Horns blaring, cars careening, I turned left on red lights many times, not able to understand the difference between “right on red” and “left on red” or to remember which one was okay. Eventually, I stopped turning on any red. This also caused honking, but at least my car wasn’t moving. I just rested my head on the steering wheel. It’s better this way, trust me, people.
If I could have, I would have stopped driving altogether. But after I got my license, my father often left me on my own, sometimes for weeks, sometimes even a month at a time, and I had to drive.
His house was on Gondola Drive, a long, straight road that intersects perpendicularly with Sand Lake Road, another long, straight road. I’d drive and drive and drive Sand Lake, way out in one direction, trying to find my way home from Disney, where I worked—no Gondola. So at some point, when I was out of Orlando and into the countryside, I’d turn around. Drive back toward town, and again, there would be nothing familiar, no Gondola. Maybe I was looking on the wrong side of the street—Gondola was only on one side of Sand Lake. So, I’d go back and forth. She gets lost on a straight line was the refrain my father used.
Sometimes I grabbed the steering wheel and shook it; sometimes I didn’t really care if I ever got there. I sang along to whatever was on WDIZ and just enjoyed the windows rolled down, freedom in being completely lost. But the longer I drove, the more I lost confidence. The more I lost confidence, the more shaky I got and the more turned around I felt and the more I became convinced that I would never really make it in the normal world.
Once, I accidently drove clear to the ocean, to Cocoa Beach—some fifty miles away from my father’s house. I’d sensed it was taking a long time, but I had no idea I was going in the wrong direction.
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