Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Preachy Poot Nonsense.

     I would like to start off this story – although it would perhaps be more fitting to call it “my story,” - by trying to explain to you what kind of man I was, so it can hopefully influence you to believe the man I am now. My name is Will, and as much as I'd like to tell you my last name, it would just come out as a lie. Will is not even my birth name, it's just something I brewed up for confidence. If I were to tell you who I really was, I would be too busy looking over my shoulder, and second guessing myself to give you the whole truth. I so very earnestly want you to hear the whole truth.
     The whole truth, is that I was a coward, and will most likely continue to be so. I don't tell you this to try and trick myself into some humble lie to let me sleep at night. I tell you, because fear has dictated every move I had made in my young life. Even as I sit here typing this to you, a completely different man, I still hold fear. Fear, that I will again melt back into that little stump of a candle I spent so many years of my life as. Just a small, flickering flame, not showing enough light to see anything other than what was immediately around me. It's incredibly hard to look to the future like this.
     It's kind of funny that I mention the future though, seeing as how any fear will always be for the future. You fear you may not have enough, you may not make enough, you may not live to see, taste, feel enough. I spent 26 years of my life trapped in the same, small room; my light not yet strong enough to let me know there was a door nearby, tucked away somewhere in all that shadow. That's the one thing I do hope you'll take from hearing my story. Even if you can't immediately see it, there will always be other doors – always other opportunities.

     I've come to think that one of the few things movies get right is how people fall out of love. It's something many years in the making, of course, but takes only a second to play out once it finally happens. I remember one day asking my wife how her shipping trip was, and if anything interesting happened. “It was fine,” she said, and suddenly my universe started to unravel.

     I met my now ex-wife at college, where I was originally studying for an english major. All great romances have that one intimate moment, where you look somebody in the eyes, and know that you will overcome any obstacle to have that person in your life. One second, that stretches on for what feels a life time. White noise crawls around your head, and the passing people turn into blurs of motion as a tunnel of clarity forms around the head of your one true love. I never experienced such a cheesy moment. I've since come to assume this is one of the many things movies do seem to get wrong.
     In fact, it wouldn't be for many weeks after we first spent the night together that I realized we were even a couple. She simply walked into my life, much in the way I simply walked out of hers so many years later. I can still remember the moment she first said those words to me. She had recently rolled off from on top of me, and I laid with my hands behind my bed, smoking a cigarette, fulfilling my movie cliché obligation. “I'm glad we started dating,” she told me, and I took another drag of my cigarette and my mind started racing. Involuntarily, I nodded my head to her, and she curled up along side me, quickly falling into the rhythmic breathing of sleep. 
     I've always believed that a child becomes an adult when they realize that even good actions can sometimes have negative consequences. The world is not black and white, and sometimes bad things happen just to happen. I went along with dating, because I was a young man, and had found a woman to sleep with me. I had everything I needed, and would get around to leaving her when better prospects showed up. I knew that I wasn't a good person, but I truly believed we were both getting what we wanted out of our situation. She, the companionship she so obviously craved, and me, the physical comfort of a woman.
     From this point on, I can't remember much of my life. My memories move slow, and transparent like fog, and I can only pluck out a few events. Autumn somehow convinced me to change my major to accounting, and I gave up my dreams of making a difference in a student's life for computer work in a high rise. It still makes me laugh when I think that oddly enough, I was living the American dream. Our society seems convinced that unhappiness is an unavoidable truth of life, and so many of us are resigned to accept this. I was twenty six years old when I finally realized how fucking lost I was.

     Looking back on my words, I feel it necessary to tell you that I don't blame Autumn entirely for the way things turned out. This isn't necessarily a story of a woman manipulating a weak man, nor is it a story of me begging you for pity. Although both may be true, I consider this story – again, my life's story – to be an example that people put so little value on happiness. I sold my dreams for a salary, I traded my youth for safety. I gave up so much of my life in the hopes that I would grow a collar, and hopefully one that was white. I know now that we're not measured by the clothes we wear, or the money we make. I truly believe our value is indicative of our happiness, and I'm proud to say that while I used to be worthless, I am now worth much. I'm worth much to myself, and that is a stunning victory.

     I didn't want to hurt Autumn, and I believe that she deserved better than me. I hope by now she's found that person, and I'd like to think she must have. She was a fine woman, and any man would be lucky to have her. A man wired to crave the rat race, a man who liked to climb ladders. A man who was nothing like her ex-husband Will. I can't be certain though, because she never did well with disappointment. 
     I've always treated disappointment like a house guest. I let it inside, tune out while it carries on at great length to say all the things it wants to have heard, and then sag against the door with a sigh of relief when it finally leaves. The day I left Autumn, I knew that I was simply done entertaining for the night.
     Autumn was the opposite. Disappointment was a way of life for Autumn. When I didn't get the annual raise my third year with the company, Autumn spent the next three days in bed, breaking me down into tiny pieces to feed the fire she would build in herself. I spoke of myself earlier as a candle, and if I were to explain Autumn, it would be as a furnace. A great, roaring flame that controlled the entire room. The thing with furnaces though, they need to be constantly fed. This is where disappointment came into the picture. 
     These silly metaphors do nothing but offer me a reflective laugh, and it should be duly noted that being a furnace is no better or worse than being a candle, or any other source of heat. Having a different perspective never makes you a bad person. I don't think ill of Autumn, but I knew I had to escape, and so I did.

     Because Autumn wasn't a monster, our divorce went through as civil as one could hope for, and I used the remainder of my money to buy a small home on the coast up in Maine. Although I had always wanted children, Autumn and I never saw eye to eye on the subject. It's a damn shame, but that's simply how my cards were dealt, and complaining fixes a problem as much as bungee jumping, or breaking windows, or singing off-key would. Who was I to even assume that it was a problem, though? 
     I welcomed the idea into my home, and let it shriek to me of all the reasons I needed to procreate. I heard stories from it's dear friend biology of why I was feeling these things, and why I needed to fix it. I listened on with feigned interest for awhile, and when I finally had them leave, I closed the door, and laughed to myself. Real laughter, the kind I hadn't played with since I was a young fool chasing dreams, and girls alike in college. I laughed myself into euphoria, and drunkenly made my way up the stairs to my loft, and crawled into my bed. 
     I found sleep that night, and I had a dream that I'll never forget for the rest of my life. It was such a strangely cerebral event, one where I sat naked in a large expanse of ink, and just floated. No problems, no fears, no disappointment. Just me, and a slipping sense of time. The force of a door opening sent a gust of air into the room, and blew out that tiny flame, clinging to my wick. The light from the other room outlined my body, and I walked through that doorway without a moments hesitation.
     I've had my time with several paramours over the years, but they've always seemed to slip away eventually. I've had friends come and go, new family member born and pass on. I've had a great many things happen in my life, more than I know what to do with. I have spent a little over 2 pages summing up 26 years of my life, and I have been hard-pressed to get that much down. I don't know if I could find enough paper if I decided to write down all that has happened since that the moment I bought this house, and I don't think I would even if I could. Only 4 years have passed, but I have lived many, many lifetimes, and plan on doing so for the rest of my days, and I just simply don't have the time to spend writing it all down.

     Life is all one big adventure, and I hope by the end of this story - although perhaps it would be more fitting to call it our story now – you'll remember to simply enjoy it. If you feel yourself drowning under the weight of all the dreams you can't seem to catch, take an evening out to sit outside, and enjoy a storm. Take a walk in the woods, and don't worry about how long you're out there. Sit in a cafe somewhere, and smile at a stranger. Do whatever you want: laugh, cry, swim, fall, get up, and run. Do whatever the hell you'd like, but just live. What else is there to do?

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