A Dead End In the Road This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 4, 2012
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The thing is: it’s over.

I can see the dead end now. It has a sign with words telling me to turn back. There’s nothing left for you here, it says. Ride’s over. Go back home. Start a new route, that is, if you can find one.

But the thing is: I can’t seem to read the sign.

Call it denial, but the words blur out when I try to read them. I can’t think straight. Something hard and heavy — grief — wells up in my throat and chokes me. And when I try to force it away, it envelops my eyes instead, and tears trickle down my quivering face.

I freeze, foot sitting numbly on the brake, sweaty hands gripping the steering wheel. I try to imagine turning around. I try to imagine plunging forward. But neither seems possible. Because, if I plunge forward, it’s certain there will be a cliff or a pit of quick sand, although I try to dream of a beautiful, meandering road instead. But if I turn back, I will have to relive what I traveled, go through all the memories. And then I will be forced to dream endlessly of what could have been. Once I clear the road, maybe all memories of past moments will go away. Maybe I’ll forget, and try a new road that’s not so complicated.

But the thing is: I don’t want to forget. I want to keep traveling. I want to keep reaching for whatever it is I’m aiming for — bliss, perhaps? Maybe. But it’s most likely I’m going after a pathetic fantasy like I always have; a fantasy that will never come true. But I can’t help but dream, can’t help but wish just a little that past the dead end is something worth hoping for.

But the thing is: hoping is what’s hurting me.

There is so much more to my journey that sitting here, hoping and wanting. There’s so much more than traveling on a road that is not meant for me. I love it and I want it, but it doesn’t want me.

Slowly, I turn the wheel.

My car hesitantly turns around. The dead end sign seems to taunt me through the passenger window. I force myself to look away, to concentrate on what is ahead.

Painfully, questioningly, I drive down the long road I already traveled. I go slowly because my hands tremble uncontrollably and the rest of my body shakes violently with sobs. Tears fill up my eyes and I cannot believe that I have done. I turned around. I backed away from it all. I know this is right. I know that what I am doing is for the best. So, why am I in so much pain?

I can see other cars zooming past me, going the direction I just came from. Jealousy envelops me like fire. I force my mind away from those thoughts, and try not to think about where they will end up. I would love to believe they reach a dead end too, but I know one will reach what I had tried so hard to get. One will not have the dead end sign looming over them like a ghost. The road will invite them in, love them, and want them. Not like me.

But pain doesn’t last forever. Everyone must know that. No matter what life tthrows at you, the bad will fade eventually. We’ve got so many long roads to travel before we reach our destination. Whatever that place may be will be worth it in the end.

This is a truth I play over and over in my mind. I hurt now. Grief, longing, pain, jealousy, and guilt plague my body and soul. But they won’t forever. I will move on. I will find another road. My tears will dry and this will all be a lesson learned. I will get through this — I know I can.

Because the thing is: there’s always a light at the end of a tunnel.

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