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The Way Home

Getting lost used to be so easy. When Tony and I would go biking on hot, dusty, Sunday mornings, we would ride for hours, up and down the random alleyways, turning around only at dead ends. Just us and the smooth spinning of tires on pavement, and the soft breeze which provided so much relief on those sweltering days. Tony would pick up his hands sometimes, and wave them in the air, while still pedaling away, daring me to do the same. Sometimes I did, and often I fell, toppling off the bike, scraping a palm or a knee. But the ride was always worth it back then. We never tried to go down streets we knew, as a matter of fact, we avoided them. In the city, that wasn’t hard. And when the sighting of a pizza shop or ice cream store coincided with a grumbling stomach, we would stop and grab a bite. Then, while I was still busy polishing off my cone or slice, Tony would jump up and run for the bikes. I would toss my remains and quickly follow. We would pump our legs, faster and faster, the wheels spinning effortlessly beneath us, propelling us past tired pedestrians, all hurrying to go somewhere. But we just sped down a street, the air stinging our eyes, tears of excitement melting on our feverish faces, not sure where we’d end up. The end was our aching calves and sore behinds demanding a break, mine usually caving before Tony’s. We would stop, climb off the bikes, and breathing heavily, we would walk slowly along the sidewalk. A passing pedestrian usually told us the quickest route to one of the main streets, from where we could slowly make our way back home again. I was always a bit sad when that old balding man selling water bottles, or the girl in a bright pink jogging suit told us where we were, and how to get where we needed to go. The mystery was gone, the day’s adventure spent. And we’d be back home soon. The next Sunday couldn’t come soon enough.

But now the streets are old familiar paths, their seemingly random curves and twists and intersections etched in my tired brain. When George wouldn’t stop yelling, I slammed the front door and stormed down the street; I would no longer play his games. I walk without thinking, wishing I could just be swallowed up in the frozen night, disappear like a snowflake, which melts the instant it hits your eager palm. I walk and walk, hoping at home George is sitting in a chair, head in hands, wishing he had treated me better, deciding whether or not to come running after me. I blow on my hands desperately, hoping to spread some heat to my numbing fingers. I feel a few angry tears freeze in their tracks, midway down my cheek, as the cold, bitter air bites my face. Finally, the frosty weather is just too painful to bear; it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I look up at the street signs. Straight three blocks, a left, two rights, four blocks, a left. That would leave me standing in front of my house. I know exactly where I am, there are no more surprises. I turn and begin my journey home, my breath freezing in front of me, pointing my way, a guide I don’t need.



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