“This Way or That?”
4 April 2005
The drizzle streaks down his glasses as he holds out his thumb hoping for a ride, away, just somewhere away. His heart is pounding in his chest, still distraught from the argument, the raging emotions. “How had everything gotten so bad, so tangled up, so quickly?” he wondered.
He watches as the speeding cars go by. An interstate. He is on an interstate and not much chance of a ride here and may even get picked up by the police and so he begins to walk along, South, away. And then, although he did not see the car slow down, he does see a car pull on the shoulder just up ahead of him and he runs to keep the driver from waiting on him. A backdoor opens and he jumps in. 3 men, about his age, all drinking beer and they ask about him and where he is headed and for the first time he is confronted with that decision. Where to? All he has been thinking, feeling, is, away, run away. He tells the three who seem to be having a good time drinking the beer and telling private jokes that he is just heading South and might spend a night with some friends a hundred or so miles on down the road. “No problem” the driver says as they are headed all the way out of the state and pulls the car back on the interstate and floors the accelerator.
He really cannot see the speedometer but can tell, sense, that they are flying now, maybe 80 or 90 miles and hour, weaving in and out of slower traffic and if they get pulled over with all the beer in the car, it is going to be bad, but it’s a ride. A ride away and he settles into the seat and sips on the beer he has been handed.
The heat of the car begins to dry his clothes and he closes his eyes and begins to relax. He has a while until he needs to say anything about getting out and he realizes that his heart is no longer pounding away. He settles in for the ride.
After a while, he looks about to get his bearings, where he is and can tell it is not much further. The car has been quiet for some time now and he is reluctant to break the silence but the driver has to be warned of the impending stop. He leans forward out of his seat towards the driver and says that the next exit will be great and the driver only shakes his head and he thanks the driver again for the ride.
It is still raining when he steps out the car and says his goodbyes all round and wishes them luck. 8 miles to the house. Wonder if he can catch another ride? He sticks out his thumb and begins to walk along.
Once off the interstate, traffic is sparse and none seem interesting in picking up the soaked stranger beside the road and so he continues to just walk along in the dark. He knows the house will be unlocked and at this time of night, his friends will be sleeping and he should be able to slip in, get some sleep and get out in the morning before they even wake up. He does not want to talk to anyone or explain anything.
After a while, he gives up on hitching a ride as no cars come by anyway and he wraps his arms about himself to try to keep warm. The rain has stopped to nothing more than a mist but his hair and clothes are wet and he shivers from the dampness.
Finally, he turns up Willow Street and sees the house. It is dark except for the one light in the living room and he sighs in relief. No explaining to do and he trudges up the porch steps and on the porch, in the dark, strips off all his wet clothes and opens the unlocked door and goes in. “So dry in here”, he thinks and quietly makes a circle of the downstairs, looking about to just see what has changed since he was last here and then he hears someone on the staircase and he calls out in a low voice, “It is just me” and his friend responds, “You ok?” “Yeah, sure” he responds and he hears his friend turn around and head back up the stairs. Was always like that between them. His friend knowing when to talk, ask and when not to.
He sits down for a moment on a couch in the living room and collects himself. It has been a long night, journey, and tomorrow will be a big day. He will head out tomorrow and he does not have a clue as to where he will go. Just away.
He climbs the stairs and opens up the bed and crawls in. The sheets and blankets are so dry after his long walk into town and he pulls himself into the fetal position to warm himself. After a while, he begins to finally get the chill out and he relaxes and turns on his side and drifts to sleep. He does not dream. Too tired to dream.
It is the strong light of a clear blue-sky day, which wakes him early in the morning, and at first, he simply turns away from the window and the sunlight and covers up his head. No need to jump out of bed he thinks, it is early yet and he drifts right back into a dreamless sleep.
Then, he awakes on his own and looking about, remembers where he is and why he is here. He turns onto his back and placing his hands behind his head, feels so free. He can go anywhere and do anything he wants now. Anywhere he wants. Anywhere he wants. Staring at the ceiling, where he should go from here just does not seem to materialize. He waits for some writing to appear on the ceiling like some directions written there from God, but nothing appears. “Where to go?” he thinks. “What to do now?” Nothing! Nothing comes to mind. “What is wrong with him?” This can be clean break, a chance to start all over again, to go out there somewhere and become whom he is supposed to be rather than what “they”, she, wanted. He turns towards the window. “Where is there to go?” He searches himself for an answer and comes up empty. Nothing. No passion for a specific place or specific thing to do. Nothing. Strange. So strange. “Perhaps if he packs a bag and just heads out, his direction, path, will evolve on its own”, he thinks. Not his style really but maybe that is because what all the “others” wanted, demanded, of him.
"This Way ?"
Outside, birds are singing and a gentle breeze is blowing the treetops and lost in thought, he does not hear her open the door and come in.
He is startled when her body touches his and he turns to find her there crying beside him. She has driven through the rainy night to talk with him, be with him. “She needs him”, she says as she cries and begs him not to leave her. He holds her tight in his arms and out of his mouth comes, “I love you” and he realizes that love for her is the only passion, the only place he really wants to go, and the only thing he wants to be, in love with her. They lie quietly together and look out the window at the bright spring day. And then, as if God really had written on the ceiling for him to see, he sees his direction is with her. As he has no passion, no direction, he will simply follow her, do what she wants him to do, go where she wants to go. Why not? All he is love for her.
"Or That ?"
He holds his arms tight across his chest trying to keep the cold out and as he enters the parking garage, he can feel the heat rising out of it and it is so welcome. “Must be below 20 degrees on the street tonight.” the thinks.
As he descends down the ramp of the parking garage he moves close to the right wall and slowly makes his way closer to the parking toll collection booth. Most nights it is empty but he is never sure and peeks around a curve in the wall to check it out. Empty. He moves away from the wall and on down the ramp, past the tollbooth and down to the lower level. His arms are down at this side now and he begins to warm up as the heat of the garage makes its way through all his layers of clothes and socks.
No one is around and as he walks along, he looks at all the fancy new cars and wonders who drives them and were they live around there. “He only owned one new car in his life.” he thinks. “Never happen again, now”.
Around another corner and still deeper into the underground he goes. Now he can hear the roar of the huge fans, which push the air about to keep it from becoming stale with car exhaust fumes and which injects heated air. “Funny.” he thinks, “Heat for cars but no heat in the city for someone like him.”
Finally, he reaches the very bottom of the garage and walks past many empty parking spaces until he comes to the large fan roaring away just above all sorts of metal electrical boxes, mounted against a wall. Looking about one more time to make sure he was not followed and there is no security guard roaming around, he steps up on one large metal box and then another and then lifts himself into a large, rectangular hole in behind the air circulation fan. “Home, once more.” he thinks and moves the blankets he has stored there around to make his bed for the night and takes off one of this many jackets.
Pulling a can out of one of his pocket, he opens it and pulling a fork from a paper bag he keeps in one corner, he begins to eat slowly, looking out of his hiding place, home, at the empty garage beyond and below. He likes it here, his concrete cave, his home. What a sweet find, this place, this home for the night. High up off the ground and out of the line of sight for all but the most conscientious security guard or car driver, he feels safe.
He finishes off the can and places it near the outer edge of his place so he will remember to dump it in the morning and then he straightens his blankets one more time and lays himself down for the night. It is warm and just enough light to make him feel secure and yet not enough to keep him from sleeping and the large fan, which roars just beyond his cave, is such great company. Somehow, it gives him some feeling of constancy that things are ok and it drowns out any sounds of traffic during the night.
Laying back with his hands behind his head for a pillow, he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.
He dreams, once again, of rain falling on him in the middle of the night and he standing by the road, hitchhiking a ride. A road, which would take him away but never to anyplace. As always, he wonders about her and what became of her but then he turns on his side and she is gone and he can only hear and feel the large motor of the fan running, constantly outside his doorstep.