There's a darkness
Living deep in my soul
I still got a purpose to serve
So let your light shine
Deep into my home
God don't let me lose my nerve
-Put Your Lights On by Santana featuring Everlast
Chapter 5 - Miles
You are more alone than you realize, because as soon as your bike pulls up in front of your apartment you notice how dark it looks from the outside. No lights on to welcome you, not even the phantom flickering of a television to break the sheer blackness of the windows. No plants or bric-a-brac to adorn the window sills, the shades pulled fully closed. If not for your knowledge that this was your home, it might well be mistaken as vacant.
You're riding your bike, the bright red Schwinn your mother had given you for your birthday earlier in the summer. She'd told you it was your father's idea, and for a brief and pathetic second you'd believed her. But then you met her eyes and you saw the lie immediately. He was miles away, while the two of you lived out another year on some base you couldn't be bothered to remember the name of near a village whose name you still struggled to pronounce.
You see the lights on the base flicker on as the sun sets and you start pedaling toward home. Your mother doesn't like when you stay out after dark. You decide to take a short cut to try and cut some of the distance instead of riding through the center of the village. You've biked this road before, but mostly as you pump your legs in an attempt to escape the base and the scenery usually passes you in a blur.
You've never noticed this house before, but it has a certain pull and you stop pedaling and coast to a stop in front of it. Squat and compact, with a thatched roof and crumbling walls, it looks like every other house in the village. But it doesn't. It's different. The house makes you think of your father. You shudder and push off on your bike again. You can't put your finger on what's different about that house, but you know you don't like it.
The memory fades and you shake your head. You realize now, with a few more years experience under your belt, and as you straddle a very different kind of bike, that you know exactly what made that house different. It was empty. Vacant. Just like the place in your family that should have been filled by your father. Just like your house. Just like you.
You push your helmet back down on your head and speed off, fleeing from your vacant and staring house just like you sped from that tiny shack all those years ago. You don't think about it, you just do it.
It isn't until the miles begin to take their toll on your leg that you pause to consider what you're doing. You're running. It takes more equipment now than it used to, but essentially it's the same. You're running away. You pull the bike off the highway you find yourself on at the next rest stop. Your leg has grown a little stiff. You stow your helmet and unhook your cane, limping from the parking lot toward the picnic tables provided.
You've been caught out of bounds again. Your father isn't happy when he learns you've been riding your bike all over the village when he comes home on leave. He's forbidden you to take the bike off the base, but you have and now you've been caught. You hang your head, not with shame, but because it's what he expects.
"You're so contrary Gregory," your father growls, "sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't be better off ordering you to cause trouble. I almost believe you might behave yourself just to spite me. Punishing you doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere."
You squash the hope that blossoms in your chest. He'd never stop trying to order you around. And he certainly would never pass up an opportunity to 'teach you the value of discipline'. You clench your teeth and let him begin your lesson. It isn't giving in, you tell yourself. It's just self-preservation.
You blink away another unwelcome memory. You look around and sigh. You did eventually stand up to your father and escape him and his rules. Or you thought you had. But maybe all you really did was run away.
Maybe what you always do is run away.
And you're still running.
You don't have to be alone, sitting on the side of some highway watching cars and trucks and life pass you by. There's a woman out there, probably crying over you right now, who wants to share her life, herself, with you. And what do you do?
You run away.
Because it's scary, because you might get hurt.
The running doesn't stop the hurt, just trades it for another variety. And where has the running gotten you? Tired and alone, and miles away from where you want to be.
It's time to stop running.
You make a quick stop in the men's room before you climb back on the bike to drive the longest miles of your life. The miles that might take you not just to another person, but to another life.
It's late as you pull up in front of Cameron's building. You climb off the bike and make your way slowly to the lobby. You bounce your cane impatiently on the floor as you wait for the elevator, already thinking this is probably a bad idea. When the doors open you hesitate, almost frozen with fear. The doors begin to slide closed and you almost turn to leave.
If nothing else, the running has given you something you've been needing for a long time.
You stretch your arm with a practiced motion and force your cane between the closing doors. They slide back open and you limp inside, jabbing the button for Cameron's floor with the tip of your cane before planting it on the carpet. There's no need for the nervous tapping now. You've made up your mind.
The momentum carries you down the hall to Cameron's door. You lift your cane and tap the handle on the wood sharply.
The only thing left now is to hope you still have enough momentum to get you inside.
tbc ... hopefully in the fifth & final part - Fusion