My body stirs, a cracked portrait of futility.
“I don’t want to hear no can’ts, get up you sonofabitch!”
I push myself up, my hands pressing into the dirt, gravel forcing its way between my scraped fingers.
“I’m exhausted. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m done.”
“Whatever brought you here is behind you. You have no choice, you must go on. What counts in this life is what you can do after you’re exhausted. Sorry to say it my friend but life begins right here for you.”
I lift my head, straining against the sinews of my neck that are determined to keep my face in the mud. Rain trickles down my forehead and into my eyes, a bittersweet sting.
As slowly I unfurl my hunched shell of a body, my vision clears. I take to my feet and look around me. Through the mist and drizzle I see – nothing. Nobody.
That voice – “Not much of a view is there?”
“Where are you? Who are you?”
“Do you hear me?”
“Then it doesn’t matter where or who I am. Listen to me. Trust me. Now move.”
My body rebels against my brain’s subdued appeal and my foot takes a faltering step. The mud squelches underfoot and I stumble, suddenly propelled forward by a sharp shove between my shoulder-blades.
I expect to see the ground rushing towards me but all that hits my face is the rain. I turn; nothing. I make sure of my balance, take a step and once again feel a hand on my back, firm, but this time reassuring.
He whispers to me, “It starts here. Let’s go.”
We walk, step by faltering step. The rain our ever-present companion, the mist a shroud across the landscape. A cold wind whips across my cheeks, biting into sallow flesh. Any life that exists out here remains hidden, beyond our knowing.
All that is here is the path.
Yard by yard it reveals itself. My aching feet follow.
There is no beast to carry my burden, the weight of my ever-present past slowing me down, throwing doubt over any certainty that my step should find.
A figure emerges through the mist, crouching by the path, shivering in the unforgiving cold. The man raises his weathered face and looks at me, a young man aged by circumstance.
“Hey, where you going?”
His voice is strong, demanding, defying his tired form.
An involuntary snort escapes me.
“Wherever my next step lands.”
He looks beyond me and gestures with a flick of the head.
“Still thinking about what you’re leaving behind huh? I hear ya brother. Listen, I been getting lonely out here, how about we walk together, see where this road here takes us?”
Starved of connection the prospect of companionship thaws any objections, melting them before they take form.
“Sure, why not.”
Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan