June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 29
As the doctor retraced the spots, the man remembered the trails and how simple life could be there. He’d blown through a lot of savings, planned his hike endlessly, then hiked an anemic 500 miles before calling it quits. The actual number was closer to 380. The last 120 miles were spent in the backseat of a Lexus, hitchhiking away from the trail. He had met another “thru-hiker,” and they had both been toying with throwing in the towel. This ended his hike in 2000.
He tries to bring his attention back to this doctor with his soft-soft hands. He’s probably never hiked a day in his life, the man thinks with something approaching condescension.
That couldn’t be right, could it? His parents had smoked, but other than a joint here and there and a brief period where he had carried a pipe, he had rarely smoked.
The smooth index finger traces one slender gray area as the man’s monotone voice continues to drone on.
That looks like a trail.
Wind over wind, gentle accumulations. His heart had soared when he cast hexagram 57. This was surely what his life had lacked all along. This steady drumbeat of toiling away for small gains.
His paradigm shift showed him what others must have seen all along. The patience to stay at a repetitive task, lukewarm relationship, or situation because your eyes were on the result. Unfortunately, his new understanding, as most do, faded quickly from his mind.
It was too late for small gains. When spots appear on a picture, it is much too late for most things.
“I got to go, doc,” he said, buttoning his shirt. “I have to go. I’m sorry.”
“But where are you going?”
“Hiking,” the man said, realizing the genuine wisdom behind such a course of action. It was his. His! He had always danced to a different drum. His drum, his life, his choices. This made sense. Screw gentle gains. He would return and pick up where he left off over two decades earlier. He lacked the resources, patience, and time to try other people’s solutions. The spots would do what the spots were going to do. Either they would clear, and he’d be free to continue finishing the thousands of unfinished projects he’d started or.., or they wouldn’t, and he’d end his life on his terms, hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
It’s 1999 again. The cold wind on my face mirrored the confidence I had as I walked away from a lucrative position as an engineer to pursue a dream.