You never fully realize just how lonely a road is until you’re at least halfway down it.
I never fully understood that once I had started walking, turning back would be not only improbable, but completely impossible.
I remember the first step I took. I only remember that because I immediately stepped on a badly placed stone, and damn near broke my neck falling over it. After I finished cursing myself, the stone, and just about every human being I could possibly think of, I brushed my gravel encrusted palms against my jeans, and took another step. And then another, and another.
After maybe forty steps, I turned back.
“Wow,” I remember hearing myself say. I had only just begun somewhere new, yet I had already lost sight of what was behind me. Of course, the image of my hometown would always be branded in my mind and would not as easily be erased, but there was something about literally leaving my past behind me that felt more right than anything I’d done in my life. Smiling, I turned and walked on.
I wish I could tell you what emotion was rolling around in my head at this point but, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t remember. The only thing I remember thinking was nothing. For the first time in the entirety of my long life, I was not feeling anything. One hundred feet. Two hundred feet. A mile. Two miles. All this time without pain, without worry.
And then the road ended. Just like that, the thing that I had just put the bulk of my faith into had come to an abrupt halt, leaving nothing but a muddy dirt trail leading up a mountain. I hated hiking. Still do, as a matter of fact. But what was I going to do? Turn around? No. The past is passed, I wasn't going to let it catch up any time soon.
It didn't take long for me to come to the realization that this path had a distinct incline the whole way up. Every step that I thought I was getting closer with became harder and harder. My breath was no longer flowing smoothly, but in short bursts. I could feel the yearning for safety. The past in my heart clinging like nicotine to my lungs. I needed to stop, to let my body catch up to my mind. But I couldn't.
If my body caught up, my demons would do the same, and I had just left them in the dust.
The trail took a very unexpected right turn, but as I turned it I could see the end marked by two poles on the horizon. Though I could hardly breathe, I saw this and filled myself with a steely determination the likes of which I had never felt within myself. With every fiber of strength I had left, I forced myself to take another step, followed by another. I could see the edge, I could feel it.
As I stepped over the horizon, my eyes met a beautiful, terrible sight.
Before me, there were presented three things;
To my right, a cliffside leading to a sheer drop.
To my left, a winding path leading almost directly up.
And straight ahead, another path, this one leading directly back down to where I had come.
I could feel my heart sinking slowly into my stomach. I had come so far. I thought I had conquered everything, yet here stood another obstacle. I felt weak, I felt cheated. I felt hopeless.
Without feeling, I willed my body over to the cliffs edge. I could hear the pounding in my head begging me to close my eyes and fall. It would be so easy. It would be so quick.
With a small smile sliding into place on my lips, I turned from the edge, away from the path back home, and dug my foot into the path headed up the mountain.