The clink of silverware resounded in the silence in the dinner table. Occasionally my mother would talk to my father, her quiet words washing over me as I dragged my fork across the plate. Again. Again. And Again. My mind started to whirl away, captured by the wind that was a daydream. It carried me softly. I imagined being free from this place, from school, being something great, something powerful.
The clicking of bears shocked me out of my reverie, I glanced over at Tom-who was grinning stupidly. I rolled my eyes in fond exasperation, he’ll never learn.
“Hey,” Tom shook my shoulder, “hey Drew when’d you get a twin brother.”
I sighed, “the moment you had one to many drinks Tom. Don’t you think it’s time to call it a night?”
Tom looked up at the night sky wondrously, “Dude, you’re so right. When did it get so dark?” I shook my head and hauled him to his feet. He stumbled before catching himself and straightening out his jacket. “Watch it man, this is priceless stuff here.”
I raised my eyebrows at him, “you took it out of your laundry hamper ten minutes before we were supposed to leave.”
Tom waved his hand and started stumbling down the street. “Details, details…”
I closed my eyes for a second. Tom is my best friend. I will not desert him. Repeating the mantra in my head, I grabbed the back of his jacket. “Your house is that way Tom.”
He glanced in the direction I was pointing confused. “Is it? I was so sure it was this way…”
I clapped him on his shoulder before steering him the other way along. “Let’s trust the guy who’s only had half a beer.”
He snorted, “yeah, cause you’re so boring you don’t know how to have fun.” He stumbled and raised his hands to the sky. “Oh greater being of the sky and logic give poor old Drew the sense to have some fun. And become what he wants to be. Not what his stiff old folks want him to become.”
I sighed, silently wishing for the same thing. But what was the hope of dreaming when you were confined to a destiny, dreaming, hoping, but forever caged. “You and I both know that’ll never happen. Besides…being an engineer is a great job.” Even drunk beyond words Tom knew I was lying. He looked at me and his eyes I could see freedom. I could see the urge to run, and run and never look back.
“Now who’s lying?” He slung his arm around my shoulder and walked forward. “I love my parents too but there’s no way I’m going to let them dictate my choices in life,” he said in drunken seriousness.
I flung his arm off, “it’s not the same and you know it.”
He turned to face me and crossed his arms, “just tell them Drew. What’s the worst they’re going to say?”
“So Andrew, have you thought about which universities you want to start applying to?’ I shook myself out of the memory of that night and focused on dad. It took me a couple of seconds to completely process what he’d said.
“Umm, no, not really…” I trailed off when he looked up at me sharply.
He put down his utensils and crossed his hands on top of the table underneath his chin. “Is there a reasoning behind this? It’s always best to get your admission in early for engineering.”
I was so familiar with this pose of his, I had seen it when I told him how Timothy Lankley had given me a black eye because I was reading rather than playing at recess, the same when I told him about my first crush-my heart thumping, thumping-all these years I was never afraid to tell him what was going on. What was different now?
I took a deep breath and plunged in, Tom’s words echoing in my head, what’s the worst they’re going to say? “Dad…what if I…what if I don’t want to become an engineer?”
He blinked at me for a second, and then ran his hand through his hair. “Drew we’ve had this conversation before. And you always know what my response will be. You’ll love engineering trust me.” And then he turned to my mom and that was the end of the discussion. There was my life, planned out without even a fraction of what I wanted to do.
I love my parents too but there’s no way I’m going to let them dictate my choices in life.
“But that’s not fair!” I burst out, my hand gripping the fork tightly.
Both of them looked at me at a loss of words. This didn’t make any sense for them. What was a teenage boy, who hardly knew his way around the world start to dictate what was right and wrong? They were the parents, the elders, had experience and always knew what was best. And I couldn’t stand it that this was the thoughts running through their mind.
Dad shifted his eyes to focus on me, “well I know the stock market isn’t exactly fair but that’s no reason to have an outburst about it.” I knew he wasn’t oblivious, I could see it behind his glasses-the determination not to let go of my future.
I pushed back the chair and stood up, “you know what I’m talking about. And it isn’t the stock market. This is my life. I can do whatever I want with it. You lived your life, you made wrong choices, stop reflecting that on me!”
“Andrew!” Mom looked up at me completely scandalized.
I wheeled on her. “Don’t you see what he’s doing to me? He’s ruining my life and you’re just sitting there! If I want to become a writer, or a pilot, or even a clown I have the power to do it.”
I left them sitting there at the table, my dad’s hand cupping his face, my mom’s hand on his shoulder trying to provide silent comfort.
Grabbing the car keys off the table I headed out, making sure to slam the door behind me. I knew where Tom would be at this time of night. It was a testament of our friendship when he opened the door at 11 at night and without saying anything-he grabbed his jacket and a six pack and came with me to the car.
And so we drank.
I stumbled slightly, and looked over at Tom who was slumped beside me. Sliding down beside him, I took another gulp of the beer. “I can’t believe I did it,” I said mournfully. “What was I thinking?”
“You were thinking of living your life.” He turned to me and gripped my shoulders, shaking me slightly. “Don’t you see? You gave yourself the key to the cell that your parents built. You can become a writer, you can do anything you want now.”
“But I don’t have their support…a child without a parent’s support is just as bad as a child who has no support.”
He dragged his hand down his face before looked at me exasperated. “You and I Drew, we’re going to be free, we’ll go where the wind takes us.” He looked at me for a couple of seconds before standing up and brushing himself off. “Come on.”
I squinted up at him. Did Tom always have two heads? “Where?”
“I’m going to show what freedom really means to people.” He hauled me up to my feet and dragged me along.
“Wait! I forgot my drink…”
He looked back at me incredulously, “trust me, you need to be at least semi-sober for this.”
“Where have the years gone by…I used to think of today and never reflect on tomorrow.” My voice pitched higher than expected.
Tom winced, “for god’s sake will you stop singing?”
“And now there’s no escape,” I sang mournfully.
“Oh come on Drew, quit moping around. You and I both know that you could never sit in an office building, wear a suit, go to meetings. Have patience. Seriously, it’s a building where they pay you to age. Some people are meant for that kind of life, but you’re not one of them.”
He checked both sides and crossed the road quickly. I trailed after him. In the middle of the road I stared down at the swinging white gridlines for pedestrians. Caged. These lines represented bar handles and as long as I was within these lines I would always be caged. My breathing sped up. I needed escape, I needed escape now. And then I simply…stepped out. One minute I was in and the next I was out. I was free. Truly, genuinely free.
Tom looked back at me from the other side of the road, rolling his eyes in exasperation and I stood there grinning stupidly at the lines that I had just left behind. Suddenly his eyes widened in alarm, and he reached out as if he could pull me across just by thinking about it, just by praying, dear god please hope he’s safe!
I looked at him confused. A long horn shrieked behind me, it didn’t want to run into me it slowed, wailing, screeching. No, not him. He has so much to live for. So many dreams and aspirations, he just earned his freedom.
I turned to face the lights, my hands shielded up against my face, save the face. Just save the face. Later I would realize how incredibly drunk I must have been to not even attempt to escape. But before I could do anything, before I could tell them, don’t hit me I’m free! I was tossed like a ragdoll, before falling, falling, falling, back into the lines I thought I had escaped. And then…darkness.
A cloth was over my eyes. Darkness. Darkness. I couldn’t stand darkness, it was the weight it held, suffocating, repressing. My breathing sped up. “Tom? Let go. You know this isn’t funny.” I waited for few seconds. “Tom?” I cried out panicked.
My hands searched the planes of my face looking for some release, some escape. I heard machines beeping in the background, speeding up as it sensed my increasing panic.
“Andrew?” I heard mom’s voice from my left side.
I turned my head towards her, forgetting about the cloth for a moment. What was she doing here? She was supposed to be at home, eating dinner with dad.
“Oh Andrew!” Her voice sounded off, it sounded all wrong. Like…like she had been crying. Mom never cries. She didn’t cry when she found out her parents had passed away. She didn’t cry the first time dad landed in the hospital. She didn’t cry on my first day of school.
Suddenly there were arms around me and I was struggling again. I remembered the cloth, I searched my face, looking to rip it off. The arms slid off me.
“Andrew, you need to calm down.” A soothing voice on my right placed their hand on my shoulder. “It’s alright, you’re safe.”
“Where am I? Why is there something on my face?”
There was a silence for a few seconds before I heard my mom take a sharp intake of breath, “Andrew…you were in a car crash.”
“During the crash, your brain swelled due to the impact as it put pressure on the optic nerves which further lead to ischemia, causing the nerve fibers to die and leave you unable to see.”
A sudden roaring sensation filled my ears. The doctor’s voice faded until I couldn’t hear anything besides my own thoughts. Blind. I was blind. I was forever trapped in the darkness that loathed me. “No! You have to fix me, I can’t be stuck like this! I can’t. I was going to become a writer and go to university and get rid of this darkness!” My voice had been steadily climbing and I ended in a half scream half sob.
I scratched at my face frantically. They were lying. They had to be lying.
“Get him strapped down immediately before he does damage! I need a tranquilizer now!”
Later they would tell me what I already knew. They would teach me to recover, to read braille, and trace my hands over different objects. To train with a watch dog and work my way around this. Someone told me that even though I couldn’t see I built a better world on paper than sell it. My father-I never called him dad anymore-finally relented on the engineering issue. I heard him tell my mother and the doctor that there was no point in having a blind engineer. I was destined to fail anyways, might as well fail doing something I loved. Mother didn’t talk to him for a while after that.
I had never done anything reckless until the day of the accident. Never stepped out of line until that night. Always followed rules, always set examples. Perhaps this was life’s way of telling me that I was never meant for freedom. And it was ridiculous to even attempt to think of trying to escape. I was forever caged in this life. There’s no escape. Maybe it was fate? Destiny? I may have become a writer today but I missed so much more. I missed seeing my daughter’s face, my wife’s beautiful expressions, grief, sadness, anger, happiness. I missed the color and seasons in the world, in here everything was always darkness. Here’s to me. I must have been crazy. Lucky me, a useless boy, found cures for all my dreams.