Published in the Piker Press
Harry was upstairs in the bedroom with the door locked. Like usual. He’d just returned yesterday from his eighth-grade camping trip, and while the very thought of having to spend any time with his classmates in any way, shape or form made him thoroughly sick to his stomach, overall it went much better than predicted. He thought it was actually kind of fun and they weren’t as stupid as he thought. But still those few days were enough. He had lots of catching up to do, so stayed in his room without coming out for any air.
His mother was used to these antics.
He lay in bed reading. He was halfway into Jack London’s Call of the Wild, and whether it was the fact that he’d just been in the woods himself, or his general restlessness and lack of fitting in, the story was profoundly affecting him. It must be the harshness and beauty of the Yukon he figured. The characters have such passion and depth. Such aspirations! He felt he related to it way deep inside.
He knew that soon enough he’d be getting out of this ugly little town where he’d spent his whole life.
Since he was a little tyke, Harry always itched for adventure. Because of his “condition” there really wasn’t much else for him to do but stay as close to home as possible and stick to a regular routine. Just camping for those few days had upset his equilibrium and got him off-kilter. His mother had always been there for him of course, through thick and through thin. Well she didn’t really have a choice did she? This is what mothers do. And since he never knew his father, or even knew OF him, and didn’t have brothers and sisters, it was always just she and him.
Well and Grandpa helped too.
But she just didn’t understand was the problem. Now that he was growing up that is. Like the conversation they had last night. Harry tried to explain that he planned to spend his life as an aesthete. He wanted to go and to see and to learn as much as he could about the world before he died he told her. He waxed eloquently about art and music and literature and nature, but like usual she had no idea what in the hell he was talking about. He talked excitedly about hiking across the desert, spending time deep in the forest and scaling the biggest mountains, but her face just blanked out. And then she got upset. Why did she have to be so closed-minded? Didn’t she believe that he would do it? He asked her if it was because she’d never left the town in her life, and didn’t know anything herself of the outside world. When he said that she started to cry. She said through her tears what he’s heard over and over through the years.
“Oh Harry, you’re just a dreamer. Where you got that from I’ll never know, cause you sure didn’t get it from me!”
Yeh that’s what she always said. And he didn’t know the answer either. He just went with it.
Harry was engrossed in his book while these thoughts danced around the periphery of his mind. He heard the doorbell ring downstairs, and on a tear jumped up and ran down the hallway and down the steps in his bare feet. He was so excited. He assumed it was the UPS man with his packages, as he checked online this morning and they were due to be delivered today. He tore past his mother who had no idea what was happening, and opened to door to the tall man in brown. Harry signed the manifest while laughing and bumbling to the man, and brought the package in, sitting on the floor Indian style rushing to open it. His mother stood over him, just shaking her head.
“Harry what have you got going on there now?”
His hands were in the box, pulling out one book at a time. He reverently looked at the covers of each and started stacking them in a neat pile on the carpet next to him: a book on botany; one on the Shamans of the Native Americans and Toltecs who’d lived in New Mexico and Arizona (before being were resettled elsewhere); some more Thoreau; a compilation of his favorite eighteenth-century enlightenment philosophers; a biography of Bob Dylan; a big glossy picture book of the Rocky Mountains. He was leafing through this one and held it up against his chest, looking blissfully up at his mother.
“What Mom, why are you looking at me like that? These are the books of the places I’m gonna go and things I’m gonna learn.”
His mother looked down at him tenderly. What in the world was she going to do with him? She certainly didn’t want to come to loggerheads with him again, but lately he’d been more consumed than ever, she just couldn’t seem to have a grounded conversation with him. “Harry I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”
“Oh I’m not gonna be disappointed. These are the places I’ll be going. I told you I’m an aesthete. This is what I’ve dedicated my life to.”
His mother helped him pick up the books as he started up the steps. ”Harry, why don’t you come in and I’ll fix you a tuna sandwich for lunch. You have to eat something ya know.”
Harry shook his head no. “Mom I gotta figure out my plans here.”
Harry’s mother walked back into the kitchen, feeling that sadness. She knew it was never gonna happen. Harry would never go anywhere. They’d be lucky if he even made it through the year.
He went on years longer than anyone predicted, and never let up.
It made him happy.