I pulled another drag from the rolled up cigarette the British girl gave me and took a long swig of my Miller High Life. Ten dollars in my pocket, last night in a hostel in San Francisco, that and the company of stoned foreign kids was all I had. Scared? Fuck yes I was scared, pretty much alone in a city I had come to with a plan, only to see it all fall apart. 2300 miles back to Louisiana where my mom l lived, 3000 back to Florida where I just come from, probably almost 2500 straight across to Dad’s house in Virginia. Couldn’t go there anyhow, couldn’t even sleep on the couch because of his psycho landlord who wanted any excuse to throw an 85 year old man out on his ass. Florida, the match had already been flicked on the bridge I had spilled the can of gas on. Louisiana, it was my only out.
Wandering down through North Beach, up Russian Hill, I was waiting on a call for money to be wired for a bus ticket. Then it came, picking up cash from the Safeway in Marina District while fighters jets roared overhead. It was the Blue Angels show and I wondered how long it would take one of those to get me where I wanted to be. I actually did the math in my head, I always do. Louisiana, it wasn’t really where I wanted to go but it was what I was gonna have to take.
Sometimes you have to put yourself into a position to see what you’re capable of. Win or lose. Well, there isn’t a win or lose, it’s life. You’re just testing the waters by throwing yourself from the highest diving board that you can find. One way or another, you’re gonna swim or someone is going to hopefully throw you a life preserver before you go under. Either way, you will learn what your boundaries are and what you never thought you could do.
In retrospect, perhaps it was doomed to failure from the beginning but I couldn’t bring myself to wonder what if? What if I never took that chance? What if twenty years from now, I looked back and regretted not doing this? That was the thing that scared me more than anything else. Even with travel as easy as it is today, many people have never really seen the world outside of their little town they grew up in, much like the one I was born in, Lexington, Virginia. We grow up, go to college, get a job, have kids and then one day, die. It’s the usual script in the movie that is everyone’s life. Sure the set is a little different, the clothes are different colors and the players aren’t the same, but the plot is generic 95% of the time. We know how it begins, we know how it ends and the parts in between are usually predictable. That’s not the life I wanted. That’s not how I want the book to go. We are each the authors of the book that is our life. We can’t control the beginning and the end always comes. Life throws us in strange and bizarre paths sometimes but that’s half of the fun once you learn that’s the way it goes and accept it. Take a chance for fuck’s sake. What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s a fate worse than death, then you have an out.
When you’re thousands of miles from home, with only a few dollars in your pocket, you learn who your real friends are. They become your real family, blood or not. If you’ve never been there, you’ll never fully grasp that. I learned that lesson and I’m forever grateful for the experience.