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Running From What Could Have Been

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He looked as if he were the kind of guy that would say “yes m’am” instead of “yeah, like he would have thick calluses on his rough hands from working the land, and would smell slightly of hay and the other aromas that go along with tending to farm animals.

I stopped in my tracks at the sight of another human being; I’d been wandering along this solitary dirt path for days now with only my dead mother’s diaries, some stale bread that I had stolen, and the clothes on my back. Only now had I so much as even seen another person. I was determined to find my father, not caring how long I would have to search to find him. Standing there, seeing this man toiling along, I could not help but wonder if he might be my father.

He had gone west before I was born, stopping in Virginia City on his way to California and continuing on his journey sometime between the time he met my mother, who had lived in our small Nevada town all her life, and the time I was born, deserting her with only enough to survive. What were the chances that the first man I came upon would be the one I was so tenaciously searching for? I stood, still rooted to the middle of my beaten down thoroughfare, afraid to move, speak, or even breathe, as though this lofty, sinewy and sun-bronzed man would disappear before my eyes if I dared even flinch.

He fit the image of my father I saw when I closed my eyes, the image my mother had described in her diary not long before her death. That diary was the only piece of her I had left. When she died, our few meager belongings had been sold in an attempt to satisfy the many debts she had collected in an attempt to keep us alive. We had no family left; my grandparents were dead and would have disowned my mother because of her fornication even if they weren’t, and the only thing anyone knew about the man I would never come to know as Daddy was that he was living somewhere west of our miniscule borough.

I was only an infant when she passed after a bout of consumption, so I remembered nothing of her, but I felt as if I knew her well. Some kind stranger had thought to salvage my mother’s diaries and tuck the in to the large basket they had used as a makeshift baby carriage to transport me to the orphanage as soon as her funeral procession was over.

Fortuitously, I had survived almost 16 years at that miserable excuse for a children’s home. Every night I washed and prayed that my father would come find me, that he would take me from there to live a happy life at a sunny farm on the west coast. He never came for me, but a part of me never gave up. Even though I hated him for leaving my mother and I in the dust, part of me still yearned for a father, a place where I could live a life of felicity. The night of my 16th birthday, I waited until everyone at the orphanage was asleep and sneaked away, finding my way to the dirt road meandering westward through a morose sylvan of evergreens. There would be whispers of my name by the other scions of scum, babbling between chores “Hazel must be dead”, which was usually the case when one of us disappeared during the night. The same path had brought me here.

I looked him over once more, only moving my eyes, contemplating whether I should approach him or continue walking, adopting the façade of a bedraggled girl just happening to pass by, not a crazed orphan in pursuit of her long lost father. He wore a plaid button up shirt, dirty blue dungarees, beaten work boots, and a straw hat on his head. I could hear animals in the distance, squawking as they went about their daily business. He stood in the pasture, seemingly oblivious to the girl staring at him from the trail. I pondered this as I studied him even closer- just one last time before I made my decision- his short dark hair, his “I’m in charge” stance.

In that second, I knew I had to try to talk to him. This could be the only chance I would get to reunite my broken family. But could I bring myself to do it?

I blinked a few times, took a deep breath, imagined what my life would have been like, what might still be possible for me. I was suddenly terrified as I opened my mouth to speak. In the heat of the moment, I turned and ran, realizing how utterly fool headed I would sound if he were not my father, or even if he were. I kept running away from the man that may be my father, running from what could have been…





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forever_dancer said...
May 23, 2009 at 1:42 pm
wow this is amazing... oh i love the decription of him. also,something that would make it even better though would if you added some twists to it, as this type of story is extremely cliche
 
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