The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
The following is a completely true story. Any resemblance to Stephen King's Stand by Me is purely coincidental and probably pretty tenuous at best seeing as I only saw the last half of the movie and never read the book. I'm posting this here because I find it a remarkable story that may serve as a cautionary tale of sorts, and because I am an attention whore.
I arrived home from work today around 6:30 (I'd left at 4:20) and wrote the following on my LiveJournal:
fucking jesus christ i need a hug.
i thought I could walk home from work. Oh god, the traffic. no sidewalks. cars. 45 mph. I think I almost died.
Covered in mud. scratched up. torn my pantsd. need a shower. Need food. fuck dinner, i'm ordering out.
i am so fucking stupid
Around 8:00, I amended my post, adding the following:
After work, I went out to wait for the bus for the first time - for my first two weeks I'd been relying on rides from family or coworkers. I waited for perhaps 40 minutes before realizing I wasn't 100% sure where the bus I was waiting for went, and set off to find a more certain bus stop. I wandered around, basically lost in relation to the bus route (though I knew where home was relative to my position), without finding any bus stops. At that point I said "screw it" and decided to walk home, as I thought it would actually take less time than waiting for the bus and getting a transfer back up. I knew two routes home; I was aware that one of them had a reputation for being a very dangerous route for pedestrians, and knew little to nothing about the walking conditions on the other. So I took the latter.
Little did I know that I had sailed away from Scylla directly into the maw of Charybdis.
After taking a very scenic, lovely side road from Page Boulevard to Worcester Street, I set out down the latter to find that there was no sidewalk. So I'd walk on the shoulder, I thought, and set out. Unfortunately, there was no shoulder - in most places, a wall of impenetrable vegetation came right up to the road. This is where I started to get nervous. Well, fine, I told myself, there was enough distance for oncoming cars to see me coming and get into the left lane.
Except there wasn't.
In at least three places that I can remember, there were curves in the road that made it impossible for drivers to see me, and I had to listen very carefully for oncoming traffic before inching my way forward. This is where I started to be genuinely frightened for my well-being. After coming within six inches of being hit by speeding SUVs and getting splattered all over the road one too many times, I started to panic, waited for a break in the traffic, ran across, and got off the road into the woods. And this is where I went from "stupid asshole walking on the highway" to "panicked fool fearing for his life."
Around this point I tore a small hole in my slacks walking next to the guard rail and sustained a long but harmless scratch on my leg. I saw a stream running parallel to the road and thought I could follow its shore safely for some distance, but it turned out that what looked like solid dirt was actually very viscous mud, and both my feet sunk in several inches, covering both my feet and one pants leg in grime - and here I thank goodness that it was casual Friday and I'd worn my sneakers. I think I started to limp at this point. I reached a point where the stream flowed out of a man-made culvert beneath a slope covered with loose stones, and was still lucid enough to realize that if I tried to walk across them I'd most likely fall and break a leg at the least, so I threw my bookbag across, climbed up the slope and around the rocks, and back down before climbing further up the slope to a railway that crossed Worcester Street on a bridge and sat down on the rocky ground to let my heart rate come back down to a reasonable pace.
Physically, it was easier going after that point, but mentally, I'd started to lose it. I found a fence and followed it parallel to Worcester Street, pushing my way past sumacs and almost tripping on bittersweet vines, getting blackberry thorns stuck in my clothes (I am so fucking glad I wasn't wearing shorts) before finally coming to a relatively open stretch next to the road and wading through crab grass and thistle, hoping I didn't pick up any ticks or mites (I didn't) before finally, thank goodness, catching sight of a large abandoned business complex at an intersection with a sidestreet, whereupon I finally knew exactly where I was and started the long trudge home.
This is where I lost any pretense at sanity. By this point I was talking to myself, shouting at crows, and limping miserably step by step to my ultimate destination. At one point I started singing "The Road Goes Ever On and On" audibly to myself. Traversing a network of very scenic, very safe side roads with attractive little middle-class houses and passing mercifully few other people (and retaining just enough of myself to sneer derisively at a bumper sticker reading "Keep working! Millions on welfare depend on you!"), I found my house at last, limped up the steps, dropped my bag like a hot potato, hugged my dog like I hadn't seen him in a decade, stripped out of my muddy pants and socks, washed my hands, stuffed my face with some cake, got on the computer, and posted the above. After about a half hour had passed, thanks in part to some very soothing instrumentals by Joe Hisaishi, I regained enough presence of mind to go take a shower, and ordered a very fattening but very comforting calzone.
And here I am.
All I can say is that I returned home a very humbled man. I somehow survived thanks to my rudimentary survival skills learned at ECOS and a great deal of blind luck. I feel very stupid and very relieved, and very VERY glad that it's over, and from now on I am either bumming a ride off my coworkers or WAITING FOR THE GODDAMN FUCKING BUS.
And that's all.