Run Away


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I read a lot of blogs. Most of them are the same thing: Normal people posting about their normal days in which they did normal things that will slowly fade back into the tapestry of their normal lives. One day, their normal lives will end, and they’ll look back on it all and say “that was normal.”

I love it.

I love reading about people having problems wth their laundry machine, or someone with an irascible toothache that tormented them all through the day, or how that bitch Carol wouldn’t shut up about her vacation.

I love hearing that you dropped the kids off at soccer practice and almost hit a squirrel, or how you found a new recipe for lemonade that your husband liked so much he made you make a second batch, or how you finally snuck your son into a rated R movie, just so long as he doesn’t tell mom.

I think it’s the normalcy that keeps me grounded. As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in your own head, an fall down into a pit of snakes. They latch on and don’t let you go. “Wizards,” they hiss, “wizards and demons and car chases and asteroids about to hit earth and aliens and divorces and rockets and armageddon and death and the universe and everything is just so pointless, isn’t it?”

It’s not though. Carol’s vacation isn’t. Nor is Nathan’s baseball game. Don’t forget about pumpkin spice lattes and mortgage payments.

They’re all important in their own ways, in the right perspective which, to me, is a small rectangle full of black and white pixels.

So I read a lot of blogs. I also go on tinder a lot. What do online journals and a dating game app have in common? Not much.

A lot of people on both describe themselves as run aways. They just get up and go, and, like a leaf in the wind, they just can’t help it. To hear them talk about it, it’s like a compulsion, or maybe a disease. As many hipster instagram posts can attest, they just run.

A few months ago, this guy named Jeff transferred to our store. Jeff was a big guy, maybe six feet tall and around two hundred and fifty pounds. He had this peculiar way of moving, like a grandmother scuttling around a kitchen. It was frantic, and when he worked on bar, wiping sweat from his forehead as his cheeks grew flush, he reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Jeff was a nice guy. He was jolly, always quick with a joke or a compliment, and always ready to work.

He was an actor, just like everybody. I have this weird thing with actors where I offer them roles for movies I’m never going to make.

“You’re a writer?” I always somehow get them to ask.

“Well, yes, though I used to do some acting in high school,” I pause then, as if suddenly realizing who I’m talking to, “Say, I’m working on this thing — no, no, nothing big just a passion project — and there’s a role you might be perfect for.”

“Really?

“Really. Are you looking for a role?”

I don’t know why I do this. I’m never going to shoot the damn thing. I guess it makes me feel important. I feel like I’m doing them a favor. All I’m really doing is playing with their souls.

“Are you looking for a role?”

Jeff paused and scratched his head.

“I don’t know…” he said, but the subtextual addendum to the sentence was clear as day: what I’m looking for.

One day, Jeff didn’t show up.

He didn’t show up the next day either.

When someone doesn’t show up at Starbucks, everything goes to hell. You have one lest person and the customers… they sense it. Like sharks around a sinking fat camp cruise liner, they can smell blood in the water. It’s the worst.

So I was pissed at Jeff. Here, I thought he was a nice guy, and then he goes and gives me two no call, no shows. Who did he think he was? Burt Reynolds?

Michael told he had called him and quit. Out of the blue. Just like that.

He just ran away.

Running away never made any sense to me. Well, that’s not true. I’d run from rape-tastic hillbilles. I’d run from a bear. I’d run from the dark lord Sauron.

But a job? A city? It boggled me. One city is the same as any other, really, and you’re going to always need a job, so why run?

You’re just postponing the inevitable.

I still had half the day to go after Michael told me Jeff quit, and knowing why he disappeared didn’t help make the customers any less needy or rude, or make my day any easier at all. I had to close, and we were down a person, so eleven thirty came and went before I got into my car.

I take the freeway back whenever I close. It’s always after ten, and it’s never too busy. It’s much easier to put on some tunes and cruise home without having to stop.

I needed to decompress. I didn’t have a day off until next Saturday. A full week.

Why’d he run off? What was he looking for?

A sign came up. It said 405 north to Sacramento. This was my exit. I take the right lane. Two minutes and I’m home, back to the apartment I can’t afford.

I could go straight, though.

I thought about it.

I could go straight, and follow that sign up north to Sacramento, stop off in San Francisco, make it up to Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage.

I could just drive.

What was holding me here? I had a full tank of gas, there was no traffic, and I just got paid.

It was a weird feeling.

And then I got it.

You don’t run away from something. You run toward something else.

It’s why you’ve got refugees and people jumping over borders.

You might not know what you’re chasing, but for god’s sake, it’s better than what you had.

I could have done it, but I went home. I like to think it’s because I know what I’m chasing, but sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I’m scared.

Running away is scary, and Jeff…

Jeff never came back.

Sometimes, when it’s two in the morning and I can’t fall asleep, I stare out my window, up at the moon, and I think about an old chevy pickup. It’s brown, and has a lot of rust damage from being in the snow too long. It’s headlights paint weakly through falling snow. It’s not night, but it’s dark, and the trees bob left and right from the wind.

A big, coated figure scurries from the cab over to a payphone. I like to imagine it’s at a tiny gas station, but it could be anywhere, really. The figure has a hunting cap on, and long, black, beard, almost too bushy for civilized society.

He dials a number, and speaks into the receiver through a frost-stained beard.

Don’t worry, he says, I’m alright. No, I haven’t found it yet.

There’s a pause, and I get the feeling the person on the other end isn’t saying anything. I wonder if it’s his mother, or maybe someone else, a friend or a lover.

I haven’t found it yet, he reiterates, but I’m going to keep looking.

I like to think he says I love you. Maybe he does.

He hangs up, gets back in the pickup, and drives away.

Off, down a road, and into a blizzard.

It looks grim, but as we crane up over the wilderness, and everything fades away, and the music comes in and the credits roll, I get the feeling he’s going to be alright.

Yeah.

He’s going to be alright.

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21 Comments

  1. This post really spoke to me tonight! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.

    Reply
  2. Very good and thought provoking! And I’ll be kinder next time I’m at Starbucks and it looks like they are short-handed! Lol

    Reply
  3. This was beautiful. You kept me entranced right til the end.

    Reply
  4. hooklineandinkwell

     /  October 6, 2015

    I feel like this about 99% of the time and then I stop dreaming…you are right, of course, we run towards things and if we have nothing to run to we simply don’t run…great write

    Reply
  5. Hi William Charles, I liked this post. I’ve often felt like poor, unreliable Jeff – and like you did for a moment on that freeway – why not just go and keep on going. It’s a craving. Often wondered whether it was a writer-thing or a messed-up-personality-thing! Ages ago I wrote a short story about “just disappearing” and posted it in my blog in 2 parts. It’s called Lafferty’s Last Swan and this is the link to Part 1 in case you’re interested. PS: it’s a bit sad at the end.

    Reply
  6. I have felt a lot like this recently. For years, rather. I wish I could just get up and go move to somewhere nicer, a state that’s less broke and more scenic, more dry air, less bitchy people (I love Chicago but when I travel to the South, and the Southwest, I am always struck by the generous spirit of souls elsewhere. People are just nicer. No hectic pace, it’s laid back, enjoying life. It’s hard to do that in the big, bad city). And as Rosie says, I do think it’s a writer thing. We’re so busy wandering off to little places in our worlds that often the real one poses grounded stability, and the wanderlust grabs ahold of us. Thanks for writing and posting this. You really got through.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it. I love the South East. Being from there originally, I often dream of going back. Getting a cabin in the Tennessee mountains or some other such nonsense.

      Reply
  7. I enjoyed this but I think you got it wrong – refugees and barista’s run away, not towards. I did and no regrets. Left behind a beautiful coutry where I had it easy due to the complexion of my skin and a salary.

    Reply
  8. lisabrock

     /  October 6, 2015

    Wow!

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail

    Reply
  9. Loved this post (and all of your writing, actually). Keep it up, you’ve got a good perspective on things. We’ll find what we’re running towards eventually.

    Reply
  10. Great piece. So creative. Couldn’t stop reading.

    Reply
  11. Thanks for stopping by and “liking” one of mine. Thank you more for leading me back here to such an excellent, thought-provoking piece ~

    Reply
  12. Wow! What an honor. Thank you.

    Reply
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