And the decision of her life
“Where am I going?” she mutters. Pulling up to the red stoplight, she compresses lightly down on the brake with her left foot, which slipped partly out of her Birkenstock, allowing the car to roll to a halt. In front of her, cars criss-cross back and forth, speeding off into the distance, carrying drivers to engage with their day, ready or not.
Leaving the house in a bit of a daze, she drives off more on automatic pilot than mindfully and aware of her surroundings.
Well, a fitful night lying awake more than sleeping followed by a breakfast of bitterness washed down with a shouting duel will leave anyone bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she thinks. Sarcasm always helps ease the sting out of hurtful situations, even when she only speaks it to herself. Or at least that is how it seems to her.
Glancing around she lowers her head so she can look up at street signs. She realizes she has turned down the wrong road. “Just, where am I going?” she asks aloud, again. Only this time the question carries more weight to it.
What she really means is, “Where am I going in life?” But at this moment, she does not acknowledge the duality of this question.
Why did I turn down this road?
The street to her left leads back home. If you can call it a home, she thinks with a fusion of both angry and sad feelings. It certainly contains four walls and furniture yet after twenty-five years of marriage, it is completely and utterly devoid of love.
Turning her head, she looks down the road to the right. This one takes her towards her office which she has occupied for over a decade. Her 9-5 job somehow adds up to 14-hour days, usually seven days a week. She doesn’t have the luxury of clocking in or out. Being self-employed means no benefits, no labor union, and definitely no time-clock.
“Why do I work for myself again?” she asks her reflection in the rearview mirror. “Oh, yeah,” she replies, studying the horizontal lines across her forehead and the developing laugh lines around her eyes. “For the freedom!”
Freedom. That is exactly what she sees laid out in front of her at this very moment.
With her hands in the ten-and-two position, she grips the steering wheel a little tighter. She shifts her gaze from the rearview mirror to the road in front of her. Her eyes focus up ahead. She shivers momentarily, hearing the word freedom whisper in her head.
The small, two-lane street in front of her meanders down a mile or so, curving itself along a small stream. The kids used to catch frogs in that stream, she remembers as a faint smile curves her lips much like the relationship of the stream to the road.
In her mind’s eye she sees the four-way stop. A couple of residential homes on the east and west corners punctuate endless fields of wheat and barley. In the summertime they encapsulate the lyric she learned as a child, “and golden waves of grain.” She hums it softly to herself and considers for a moment how the fields look straight out of a painting, especially as the sun sets behind them, backlighting it all with the beauty of the golden hour.
North from the intersection the road eventually merges with the interstate. The open and endless highway would carry her in the opposite direction from where her life now resides.
Freedom, she thinks again. Her heart beats a little louder, a little faster in her chest. Her palms dampen the steering wheel. Every nerve-ending seems to prickle.
Is it freedom or running away? She does not know and refuses to answer the question. Each road heads down a different path and each one will alter the course of her life.
The stoplight’s green light blinks through her windshield. It’s now or never.
She releases her left foot from the brake pad and readjusts her sandal. Her car creeps forward. Sucking in a breath she lowers her right foot onto the gas pedal. As she exhales, she keeps her gaze steady past the green light. The only action she takes is to go.