Πέμπτη, 1 Ιουνίου 2017

THE VOLUNTEER 10: THE DECISION

Of course he had regretted going to the bar’s toilet. If he hadn’t gone, now he wouldn’t be behind the wheel with this damn rain that didn’t seem to stop. He wouldn’t be face to face with his past but, more likely, with the second glass of beer, Kevin’s treat, gazing Branca walking around with the tray. But deep inside, he knew that he was just lying to himself. Wherever he was, that moment would come. It was all clear to him now. He felt that all these time travels were just preparing him for this. The journey of his life was that night. Now that he was returning to the most difficult dilemma of his life, what would he do? How would he handle it? And of course, to make things even more complicated, he had turned back in time the wrong moment. 
He had just heard that eerie sound of the obstacle on which his tires had stepped on. He screamed and started furiously hitting the steering wheel with his hands. His hands were sweaty and frozen at the same time. When this despair crisis was over, he took a deep breath and turned off the engine. He didn’t even need to get out of the car. He knew very well what was waiting for him back then and did not want to face it again. He knew that part of the movie very well and the only thing that he wanted was to push the fast forward button. In the past, he had thought about that scene countless times, what he would do if he was given the chance once more, what he would do if he relived it and now he was so close to do everything right. The only thing heard was the metallic sound of the rain on the hood and the windows along with his thoughts. 
Time was up. He turned the key and started the engine. And just like that he found himself turning the doorknob of the toilet’s door at Kevin’s bar. It took him some time to recover the return’s first shock. He staggered as he went up the stairs. 
Kevin had already served him his second beer.
“What happened? You look like you have seen a ghost down there.”
“Hmm… you could say so”, he strictly replied, drank his beer, feeling its coolness all over his body that was on fire. He took a wrinkled banknote from his pocket and left it on the bar.
“Good night Kevin”, he replied almost whisperingly and went towards the exit door.
“Take care buddy, see you next week”, Kevin replied as he lit his cigarette.
“Hey, where are you going? My shift is over in half an hour”, Branca told him crankily, tenderly grabbing him by the arm.
“I want to get some air, I am going to walk to the house” he told her and gave her a passionate kiss on the mouth.
He opened the bar’s door and went into the clear night. He had made his decision, just like that night. 
Back then, he had done the same. He had made the decision to leave as far as he could. He had instinctively driven to the bus station where he left his car and took the first coach. The destination was indifferent, running away was the only purpose. The coach was almost empty due to the day. He didn’t even remember where it stopped after so many hours. He only remembered the damn rain. Exhausted as he was, he had spent the night in a lousy motel in a city he had never heard of. He had gone out to get some cigarettes in a kiosk and he stared at the news on the small shop’s screen. He was filled with terror to hear anything about the incident, if the news said something about a man found dead outside a bar, or if they had his picture accusing him for hit and run and murder. The only thing for certain was that he could not drive again. At first, he had his ears open. He was waiting for his punishment that didn’t seem to come. He gradually left his old life back at that night and he began to wander from city to city by coach, by train or metro. He never touched a steering wheel after that night. He always read the news in fear of mentioning that night and he always looked behind him in case they followed him and arrested him. He started collecting the few-page handmade newspapers from the cities he passed and storing them in his box. He changed cities and personalities. He found occasional jobs with no particular demands. He made opportunistic relationships with roommates and fine ladies with whom he shared his bed, keeping most of his world locked. 
Time passed and he had managed to disappear from his old self, his job that he hated, his father. He kept a telephone contact with his mother but that was extremely sparse as well. He had raised a wall and he was a bit distant, taming his loneliness. He often wondered what happened to that male body. Was he dead and if so, was it him the one who did it or was he dead already? Was he identified, who was he, didn’t his friends and family look for him? The incident must have been reported somewhere but no matter how hard he tried, he didn’t find anything. He had reached the conclusion that the man was homeless, a stranger in a big city for whom nobody gave a damn and whose identity nobody knew. That was the most convenient truth that grew strong inside him. 
Yes, of course, he was nothing but a coward and most definitely a loser, a bastard. He had messed things up back then and never got punished, like a small kid. That story was ideal for him. Yes, it was high time he admitted it. Now, he was escaping once again. He could have done the right thing this time but he still chose to leave. Did he have any regrets? Of course, tons of them, but in the same time there was that strange feeling of freedom at the bottom of the barrel where he had sunk.

He was walking slowly towards the house. He had taken his usual course. Bowieville, a city that he had truly loved. He was looking at her in her late night version and was enjoying her. He made a nod to the young man coming towards him walking his dog. The city was about to go to bed. The noise was reduced and the lights in the windows of the apartment buildings were few. Yes, with this walk he was saying goodbye to another city, like so many others before, that could not keep him. He felt like a wild animal that could not stay still. He passed through the dark park near the house. He took his keys out of his pocket. They were ringing in his hands. He had reached the corner. He had made his decision. The journey of his life had reached its end. 

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