After a night of drinking with friends I decided to walk home. I could tell it made them uncomfortable. I kept countering arguments to crash on a couch at a nearby home with the long list of reasons why I prefer not to sleep in strange places. We settled the argument when I pointed out they didn’t have strong enough medication to make me sleep. The mind fills the night with dangers.
I walked through the night down a path of thought that led to time travel, mainly because I had watched back to the future the previous night. I remembered the exact moment in my life where I came to grips with time travel not being real. The realization hit me at the same time as a tennis ball hit me in the face.
I was in grade three and waiting for my mother to pick me up from school. A kid from my grade who looked old for his age and stayed in grade three for a year after us called out to me and threw the ball, catching me by surprise and hitting me square on the nose.
I had just watched back to the future for the first time and I thought to myself that when time travel is invented I will come back and stop that tennis ball from hitting me in the face. Then I thought about how it had happened and nothing had stopped it. I thought about how there was no kind and wise future version of myself who would return and fix all my problems. I thought about how there would be no revelation of what would come in the future, just a series of days in ignorance of what lies after. I should have maybe thought more about long division and making friends.
A bat swooped me out of my memory and flew down an unlit side street. I stopped and rolled a cigarette, then followed the bat’s path.
I followed a route I had taken before. A memory from when I first moved out of my isolated home in the country and into an unfamiliar city. I walked home through the night from my job making sandwiches for loud teenagers in a shopping centre food court.
I had just closed for the night, working frantically to get my list of tasks done. I told my fifteen-year-old underling to deal with the unwashed masses and then I told her to wash the dishes. I walked through the winding streets to my house. I came to an unlit street lined by black twisted trees with no foliage. I saw something in the dark at the end of that path, some destiny or choice.
The year after I finished high school seems like one long nightmare. The lingering problem of a psychotic break is that you can’t be sure of what really happened; the memory remains unreal.
During that period some small, lucid part of me was aware of how my mind was breaking, of how the reality I was experiencing wasn’t true, of how the things I saw, heard and felt weren’t shared by the people around me.
As I stood at the end of that street I saw two roads ahead of me. The only information on mental illness I had gained was from the serial killers in thriller novels I had read and the barely told story of an uncle who had developed schizophrenia and died in his thirties.
The only future I saw was the dark end of a sad story I wouldn’t be around to tell. I could either give in to dark thoughts and become my own villain, or be consumed and become a victim of myself.
I chose the third road.
I got to my current home from my walk and rolled a cigarette, then sent a message back through time to myself. I spoke theatrically because I was practising for an event and it stops me from stuttering and because I thought if I made it lord of the ringsy it would have more impact on my younger self.
I said young me let this message come to you in some long-forgotten dream spaced between your nightmares.
Let you, for but a moment, behold your future, though you will remember it not.
See what you will become, see that the dooms that lie on your heart lie not on your path.
For you will create a path for yourself. Claim your own part in this ongoing story.
You will become a man, though not a man of some other’s definition. A man as you define it, a human being that exists in earnest, with struggles and friendships and stories realised.
Faith you have, faith hard earned. Not the words of faith forced into your mouth unconsidered and by the design of others, but faith that comes from the lessons you have taught yourself.
Love you have. Love not soured by desire or ignorance, but love that comes from shared roads and honest assistance.
Destiny you have. Not destiny designed by mad torturing gods, and not the destiny laid out for you by the machine of progress. A destination chosen by yourself, aimed for by your own heart.
You have problems and struggles and moments of despair. But every human being has a list of troubles so long they have forgotten its beginnings.
You realise your goal of becoming a real person and not the dark end of a nightmare.
You choose the third path.
May you find solace in some small moment in a dream that keeps you going and leads you down the path to become yourself.
My cigarette went out while I was speaking and gesturing. I sat down, relit and finished it. I turned out the lights one by one, replacing rooms with darkness filled by the mind. I took medication and began the long-forgotten journey that comes with each sleep.
It scares me to speak of the strange things I say and do to keep going. Fear that the very thought process that has kept me alive is what makes me truly alien to the world I aim to be a part of. Yet part of this world I remain, led on by a point to aim for, led on by a place carved out for me among others, led on through the darkest times by some small moment of solace unremembered.