End Of The Road
Dry leaves crunched under my feet; a friendly reminder of Autumn’s presence on Earth.
Where some people see only the death of green acres, I see a chance to enjoy the outside world. This world is different from mine, however. This sanctuary, a sprawling labyrinth of pine trees and dense vegetation, excites within me the urge to experience lands not yet known. While the uninteresting whirr of suburban life may be comforting, the sounds of the wild will always retain their ominous lure. The promise of adventure, and sights unseen carried me from the warmth of this small house in the woods, out into the bitter cold of the morning.
The street was, for lack of a better term, dirt. Mounds of dirt that had settled on top of previously laid concrete, have taken back this path for the Earth. Decades of weathering, as well as a neglect for maintenance have caused this road to be a hazard, strewn with branches hanging down onto the course. This neck of the woods could only be found by those looking for it, and without proper guidance, one would easily slip past this pocket of rural Texas.
I gazed down at the glassy, reflective surface of the lake. Located precariously on the side of a large hill near the water’s edge, my grandmother’s house boasted the finest scenery in the land, and I knew it. I turned back towards the road and began my eastward trek. Though not entirely sure of what I’d find, I made silly, trivial goals of items to seek out, and imaginary places to explore. Trees became crow’s nests, large boulders turned into waypoints, and people outside were transformed from simple townsfolk, into informative quest guides. In a new place, where danger was potentially around every corner, and magic could be viewed simply by spotting the obscure, I had found the Shangri-La of my creativity.
The symbol I finished drawing on a rock with chalk had obviously garnered attention, as I turned around to the cheerful voice of my grandmother’s neighbor.
“That’s some art you’re making there!”, he exclaimed while taking his dogs out for a walk. I smiled, and waved back at him. He was a friendly fellow, with a cheerful disposition that never seemed to dampen. In retrospect, I regret not getting to know the man better. I didn’t know many of the residents of my grandmother’s small town, but the few I did were enjoyable individuals.
I zipped up my black hoodie further, realizing how cold the wind was coming from the direction of the waterfront. As I strode further down the dirt road, I began to lose sight of my grandmother’s house. The road, fashioned in a parabolic pattern began to veer off to the right, and I was compelled to follow it to its final destination. I glanced cautiously around me while stepping ever away from my point of origin. On my left, a large hedge rose up above me. Its leaves, thick and inviting, shrouded the objects behind them so well that a curiosity arose within me. I made my way up to the front drive carefully, as the dirt road had quickly turned to uneven gravel on all sides. The yard, a neglected and shady dump, was littered with beer cans and shotgun shells. A more cliché example of the southern, poverty-stricken American home, there could never be. Inside the walls of hedges, were two double-wide trailers, both of which looked as if the forest had reclaimed them as its own. Ivy crept up the sides of panels surrounding the trailers, a sign of the longevity of habitation. Sparse patches of grass, growing unreasonably tall out of the view of the main drive gave the impression these people lived out here simply to not be noticed, and it would seem they accomplished this goal.
As I peered further around the corner of the bush, I caught a glimpse of the owners of the establishment. Three men, all disheveled in appearance sat down by the water’s edge, guzzling beers by the bottle, and turning frequently to check on a small grill. With a flick of the wrist, the man furthest from me let fly a bottle into a tree, smashing instantly to pieces. The one directly next to him, with volume and hostility, chastised him in a vulgar manner. As the third man lifted his rifle, he took aim down the hill at something that was beyond my sight. All at once, he squeezed the trigger and a deafening burst shook the silence of the forest, causing me to jump.
Having rarely heard a gunshot, let alone without warning, my hands instantly began to tremble. The sounds and sight of the firearm were powerful enough to instill a sense of supreme respect, causing me to begin my retreat from the location. As I backed up, the man who smashed the bottle got up from his chair, and staggered back up the hill to the trailer nearest him. As he got to the door, I began to peer through a side of the hedge by forcibly making an eye-hole. A woman, clad in a large suede jacket emerged from the door as he approached, apologetically handing him a large, cordless phone. As she handed it to him, the phone was swatted out of her hand by the belligerent man, and he proceeded to grab her by the neck. He then muttered something to her, which in my current position was inaudible. The woman, obviously petrified by the man, choked down sobs as he throttled her against the railing of the trailer. The fear in the woman’s eyes as she apologized once again was painfully evident, as her crying was stifled by the man telling her to “shut the fuck up!”, an inch from her face.
He then shoved her backwards and marched back down the steps towards the pier, stopping only to pick up the phone he carelessly knocked to the dirt before. As his figure became smaller in the distance, the woman sat crumpled up against the dilapidated railing, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks. Her situation, almost as tragic as her feelings of inescapable hopelessness, brought me to question the moral judgments of adults for the first time. Sheltered from the cold insensitivity of malicious beings such as this one, I understood all too quickly the difference between a functional relationship, and a broken one. There was no place for this type of individual in my life, and I loathed his existence. I had been raised thus far to never lay a hand in violence on another person, and having been exposed to this showcase of outward cruelty, I knew what standard I would set for myself when dealing with others. At this point, all the heroes of folklore and cinema who I revered became so much more; ideals that were immortalized in my mind from infancy took form, and I vowed to never end up an ungrateful cretin who was devoid of kindness. There could be no justification for planting a sense of fear in someone who subserviently catered to your will. My childhood may have been filled with pleasant memories, but that day I lost a piece of myself in the woods.
So badly did I want to teach this asshole a lesson. So badly did I want to console this woman for the brutality she endured. However, my newly found fury was snuffed out as the whistle of my mother could be heard down the street. The world I had not known may have confused and disheartened me, but I had a long way to go, and I was merely seven years old, seeking justice for things I had yet to fully grasp. I don’t know what happened to this dysfunctional family unit. I’ve never had the opportunity to go back, and see if things had changed. I do, however, hope she gained the courage to leave. Domestic abuse should never be tolerated, and if it’s wrong in the eyes of a seven year old, then it probably is wrong in the eyes of anyone who takes morality seriously.