I could sense the old man halt as I overtook him. He looked like one of those tramps you see in the roadsides who talk to themselves. You don't see a lot of people on foot along this road, and his being there was outlandish. Nevertheless, I walked on without a second glance, for my legs were not used to any halts during my walks... my walks along that road. The Road.
The sun beamed down at me, radiating just about the right warmth. The wayside shrubs swayed in the breeze, the aroma perfecting the evening. Of course, it was the road, how could it not be perfect? Every now and then, a car or two whizzed past, leaving my loose strands of hair flying. A flash of memory ... "Careful, don't get blown off in the wind." he'd say, and move to the vehicle-side of the road in a protective gesture. I'd grin and reply, "Careful, don't let the vehicles get blown off!"
I was smiling. It was the road. It always brought smiles.
It started off three years ago, my truce with this road, long and lonely, winding and windy. I wasn't alone back then. A time of jubilance to make for home with friends, to walk along together, slow with our own time, instead of the school buses that took us straight home. A time when the exhaustion from the walk was exhilarating and worth it, even when the school bus could've dropped us off unwearied and unscathed, even when other ways could get us home earlier, or perhaps shadier. A time we hadn't realized the real length of the road, too busy wasting away our laughs.
They asked me why I went that way. I had one excuse after another...'cause how could I explain to them those magical moments of companionship? And when I ran out of reasons, I told them I liked to walk. And so, the walks continued. I walked and walked...till I fell in love with it, like I told them that I did.
And today I walk alone, with that old tramp behind me being the only other presence. And yet they ask me, why? Why still that too long a road? And I found myself asking the same. With all those little lies I made to steal a few laughs, to have golden moments, the true reason was forgotten in the end. And all I knew was that somehow, I'd made a truce with the road. Because with time as my company varied, for me the road was the same. And now it showers upon me my past, and plants a smile as I journey through it.
Did I perhaps still have that hope? Of reviving those unforgotten days? Dubious as I am, I know better...better than to linger with what was and is no more. As I walked once again today, I knew it wasn't for the unforgotten. I was irrationally in love with the road, that in some bizarre way felt homely, and in some enchanting way was divine.
It seems longer now than it ever was, and yet I find myself journey through it. And every now and then I laugh to myself, with sudden recollections of our walks in old times. Every now and then I happily hum in my head, when the road brings sudden jolts of exultation. Every now and then I am reminded of my woes, and the quiet of the road helps me brood, uninterrupted and free. There just couldn't be a better place for an introvert, no better way to escape from what everyone claims to be a necessarily busy and difficult life.
As much as we wish to move on, there is always the tiniest little part of us that clings to the past, and if let loose could overpower our present and make us escape reality. But as long as I only let the essence of the deeply etched memories touch me and not revert the past itself, it is but a reason to smile today. And no smile can ever go into nothingness.
No matter how different life may turn out to be tomorrow, I know that the road will fondly welcome my return, my memories awaiting to be embraced. Like Dr Seuss said, I've decided to not cry because it's over, but instead smile because it happened. :)