Responding to: The Road Past Altamont
Money. Rent. Competition. Of course I knew of all these concepts before, and I had a plan… What was the plan? Oh, right, build a better life for myself. Right. Not a plan.
I walk to the center of the pedestrian bridge, and take out my guitar. I’ll just start playing, I think, and everything will fall into place. One chord. Two chords. I expected something magical to happen, like in the movies, when a musician would attract a crowd with a simple melody… But as I play, I falter. This isn’t what I’m used to. The strangers avert their eyes, and I long for the supportive gaze of my mother. I want the quiet of my dimly lit room, not the clamour of this city, where the sun is blindingly bright. With every error I make, I feel myself falling further down the rabbit hole of uncertainty. Maybe I wasn’t meant to leave the farm, I think. I’m not where I’m supposed to be, no one wants to hear my guitar. Those thoughts dominate my mind, and my fingers curl up in shame. I pack my guitar and leave. No one notices.
How foolish I was, to believe.
On my way “home,” (that being, the cheapest apartment I can afford), I walk through a neighborhood of plastic. Trees so perfect, they resemble oversize toys. Every house a cookie cutter shape of the next one. I find it fascinating how people find solace in this uniformity.
Suddenly, I stop. In front of me is a large white house, with huge windows on every wall. And underneath each window, there is a window box of wildflowers. Just like the ones on the farm. I stare. What a strange thing to see, amidst all the plastic perfection. I watch as the perfect trees around me lose their leaves, succumbing to nature’s desire of imperfection. The cookie cutter houses melt into the ground. In their place, rolling hills spread far into the horizon. I find myself travelling back to where I came from, all the while never taking my eyes off the wildflowers. The concrete beneath my feet transforms into the well-trodden path I’m so familiar with, it leads down to the farmhouse. It wears the colour of unfinished wood, as dreary as the landscape that surrounds it. The wood itself is twisted, warped and cracked by a shrinking grain here and there and wears the stains, at predictable intervals, of rusty nails that hold it fast. I walk forward, and I can see my mother tending to the chickens. She looks so happy. I watch as she picks up a chicken and weighs it in her hands. It’s so nostalgic, seeing her again. The memories flood my senses, and I’m entranced with all that is long gone. I watch something invisible, a past that has vanished perhaps but had not yet stopped trying to make itself heard.
I know this isn’t real. But regardless — for the first time, I don’t feel scared. I’m comforted by the certainty of what was once my reality, and with that comfort I feel more confident in the reality of my presence here in this city, and in the future I will build for myself here.
A motorcycle awakens me from my trance. I take one last look at the wildflowers, and walk away, into the unknown.