Kellie’s free writing Friday’s prompt this week was “[t]alk about a time you took the road less traveled and the differences it made…” ala Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”
Funny thing – I’m not sure I ever took the road less travelled in the Robert Frost sense. I went my own way often enough; didn’t follow the crowd and “danced to the beat of a different drum” (L. Ronstadt). But it wasn’t as if I chose a path; often it chose me.
In this case, the path cried “go west young [wo]man, go west” (spin on Horace Greely‘s editorializing in the 1860s). Something I hadn’t exactly planned on doing, and certainly NOT what I expected I would decide to do at a showing of Pat Garrett and Bill the Kid at the local indie/2nd and so-on-run movie house on a see-your-breath evening in February.
I went with a good friend (ex-lover), who was a huge Dylan fan. As background to the tale, in the previous 5 years or so, I hadn’t exactly had that many lovers and no serious relationships, which makes what transpired seem like the path waving, jumping up and down saying “see me, see me.” There was always an intermission about ½ way through the show so folks could stretch their legs, go for a smoke, and grab a coffee and a granola bar at the place downstairs. The break usually lasted around 15 minutes.
As I stood up to stretch, I realized that of the few men I had been seeing, most were at this movie AND sans dates. This was scary and kinda creepy. I wouldn’t have pegged ANY of them as big Dylan fans, or aficionados of PG & BK (okay, so I had an eclectic taste in men). I tried to avoid eye contact, not sure I wanted to actually acknowledge their presence or for that matter mine. To make an awkward situation even more so, I had a very loosely defined relationship with that night’s projectionist. Usually when he was working, I popped in to see if he wanted to go for a beer at our “watering hole” after the show. At some point, the path west had chosen me and was now in the process of really hitting me over the head to get my attention.
My friend walked me home – we used to live around the corner from each other, but now I lived more downtown in a modernized circa 1930s, early 19th century townhouse with 5 or 6 (depending on who was off doing something adventurous) other folks. He noticed that ever since the break, I’d been rather quiet. For me not to suggest stopping somewhere for a coffee and a piece of cheesecake or a beer was really out of character. Especially since my favo(u)rite local blues band (I knew or had worked with ½ the members) was playing at a pub close to my place.
At the steps to my red-doored house (now that’s another whole story as is life in the loosely co-joined “co-op”), I turned to my friend and said, “I’m heading west.” He nodded, as if he already knew my decision if not exactly why. “I’ll stop along the way and see some folks including my parents, and I’m going to take the train.”
He was a bus man himself and tried to convince me the year before to get a go-any-where-in-the-usa greyhound ticket with him and I’d balked. I’d had a lot of long distance bus rides, and I couldn’t picture me on a bus for 2 months, staying in hostels, and “living off the land.” My friend was a dreamer and an idealist. He had a great time, arrived home with many good stories, a banjo, and a deep love for parts of the American south. He always did like warmer weather.
I found someone to take my attic room (the woman who had stayed there when I was away the year before, but NOT on a bus trip!), packed up my few belongings, and set out for the west. I did have two likeable friends out there and some very unlikeable family members.
The train trip was incredible – I still have the images inside my head 30+ years later. I arrived at the west coast terminus on April 1st; not perhaps the most fortuitous date to begin a new chapter of my life with no clear plan, and for sure place to stay. That I met the man I’ve been with for 30 years, who arrived there on his own epic journey shortly after I did, may have some influence on my thoughts of this as the road less travelled; the one thing I hadn’t gone looking for on the west coast was love! So, as well as the road less travelled, it has made all the difference in my world it possibly could.
A caveat: the whole idea of free writing is of course no self-editing, just let the words flow. I have Windows Vista – that cursed program – and often when I go to save my work in MicroSoft Office Version whatever, the program stops working and I lose chunks of what I was trying to save (including stuff I had ALREADY saved!) This is quite annoying and ruins the idea of pure free writing. I had to take the road more travelled and go back and do forensic writing to try and fill in the missing patches so that the story made some sense. So, my apologies for this not being entirely free writing – a version, but not the real thing. Also, why it goes on more about having the path make me aware I had been chosen, than on taking the path or the difference it made!