#FinishThatThought 45 : You Should’ve Stayed On The Path

“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.”

“Try me.”

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.

427 Words

I wrote this for Week 45 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.


Who Are You?

I wonder sometimes
If I know anyone at all.
Or if all I know
Of anyone
Is the image,
The façade,
The carefully crafted lie
They want me to see.

I wonder sometimes
Who you really are.
I know you aren’t really
The person that I see
At work every day.
That’s not really you.
That’s who you believe
The world demands you be.
That’s an image
You have crafted
Carefully, and over time.

An image made to control
What people think of you.
That shows you are responsible.
Grown up.

You don’t cut your hair
When you want to, do you.
You cut it to maintain
An image
You want people to believe.

You don’t buy the clothing
You want to, do you.
You buy the clothes
You wear each day
To keep that image
In place.

You dress the part each day.
You play the part each day.
You wear the clothes.
Trim fingernails,
Cut hair,
To maintain that image
That everybody knows.

That’s not all there is to you
Is it?
That image?
That lie?

I remember the words
Of the Lenten Rose.
“It’s hard, sometimes.”
The rest was left unspoken.
But I knew,
Even then.
I knew.

It’s hard sometimes
To keep that lie
In place.
That image you believe
The world demands you be.

I remember the words
Of my one time boss.
When he said to me,
“You can’t be like that!”

I knew he was wrong.
I understood what he was saying.
That in the working world
There was only one way
I could be.
That I couldn’t have a heart.
I couldn’t have a soul.
In that world
I had to become
What that world expected of me.

I remember the words
Of the one that left.
Because she couldn’t understand
That I can’t lie.

“I have to manage everything
That happens.
I have to watch the things
I do.
The things my friends do
With me.
So that I control
What other people
Think of me.”

She flat-out said
She has to live a lie.

That’s such a sad thing
Isn’t it.

I know too
Why I’m not in that world
I once lived in.

I can’t live that lie.
Doing so
Damn near killed me.

So, these days,
I wink.
I smile.
I try hard
Not to laugh.
When I encounter you.
Because I know.

The person you show me
Isn’t really
Who you are.

And I wonder these days
If you even know.
Or have you forgotten
Who you are.

And all I really wonder
When I talk with you

Who are you?

Every Now And Then

Every now and then
I remember.
Who I used to be.
What I used to do.
Who I used to know.

I remember the words
The Princess of Laughter spoke.
“We will always be friends.”
“I promise you.
We will both be OK.”

I remember names.
I remember faces.
Of people I worked with.
Some of them
For 13 years.

Until October 12th
Of 2010.
That was the day
Everything changed.
That was the day
I was blocked
From the work place.

That was the day
When everything that was
Erupted into flames.
That would burn uncontrolled.
Until everything that was
Was turned to ash
That slowly floated away,
Carried on the wind.

Leaving nothing.
Nothing at all.
Of what had been.

Sometimes I remember
Lessons that I learned
Through fire.
And through pain.
About the way
That people are.
About the way
They behave.

Sometimes I remember
The words I was told
They’d all said
About me.
How they all claimed
They were concerned.

I learned, with time
They all believed they were
Concerned for me.
What I was going through.
That they were concerned
For my family.

I even learned
Some of them prayed
For me.

But there was a line
In their reality
They could not cross.
A line I’ve learned
Does not exist
For me.

I can do much more
Than pray.
For I am not afraid
Of any of the things
That could happen
If I show I care
For someone that I know.

Everyone there knew
She had cancer.
She was fighting for her life.
No one changed.
No one at all.
Except for me.

In their own way
Several of the people
I once knew
Tried to talk with me.
And warn me.
Of what would happen.

I didn’t understand their words.
Didn’t understand at all
Their concern for me.
And for the job I’d had
For 28 years
At that point.

The assumption, of course,
Was that I understood
What everyone was saying.
Because they all said
The same things.
They all behaved
The same way.

None of the people I worked with
Ever understood the truth.
That I don’t understand
Their social behavior ways.
Those ways
Elude me
To this day.
They always have.
They always will.

That’s part of what Autism is.

Sometimes I remember
People that I found
Along the way
From the life I’d had.
To the life I’m building now.

And much to my dismay,
They behaved the same way
As the people
I once worked with.

More than once
I heard the words,
“I can’t get involved.
All I can do
Is pray.”

I’ve learned.
People are afraid.
Of life.
Of pain.
Of change.
Of anything
They can’t control.
They can’t understand.

I’ve learned.
I was removed from work.
Because I was
One of those things.
That could not be controlled.
That could not be understood.

A lot of people
Were afraid of me.

They never needed to be.

Sometimes I remember
What once was.
And every time I do
I end up asking God.

Don’t give up on them.
Please don’t give up on them.
Find a way,
Like you did with me,
To wake them up.
To bring them back to life.
So they can understand
How cold.
How heartless.
How afraid.
They have become.

I can ask God for that.
For in very many ways.
I used to be the same
As the people
I once knew.