Hi everyone, I just joined this site and I'm excited to get to know my fellow travelers! Ever since Matador Network's forums got shut down, any sense of community over there dispersed to the winds. I'm glad I found this place. As a lover of travel, I also love reading about travel as well and some of my favorite authors are Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, and Maarten Troost. As such, I was hit by the writing bug a day ago and decided to try my hand at it. Here's a very very rough draft of the first chapter of a story/book I'm considering writing. I don't expect many people to actually read what I put here next, but if in case you do, I'd love some feedback. Don't worry about spelling errors or anything like that. As I said, it's a very very rough draft, that was done in about an hour and a half.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked my wife as we finished loading up my black sedan with everything we owned in the world.
“Yeah, I think so!” Carrie replied enthusiastically, hazel eyes full of optimism.
“Alright,” I said, closing the trunk to the car. It was packed so full that it barely latched. I gazed back towards the front door of the house in which I spent the majority of my troubled teenaged youth. The screen door never quite shut on its own, and lay a bit open even now. I turned to Carrie, who was making herself comfortable for the long trip ahead in the front passenger seat, “let me check inside one last time.”
Walking inside the house, I made my way down the short hallway to the room Carrie and I shared since we returned from overseas. I looked around the room, making sure to notice if we had left anything behind. My mother had spitefully left a bag on my desk. In it contained the souvenirs I had gotten her in my previous travels as well as the gifts Carrie had given her upon meeting her. It caused me a bit of heartache and no small amount of anger.
Since we were both essentially homeless, Carrie having left her English teaching job in South Korea and I having been discharged from the Air Force, we were graciously allowed by my step father to stay with them for a while until we got on our feet. My mother had tolerated our presence in the house for no longer than a couple weeks before she decided we were no longer welcome. Despite my step dad defending us, my mother insisted we move out and get our own place immediately.
“That’s not the best thing for us right now,” I tried to calmly explain during the argument. I am sure a bit of anger in my voice sneaked through. Freshly freed from our commitments, Carrie and I had been traveling. “Since we’re on the road so much, it wouldn’t make sense for us to get a place and pay for it while we’re not even staying there!”
It was true. Carrie and I had just returned from visiting her parents in Philadelphia for a month. Immediately prior to that, we had a taken a scenic tour of the American Southwest for three weeks. We had not been physically at my parent’s house for longer than a couple weeks. Both Carrie and I had saved up some money, but to us, it would be wasteful to throw that money away to rent a place just keep our stuff as we were traveling. Furthermore, we did not know for sure where we wanted to settle yet, and did not want to commit to any long term leases. All this I tried to explain to her.
My mother would hear none of it. She grew up in conservative times under harsh conditions. She lived in Vietnam through the war, and bore the mental scars of someone who never came to terms with the trauma something like that could inflict. She never accepted the things that happened to her and so took it out on her family. She never had a chance, and in many ways, neither did her children. I was 31 years old and my mother still believed she knew what was best for me, and she had determined Carrie to not be that.
In the short time we lived with my parents, Carrie still suffering from jetlag, spent her days sleeping, and trying to recover from the immense 14 hour time difference. My mother determined this to be laziness on Carrie’s part. How dare Carrie not cook for me as any wife should, my mother had implied to me. I bit my tongue then. Later, in a stroke of misfortune, Carrie had slipped on a patch of ice in the winter and broke her toe. Unable to move around freely, I offered to take her meals to her and do her dishes. This too was unacceptable to my mother. She should be the doing these things, she had told me, “she’s the woman and you’re the man.”
I, being a bit more progressive (and reasonable), pointed out to her that Carrie was hurt and it was ok that I helped to pick up the slack. My mother insisted that Carrie was not as hurt as bad as she made it seem and that it was improper that I was doing chores that Carrie should be doing. I tried to brush her off, avoiding any argument with her. I realized through years of this that there was no reasoning with her when she got like this.
Then late one night, as I was exiting the bathroom, my mother called me to the kitchen and promptly and forcefully explained to me that I would move out with Carrie at first opportunity. Carrie and I were no longer welcome. She could bear no longer to see me wait on my (injured) wife hand and foot. I was livid. I said she was being stupid and asked her how she could see that Carrie was injured. She would have none of it. We were to move out. That was final.
“Fine,” I spit out. “But this is it. I won’t forgive you throwing us on the street for this. You’re a horrible person for doing this to us.” I follow up with harsher words that I still cannot bring myself to write here. Know that I still regret having said them and that I have yet to forgive her for what she did. I made my step dad aware of what transpired that night, as he had slept through it all. He apologized for her and offered to try to change her mind, but in a bit of my own defiance, I told him it was time for Carrie and I to leave.
Carrie was saddened and upset by what had gone on between my mother and I. I tried my best to assure her that it was not her fault. My mother was backwards and unreasonable, I explained. This had nothing to do with Carrie and everything to do with my mom. I hugged her and told her I loved her. Again, I said, “it’s not your fault.”
We spoke about what we would do and decided we were going to try staying with her parents. Carrie’s parents were more reasonable than mine and having heard our situation offered to let us stay with them for as long as we needed. Besides, Carrie’s parents would be thrilled to have her back. She had been away from home for far too long.
The next few days were spent packing our belongings and planning our trip. We decided that despite the circumstances of our leaving, we were make the journey as fun as possible. We were determined to make the best out of this bad situation. Thousands of miles from coast to coast, and we were determined to see as much as we could. Rather than a straight shot across, we would zigzag through as many states as possible, hitting up the sights and reconnecting with old friends along the way. It was going to be the trip of a lifetime.
So here I stood, looking at my bed room for the last time. The only things that remained in it were a desk, chairs and a bed, all of which far too large to fit inside my mid-sized car. I picked up the bag again that held the gifts my mom was returning to us. It was an act of spite that I refused to indulge her. I left the bag on the desk and left the room.
There was no one to say goodbye to. My dad was at work and mom had left the house that morning. I walked out the door, made sure to lock it and carefully made sure the screen door would close. Walking up to the car, I could see Carrie smiling at me. She asked, “all set?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I replied, settling in for the long ride. I looked back the house one last time, knowing I would never see it again and realizing that I never wanted to see it again. I started the car and then looked over to her, smiling sadly. “Let’s go.”