The Impossible Dream

I never thought I’d really be doing this, you know. Never in a million years. And yet here I am, walking through the streets with a map printed from the internet. I’ve folded the paper so many times that it’s falling apart along the creases. It’s falling apart into eight tiny little pieces, and I can only hope that it doesn’t rain again. If it rains, then the fragments of map won’t be of any help. They’ll just disintegrate; dissolve, like so many teaspoons of sugar pressed into the 8 ½”-by-11” shape of my paper. I wish the clouds would keep their icy tears. At least, just until I reach the coast. When I get to the coast, and the ocean mist sprays across my face, dampening my clothes, and the tide whispers its greetings….well, I won’t need the map anymore. I just need to get to the coast. I’ve walked something like eighty miles since I left home...a week ago? Two weeks? A month? I can’t remember. But I have roughly twenty miles left to go. The lines of that Robert Frost poem run through my head, and I smile. They’re not quite so out of place, I suppose, even though I don’t have a horse, it’s not snowing, and I’m definitely not in the middle of a forest. But it is true, at least, that I do have miles to go before I sleep. And even promises to keep. I have those, too. I might just be keeping a promise made to myself, but it’s still worth keeping, right? It’s still worth keeping that promise. And now I’m actually trying to do something with my life, instead of sitting in a rotting classroom surrounded by rotten desks filled with rotten kids with rotting brains. I wasn’t learning anything. I would never learn anything, and when I graduated, I’d join the legions of graduates flipping burgers in McDonald’s or making café mochas at Starbuck’s. I’d be part of the storm of kids working hours for minimum wage, and I’d probably live with my mother until she died, then live in some halfway house or shelter the rest of my life. My school was that bad. No one who went to my school ever did anything. No one except for Tyler Berry.

Six years ago, Tyler Berry ran away from home and hitchhiked all the way to the coast, paying his way with smiles, “thank you very much, miss’s”, and tales of just what he would do when he got where he was going. Eventually, he made it. His parents got postcards with things like “Wish You Were Here!” and “Greetings from San Francisco!” emblazoned in gaudy hues across photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, or poetic visions of fiery sunsets on the beach. He’d made it to San Francisco. He’d gotten money from his parents to apply to a community college in the city. Now he was halfway through a bachelor’s degree in dental medicine. He was going to work at a dentist’s clinic, and earn more money than most of us had ever dreamed of back home. I had been eleven when Tyler left on his mission to be somebody, and he had rocketed straight up to hero status in my eyes, above people like Britney Spears, that guy who made Google, and ‘N Sync. Ever since, I had made it my mission to be somebody, too. I saved money I earned from babysitting and raking the leaves in the neighborhood, and now, at the ripe old age of seventeen, I finally had saved enough to make it. At least, I hoped so. I had started out with $500 in my wallet, plus a little loose change. Now, I was down to just over a hundred. If I ran out of money, I could stop by the nearest town and pay for a stamp – I could probably borrow the paper and pen off of a college student or someone like that. Then I would send a letter home to my parents, explaining my location and situation, assure them that I was fine, and get another few hundred bucks back.

At least, that was how the scenario went in my imagination, where my school was #1 in the country and Tyler Berry took me with him to San Francisco. In reality, I’d probably get a letter back from my mom stained with grease and spelling of cheap wine. She would tell me to stop bugging her and stand on a street corner if I wanted money so badly. I’d write a nasty reply to her, but wouldn’t mail it for fear of wasting my last fifty cents. So I’d try to walk the last hundred miles with half a dollar in my pocket and I’d starve before I made it another dozen miles and I’d die in some trash heap in a back alley somewhere. I couldn’t run out of money. Money was life.

I crumpled the map unconsciously in my hands, twisting it violently with my fingers. Then I realized that I was ruining the paper even more, and hastily unraveled it. It was nearly illegible now. The creases and little tears had damaged it almost to the point of uselessness. I snorted sheepishly, and carefully tried to smooth the wrinkles out with my finger. It made little difference. Maybe I could stop by a library in the next town and print out another. Some places would let you use the computers for free, and the print fee was usually something like a quarter per page. I could handle that now. A smile crossed my face as I recalled my earlier fantasy. If I really only had fifty cents left, I’d have to spend it replacing the map that I’d ruined. Life was funny sometimes, but I’d learned my lesson: Don’t touch the map unless it’s actually important.

I glanced up at the street sign up ahead; Cherry Avenue. I squinted at the map. Cherry Avenue was in San Bruno, a few miles south of San Francisco. I had just twelve miles left to go before I could sleep. In twelve more miles, I could rent a room in a hotel and sleep in a bed – not a truck bed – for the first time in God-knows-how-long. In twelve more miles, I would be well on my way to being somebody. In twelve more miles, I’ll be home. Home. The word seemed foreign. I had spent the last six years wishing my home was somewhere else. Now, I was so close to my new home. Even though my feet ached and my throat was sorely parched, I ran. I ran those last few miles. I passed neat and tidy suburbs; I relished the calls of the passing seagulls. And when the marine mist began to coat my face, when I saw the sun turn the sea to flaming lava beneath the Golden Gate...I rejoiced.





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