Should I go back to Boulder? Hit the road? Come out of hiding and be Larry? Work side by side with Beth and Simon? Oh, and by the way--Happy New Year!
I picked up the phone and called Janine, but all I got was her answering machine with the Banana Splits theme song. I wanted to tell her that my name wasn't Mark, that I was in love with someone else, but that I still thought about her all the time. Instead, I quietly dropped the phone back into its base. Josh Swensen--King of Calling Old Girlfriends and Hanging Up. I barely slept.
I woke up at three, full of anxiety. It took me a few minutes to realize why. Between the pre-dawn darkness and Peter's absence, it was almost exactly like the morning I'd left two years ago. I washed up quickly, grabbed Peter's bike this time, and headed into the early morning.
My body knew where I was going long before my mind acknowledged it. Hour after hour, I pedaled south, then east. Thankfully, most of the roads were clear.
Somewhere around Plymouth, I couldn't avoid facing my destination.
I was returning to the scene of the crime.
As I pedaled, the colors and lines I'd painted yesterday congealed into some kind of plan. The task this time seemed Herculean--or was it quixotic? That was also what made it appealing.
Once I hit Wareham, I coasted--almost afraid to catch a glimpse of the bridge. I stopped at a diner to use the bathroom and down two bagels and a bottle of water. Should I go along with Simon and Beth's idea or follow my own path? I wrote down my idea on the napkin in front of me. Was I being too delusional this time, even for me? No, delusional was thinking I could ever end up with Beth. This idea seemed almost attainable compared to that one. I told myself to quit stalling, got back on the bike, and headed toward the Sagamore.
As I pedaled across the bridge, my body instinctively pulled over to the same spot I'd stopped at back then. It was much less windy than that previous day, but no less threatening. I leaned my bike against the stanchion and gazed over the side.
How had I even pretended to jump? My hands clenched the girder for support. I felt as dizzy and nauseous as I had the morning of my pseudocide. Stand here, I thought. Stand here until you realize what you've done. What you're going to do.
I looked across the bay and let the past few years flash before me--the campsites, the hostels, the lies, the fake IDs, the paranoia, the loneliness. Yes, I had met interesting people and traveled to parts of the country I never would have seen otherwise. But I'd traveled as an interloper, a fugitive.
The wind pressed against my back, pinning me to the railing. I let myself feel the isolation of my existence. This wasn't about Beth, my mother, Peter, or even Janine; it was about me. I didn't know what the future held, where my place was in the universal plan, but I did know this.
I didn't want to be Mark anymore. Or Carl or Gil or Tom.
Whatever the future held, I would meet my fate as Josh Swensen. And that meant embracing Larry again. And being Larry meant contributing in a big way. I unfolded the napkin I'd scribbled on in the diner and read my New Year's resolution.
This year I will run for president.
I couldn't be president, of course; no one my age could. The Constitution was quite clear that you had to be thirty-five to serve. But there was nothing in that document that said I couldn't raise issues or voice my opinion.
But that was what drew me to the idea.
A police car pulled alongside me, lights flashing. The cop in the passenger seat got out of the car cautiously and asked if there was a problem.
I shook my head and looked past him to the dark water below. "Don't worry, I'm not thinking about jumping."
Copyright © 2004 Janet Tashjian
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