I’ll tell you something – I walked a lot that day. Actually, I don’t think I walked, I think I marched. I marched because I was so angry and marching is what my legs told me I had to do.
After I had exited through the doors of the A&P, I marched past all the newly minted minivans and past the older worn out jalopies that sat outside. I marched down the main road and crossed the driveways of the bank, the car wash and the ice cream joint. I crossed the driveways of so many businesses that day, businesses that were lined up, side by side, all the way down the main road until I reached the intersection – the one that had grown through the years and was now full of traffic and traffic lights.
I made my way across the intersection, through the gas station parking lot and past all the houses that had been unfortunate enough to survive since the seventies – unfortunate enough to have been consumed by the sprawl. I continued to march along the zigs and zags of the main road until the congestion of the area slowly began to fade and until the thickening of trees became apparent once more. The thickening of trees that surrounded the reservoir – the reservoir that I mentioned earlier in this story.
Now, if you remember the reservoir, you surely remember the old man’s property, because it was located directly across the street. And the street I was walking on happened to be the only street in town that ran adjacent to that reservoir. And running adjacent to it meant there was a guardrail and there wasn’t much of a shoulder to walk on. The pavement was narrower along that section of road and it became difficult to travel on – especially by foot.
I remember this part of my story well because as I was walking on that road, the cars were whipping past me, followed by the nauseating smell of exhaust and the tremendous vacuum only a vehicle traveling that fast can create. And create they did, because those cars were traveling fast that day. Much too fast for that road.
Through the years, the drivers in my hometown had become quite aggressive and were becoming more so every day. They had become so aggressive in fact, I felt that I needed to get off the road. Partly for safety and partly for sanity. I had to get off that road because I was simmering with anger and those drivers that day were turning my simmer into a boil.
Since I had already made it to the reservoir and since I was close by, I decided the best thing to do would be to cross the road and walk right up the old man’s driveway. Right up there past that blue and white booth and past the long shed. I would walk up past the old man’s house and all those cottages until I reached the office were my list was sure to be hanging. It would be there because it was always there. And at that moment in my life, that list seemed like the only thing I could count on.
I was still mad at that stupid food store and at that stupid manager named Jim. Jim and his big forehead vein. I should have slapped that vein and then left the store that day. I should have pulled my hand from my pocket and slapped him right in that big forehead of his. If I had done that, I’m pretty sure I would have cooled off a little by the time I made my way up the old man’s driveway. I think I would have been quite pleased with myself. If I had done what I thought I should have done, I would actually be smiling when I was walking up the driveway that day instead of looking down at the ground like some lost fourteen year old. A fourteen year old who was lost with nowhere to go.
But I didn’t. So I couldn’t. I couldn’t hold my head up that day because I hadn’t stood up for myself when some worthless man had grabbed me by the arm and yanked me around. If I had, this may be a different story. Sure, I may have gotten in trouble, but you know what? As I sit here today typing, I could have been chuckling to myself instead of feeling the remnants of anger still boiling away in the pit of my stomach. And as I think about getting in trouble for it – good. I would have welcomed the trouble for something like that. Because any person who scolds someone else for fighting back when they are being taken hold of like that isn’t playing by the same rules as the rest of us are playing by. And anyone who isn’t playing by the rules of what’s right and what’s wrong, really right and wrong, isn’t worth the space they are taking up on this earth.
But I knew I was partly at fault for creating the mess I was in. Only partly though, because I’m not sure the punishment for not wearing the proper uniform at work should be embarrassment as well as the bruising of an employee’s arm. Perhaps asking the fourteen-year old employee to leave, only to return in proper uniform or having the employee call his parents to deliver a tie would be more apropos. Perhaps, but maybe I’m wrong.
But it wasn’t only Jim I was mad at. It wasn’t only him by a long shot. I was also mad at myself for turning away from something I had. Something I had that had been so good to me for so many years. I was mad at myself for thinking there was a world out there that was better than the one I had spent years living in – a world I had created for myself that I was completely content with. One that only required good honest work for good honest pay.
I needed to move on. It had been a few hours since I left the food store and it became a necessity that I find something to do with myself as opposed to simply wallowing in misery. I needed to find a way to feel better, because after I finished walking the driveway and passing all the buildings, I sat in the old man’s office. I sat there for too long. There was no clipboard that day – and no money. My list had disappeared and I thought that every chance I had at finding the world I had once enjoyed so much had disappeared as well.
I decided to go for a walk. Perhaps if I did that, I could get my mind off all the emotions of the day. I could travel the woods like my brother and I used to. I could skirt the edge of the old man’s property and maybe even find some markers like we had so long ago. Maybe, just maybe, if I got lost in the woods deep enough, I would be able to take control of my mind and stop it from spinning around and around in confusion. Jim would become a distant memory and maybe even the old man would catch a glimpse of me stumbling throughout his property and he would have pity on me. Maybe he would find me and assign me a task. Maybe he would stop me to open my hand – open my hand, but this time, to place a list in it.