“You should’ve stayed on the path.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words. It wouldn’t be the last. I’d make certain of that. “No.”
Tim gave me that exasperated look. You know. The one people give you when you are different from them, don’t share their values, or their view of life. “What about your future? Your career?”
“My career, as you know it, is dead.” I always loved seeing someone’s face when I said such inflammatory things. To me, they were normal things to say. Truthful things to say. To someone like Tim, they were disruptive, intimidating, aggressive, and scary.
“You don’t mean that.”
I laughed. “Yeah. I do.”
“You’ll be throwing everything away.”
“I’d explain everything,” I smiled, and shook my head, “but you’d never understand.”
How do you tell someone they are walking along a path to a dead-end? How do you explain to someone they’re doing what their parents did. What their grandparents did. What their great grandparents did. Generation, after generation. The same path. The same life. The same pursuits, passions, goals, definitions.
“I told you once,” I knew trying to explain was useless, “everyone here, you, the people who work for you, the people you work for. You’re all the same. The same dreams, goals, hopes, fears, everything.” It was really sad to think about it. To understand how Tim didn’t even know.
“You know that feeling you get sometimes? The one you get when you look in the mirror? The one that doesn’t last long, maybe a minute, maybe less? The one that says everything’s wrong?” I had to laugh. “Yes, Tim. I know about that feeling. The one you never can admit it there. The one you can never feel.”
Tim sat there. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he stopped breathing, and if his heart stopped beating.
“Yeah, Tim. That one. The one that says everything is wrong.”
“You should have stayed on the path.”
“I know, Tim. It’s what we do. We stay on the path. We behave.” I couldn’t tell him what he already knew. How we what we’re supposed to do. Be what we’re supposed to. Get married. Have a family. Buy a house. Buy cars. Have a respectable job, and a steady, predictable income. Be in control of life. With everything organized. Everything planned. Just like our parents. And, by God, that’s how we’ll make our children.
“That’s why I’ve left the path. And I’m not coming back.”
Too bad Tim would never understand.