I turned on the small lamp light and sat by the window. I had just gotten off the phone with my ex-girlfriend. She was telling me she had moved on and patched up her life and started seeing other men. She even told me she slept with a few of them. Prior to the phone call I hadn’t heard her voice in a year. I’d forgotten the sweet tune that accompanied each one of her words or the way she rolled her R’s or the softness of her sound. The last time I saw her was when she stormed out of my apartment after I had smashed a bottle of Red Label against the front door.
Jesus, her eyes.
That’s the first thing that pops into mind when I think about her again. When we spoke on the phone I felt her voice intensifying, as if she was just speaking to me from across the room or the bedroom. I felt her presence and her aura – almost as if she’d never left.
I stared at the empty beer and whiskey bottles leaning against my floor. I thought about my drinking problem and how it affected my relationship with that girl. Surely it had taken a great deal of selfishness and arrogance from my part to drive that girl out of the door, but alcohol was the gasoline and I was the flame.
Laying there, my head leaning against the window glass, I thought about those eyes again. I thought about them staring at another man, or other men. I thought about them being feasted upon by other men. Then I thought about her clothes, her perfume, her body, her limbs, her lips, her hair.
Jesus, her hair.
It was the wavy type of hair you could play with all day long. It used to get caught up between my fingers and we would just sit there on the couch for hours, her head on my lap while I untangled her beautiful brown hair to free my hand. Now that same hair was being pulled and smelled and felt by other men.
I needed a drink. The kitchen wasn’t that far away and I had a bottle ready. But for once I felt I could take on the urge. I felt I could rattle the cage long enough without waking the beast. Drinking had already set up my demise and accelerated my downfall. It was a road meant solely for self-destruction and the destruction of others.
There was another thing. The writing. The writing had helped. As it got better, it started to suck me in deeper. There were nights I’d spend working on a piece while my girl would surprise me from the back and shower me with kisses. There were nights of celebrations missed because of my obsession with a story or a poem. One of those nights was my birthday. My girlfriend had to spend it alone and blow the candles for me.
The word is good and it can be good to you. But it can also be misleading and steal your soul and run away with it. When you invest a great part of you in it, it rewards you with great power. But if you mismanage that power, you surrender yourself to it and become its captive. It deprives you from your entire world and everything good in it. It lowers the steel bars hanging over your head without you even realizing it. When you work at the word, you become akin to a scientist or a mathematician obsessed with tracing the next great discovery in the scientific field. You shut out every other part of yourself just to get there. And when you stop and step back to assess things you realize it’s far too late.
When you write you’re riding that same wave. You’re on top of a tide that has the power to wipe the entire shore and you along with it. You find yourself on top of it but somehow you can’t steer it. It’s too big for you to control.
If I could substitute some of the words I wrote for some time to tangle my fingers in that girl’s hair again, I would.
If I could erase some of the lines to stare into her eyes just a couple of times, I would.
If I could take back some of my verses just to listen to her voice one last time, I would.
When we spoke on the phone, it hit me that she was no longer mine. It hit me that my only innocence had abandoned me and withered away in the storm.
And it hit me that my only way of moving on was not through someone else, but something else. My only way out of the pit was climbing the rope. And writing was that escape rope.
I turned on the radio and started listening to my audiobook. Every passing chapter, every line that unfolded brought back a memory. It brought back a glimpse of the time we used to spend together. It played in my head like a film, a beautiful film.
But no film lasts forever. You can play it and replay it as many times as you’d like but you’ll always get to the end eventually. I’d gotten there a few times already and tonight was just another one of them. The sad thing is that each time you watch expecting a different end – a better end.
Why did I write? What was the purpose of it? Why did I invest so much of my time in something almost obsolete, in words fashioned and crafted so carefully and meticulously when they only had the power to impress me and no one else? When they never had the power to influence my social rank or put me on a higher pedestal? When there was a world still running out there, full of lost lives, damaged hearts and crippled bodies? What was the point of it when it meant sacrificing the few good things and bleeding and staying up all night anxiously awaiting the uncertainty to resolve itself on the white page? When it meant losing everything dear in exchange for a few good lines and waking up the next day realizing there was no way to get it all back?
I couldn’t see it. I failed to see it. All it looked like now was a form of selfishness. A self-satisfying scheme to build ourselves up and create a vision of greatness for ourselves. But really, we were just gearing up for a bigger fall.
I went back to the window. I thought about that last phone call. I thought about that girl and everything about her. Then I thought about women in general. The comparison seemed unfair and felt like comparing two different species.
I wished to forget about it all for the time being. The girl. The women. The world. The writing.
There in the corner (in the corner of my mind), an unopened bottle of Red Label was waiting for me.
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Why you should read this book:
If you’re looking for the next Great American Novel, then this is not it. I promise you this is not a literary masterpiece. I promise you this is not a great book of art. Let us not fall into the illusions of grandeur and simply call things by what they are: A Road Away From Home is a novel, meant to break social boundaries and shatter common beliefs. It is meant to be read with examining eyes and an open heart, for its power lies in its truth. It carries honest words and stems from a very raw, real place. It is meant to contain rough edges, it is meant to contain strong parts that challenge the reader and push him to his limits. If you read this novel and do not feel at a certain point that you want to drop the book or burn it to ashes and move on to something else, then you are not reading it correctly. You are not fully immersing yourself in its story and its social milieu and its characters. This book is made to push you into giving up on it after tough chapters, but as in everything else, the beauty lies in waiting. For only when you see this book through will you truly understand all of its parts and piece them together: every act, every decision, every situation, every thought…and then, just then will the book have proven that it is a whole entity, much more than the sum of its parts, and it will have connected you to its world and its characters and shared with you a piece of their lives in a land perhaps far from yours. But all this, of course, is only possible if you read the book correctly.