> The alarm clock went off at 04:30 a.m., but Red was already awake. He had been awoken by a nightmare, by the vivid image of himself stranded inside Green’s flesh during the night before. He could watch through his eyes and sense his movements, but not read his mind or feel his feelings. As an helpless first-person spectator, Red lived flashes of last moments: watching a film, calling a friend, turning off the pc, lying down in bed, leaving the room, starting the car, shifting gears, stopping someplace, closing the eyes and… resting. An excruciating experience that harassed him for many months to come.
Red’s body got him up and carried him around to execute his morning routine; he only reclaimed control of himself at the hospital. Work was now a shelter from the outside world, a reality far apart where he could pretend nothing had ever happened. Only the two people closer to him knew about his hidden pain, the director of the ward and his co-apprentice.
Days went by like photocopies: awaken, eat, work, eat, sleep, eat, sleep, repeat. During those afternoons, Red should have done something in place of sleeping, but he didn’t have the force to do so or, perhaps, he even didn’t want to. Maybe he was just running away from the real world, every single day, as long as he could. The end of his internship sanctioned also the end of his escape: he had to face his life, like he had never done before. And so, he did.
At first, Red thought he only had to make a choice about his future: follow the path to become a clinical or neuro psychologist, which meant studying for a few more years, or find some job somewhere, which at least meant getting paid. But both of these alternatives, he felt like they didn’t belong to him. He soon realised that a future of his own wouldn’t have existed if he didn’t help himself first, in the present. He needed rare commodities to achieve this, opportunity and time, and his parents gifted him both.
Restart from scratch. Understand who he was, where he was, what was going on.
Rearranging things until he had felt them in the right spot, was the best way Red knew to free his mind from the weight of the unnecessary and give space to defining moments from his past. Ponder, reconcile, learn, give closure. His friend’s decision had been the utmost defining one. He spent days, weeks, months engrossed into this process of letting go.
From it, a foremost understanding.
The system had always known Red’s duty better than himself. Therefore, its expectations influenced his will in some circumstances, or even imposed themselves in other ones. His duty was to get the very things that every man wants: money, name, place, goods, wife, kids. Premature comfort was the definition of success, and success was the definition of happiness. But the system wasn’t designed to make him happy, it was to deceive him into believing that, if only he had done his duty, he would have been… one day. The system was designed to enslave him. So, throughout his life, he had always succeeded in pleasing and satisfying everyone but himself.
Red wanted to reverse all that cunning conditioning and realise his early vision, regardless of how romantic it might have sounded to someone else. And, at last, he wanted to give himself the permission to fail, even in some spectacular way. That was a new defining moment, because it was the first time he really felt alive after his birth, the year zero of his life reborn.
As his opening act, Red dredged up something he had left rotting in the drawers of his mind for too long: wandering and wondering alone in faraway lands, feeling the solitude of endless spaces and the stories of genuine people, losing himself on the longest journey to explore or even find himself… but bringing his friend with him, always. Being there no point in waiting any longer, he actually planned to solo bikepack for two weeks in Iceland, following the ring road of a thousand kilometres that runs along the western fjords.
Succeeding would have meant closing the circle. Failing would have meant giving himself the beautiful chance to begin it again. Red wasn’t so sure about which option should have been the one to strive for, but he did know something else for a fact: the journey was not enough.
“The need hidden in plain sight I am not looking at.”
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