Ben has become a dear friend to me, though we have yet to meet in person (it's happening). He has listened to me over Voxes and texts as I tearfully walked through some very low points. He has been patient, and such a resource as I've puzzled out questions about sexuality and faith that I had never considered before. He has been a consistently encouraging and gracious voice, both to me personally, and in the blogosphere. He is brave and kind and passionate. But more than that, Ben is a wonderful writer. I never miss one of his posts. I am delighted to share his de(tale) with you today. ...
All my life, my parents have bought my siblings and I cars. Well, technically cars.
My dad always had a keen eye for “bargain buys” and when it came to getting wheels for us, his clumsy set of kids, he had the good sense to buy ones that were already on their last legs. Junker cars. Dying Cars. Dead Cars. Then, a few slaps of duct tape and bit of chewing gum later, Zombie Cars.
Despite the quirks and their shabby appearance, I wasn’t bothered much by our rides. I was never much of a car guy anyway and I understood how insanely lucky I was to have any car. The only concern I had was that I could make it from Point A to Point B; that I had the means to move. Cars themselves were deeply important to me, but purely in a functional way. I could care less about fashion statements.
My first car was a 1990 Honda station wagon bought for $500 cash. It had a dirty pink interior, a weird mesh wall that separated the backseats from the trunk, and it lasted for about a year, which is nothing short of a miracle. After her was a brief stint with the Saab, then the rusty blue explorer, and lastly, the red 1995 Oldsmobile, a hand-me-down from my 90-year-old great-great-aunt who, after a stroke, could no longer drive it.
That last car died epically. On my commute to work one morning, the brakes suddenly stopped working, and after a few frantic minutes of carving through neighbors' lawns, I wound up pinned up in a few trees, dangling over a steep ditch in the forest.
When I turned to my parents, this time, all glassy eyes and pouty lips, they replied with a shrug. It was time, they said. Time for me to buy my own car.
At the time, I had just graduated college and was working my first full-time job as a paraprofessional at an alternative high school for kids who couldn’t make it in the mainstream, for a lot of reasons. It was in this setting that one student, a 17-year-old mechanic with an 18-month-old son he brought with him to school everyday, offered to sell his car to me.
I hedged, but eventually said yes for a few reasons: One being that I knew this kid and I held him in high regard. He worked his ass off—in school, his job, and most importantly, as a dad, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: fix cars. I don’t know that you can trust any car seller more than a mechanic with passion for his craft.
She really was beautiful, for the price I paid. A blue Saturn ion with a champagne interior, generous gas mileage, and intense and fast starting air conditioning, which was critical, since none of the windows worked (still don’t). And the trunk door didn’t (still doesn’t) open. To pop the hood, you still have to climb under the front of the car and yank at a small lever. She was, is, both imperfect and beautiful, just like everyone else.
My buddies and I started calling her "The Blueberry" for her deep blue exterior, and over time, I grew to love her. I didn’t expect to suddenly love a car as much as I did, but something in me understood what this car represented in my life. What it meant to have the absolute, no bounds means for movement.
Because, at my core, I am a wanderer.
Though the flash, the speed, the make and model of cars never mattered much to me, I always needed them, because I am terrified of being stuck in the same place for too long.
This need was part of the condition of family trips up north to our cabin. I always needed an escape route. I would ask my folks: Is there a car should I need one? What if I need my space, whose can I borrow? And what if—God forbid—I run out of cigarettes? Who will let me drive miles away to the nearest gas station without the slightest raise of an eyebrow?
This need followed me to every party I went to, every night out with friends, every event I ever attended. I didn’t want to be stuck anywhere, but I think mostly, I didn’t want to be stuck in my life. I didn’t want to lose myself in the obscurity of the usual, the mundane, the ordinary.
Eventually, this compulsion led me toward Washington, DC, armed with little more than the hope that some job might pop up somewhere and I’d make something of myself. I felt myself sinking in Minnesota. I felt stalled in my post-grad life. So I called a couple of relatives that were fond of me and well off, with a spare room that they were more than happy to loan to their sweet great nephew.
I drove down the highway, watching the Twin Cities' skyscrapers in my rearview mirror shrink to a hazy streak, and I remember feeling the rush of freedom. The lift of liberty. I remember feelings so fast, and the way it felt so right.
And when geography didn’t solve my deep anxiety about what I was supposed to with my life, when I found out you could be stuck even as you’re sprinting, I took the long drive home in my blueberry, who paid witness to every conversation I had with God. Who comforted me with warm seats in my stone cold silence. I remember the shame of it, feeling my tail between my legs. My pride wadded up on the passenger seat beside me.
Then I came to a rest stop in Wisconsin. In the end of November cold, the trees had just lost all their leaves. Winter was almost here. I sat on a bench smoking a cigarette while the familiar cold air circled around me, and I don’t how, but all at once I came together. I calmed. I breathed in the icy air and felt home, but in a good way. Something about the woods, the wind, the unexplainable feeling of my roots digging back into the ground. And the thought came, that maybe, for just a moment, I could stay put for a while. I could just be here and it would be okay.
Ben Moberg is a Christian gay man and is becoming less and less anxious about saying that. After spending his life in the closet, behind the lines of conservative evangelicalism, Ben, at last, came out and found only love and freedom patiently waiting for him on the other side. It’s been a beautiful last few years for him and his.
Other than that, in much more interesting areas of his life, Ben is a lifelong Minnesotan, a brother to four siblings, a son, an uncle, a world traveler, a slow writer, a Netflix binger, and he works at a high school school as a paraprofessional. He has been hit by evangelicalism like a hundred thousand times, and he is a sluggish forgiver, but grace is having a go at him. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.