Unmapped Miles

You might as well face it: you are many…inside of you resides a wealth of talents, abilities and longings.

Deep within you lies a metropolis of your own making, peopled with personalities only you could have created in the privacy of your own mind. An architect of sorts, you have built this underground world with your own blood, sweat and tears. You have done this to survive the outrageous thievery of groping hands.

And now your own hands grope like a stumble-bum in the dark, in search of the dim light at the end of the tunnel. Hesitating (for do you truly want to find that light–or rather, dare to hope against hope that it exists?), you stumble across an cropped-unmapped-miles-2017-medium.jpgoaken door deep within a gloomy forest with the cryptic letters DID chiseled deep into the weathered wood. Beneath its brass handle, worn smooth from centuries of hands big and small grasping it as much for strength as for admittance, a rusty keyhole gapes a mute welcome.

Squinting, your face takes on a slideshow of expressions: puzzlement, resentment, indignant denial, and the first inklings of a subdued–but excited– acknowledgment of the rightness of those monolithic letters.

Fumbling for your leathery backpack, you swing it around and toss it to the ground, then balance on your haunches while rifling through its contents. Your journey has been long and hard; you have not undertaken it lightly, nor have you turned to the right hand or to the left, but plodded ahead step by weary step, whether your path led through mountainous terrain or dismal valley. The elements have not been kind to you; neither have the forces of evil knocking you about at whim…but this has not deterred you. You’ve cried salty tears, which ran into the split of your chapped lips; you’ve limped along on feet swollen and blistered; you’ve slept under bridges with the other homeless, (some of them homeless for the same reason as yourself); you’ve gone days without nourishing food, months without a nurturing word from friend or stranger. Indeed, you have often fancied that you were all alone in this lunatic quest you seem to have engaged in–but a quest for what?

Frowning into the depth of your backpack, you heave a huge sigh of frustration, and your hand (weak though it is from decades of giving giving giving and rarely receiving more than crumbs in return, or cramped from staving off thieving hands) grasps something coldly metallic. You excavate an oversized key from the bottom of the backpack, and hold it in your open palm for inspection.

Your hands, rough and chafed from the rigors of survival, warm the metal as you turn it over and over, staring uncomprehendingly at its reality. You can’t recall when it first came into your possession, or how you knew to hunt for it deep within the womb of your backpack; you seemed to know instinctively that it was there silently offering its services should you ever choose to use it.

You glance from the key to the gaping key hole, and experience such a jolt deep within yourself that you blink in surprise. Could this possibly be the fit for which you’ve been searching most of your life? Your mind sifts forgotten memories which suddenly surface, memories of futile attempts to fit this key into other keyholes, keyholes which if labeled would bear names such as religion, marriage, motherhood, friendship, alcohol abuse, and so many more that you can’t even begin to recount them all.

Rising to your feet with a bewildered excitement, you clutch the old-fashioned key with such intensity that it bites into your palm, but you hardly care–it is the good kind of pain, the kind of pain which lets you know you are alive and on the verge on an enormous self-discovery of such magnitude that this moment, this breath, will forever be etched in your memory and heart.

Your faltering footsteps are like an old woman’s shuffle, for you are bone-weary from all that it has taken you to arrive at this point in time. As you hesitantly approach the door, key still biting into your palm, your form sways, and you nearly swoon with exhaustion and a lifetime’s accumulation of disappointed hopes. You think, as you near the oaken door, that you cannot take it this time should this turn out to be one more such aborted hope. You think, I won’t let myself hope this time, but something inside of you does just the same, something sounding oddly like a foreign voice (but you’ve heard it before, or was it merely a dream? So hard any more to distinguish dreams from reality!) You think, something is wrong with me that my perceptions are so jumbled, but still you move forward. This you do, you move forward.

When you reach the door, you fall against it and its weight is much sturdier than you would have suspected. With a fingertip you trace the carved letters, and a tiny shudder wracks your body as truth communicates itself from the simple touch of flesh on wood.

Sighing, for you have come so far to be once more enveloped in darkness, you bring the key up to the keyhole with a hand that shakes, betraying your steely resolve. It will or it won’t, you think idiotically. It will or it won’t, it will or it won’t, it will or it won’t. Seconds before you attempt the single most important act of your life, you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and insert the key.

It fits! Overjoyed, your eyes fly wide open, and you stare in astonishment. It fits, it turns, I’m home at last and no returns! you singsong in your head. As the door clicks open you catch the tail-end of an eerie song so infused with the childlike wonder of truth that it swirls and leaps out at you, alive with the power of things that are untainted with the world’s lies. Someone inside of you giggles with joy, and you clamp a hand over your mouth in shocked dismay.

But of course, you tell yourself out loud, of course, of course! There’s bound to be other voices! You’ve left the door ajar, not willing just yet to cross its threshold into the land of no-turning-back, recognizing intuitively that to do so is to say goodbye, however reluctantly, to what-might-have-been. Recognizing as well that to embrace the one is to dismiss–forever–the other.

Oh, but for now it is enough to stand this side of the threshold and cherish this time of knowingness, to savor the sensation of sensing all the shattered bits and pieces of your life falling into place into some kind of discernable shape. Enough to stand here, just now, with the key protruding from the open door (and what a warm rush of affection you feel for this magical key!), and know that you have always, in some fashion, lived in what society would label an alternate reality.

This is merely the beginning of your journey, or perhaps in some fashion, its middle. You have many more miles to put on your soul, but you don’t realize that yet–or suspecting as much don’t care, for you have made a choice, the most critical choice of your life. And for now, that is more than enough.

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