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This Is It
By Caroline Giammanco
The rain beating down on Carter McDowell’s windshield made a perfect metaphor for the pounding his emotions had taken over the past year. One loss after another pummeled his heart and mind to the point that he was ready to give up. The isolation of his car, without the need to speak to another human being, was the only thing holding him together tonight.
I can’t take anymore.
Carter lowered his speed as he squinted through the blinding rain. Darkness fell, making conditions even more hazardous. He’d been on the road since daybreak, and his body was as fatigued as his spirit. His mind drifted to the events of the past year as he willed himself to stay awake.
Some years are better than others, and this one held little that was positive. A job loss, a breakup with his longtime girlfriend, and the loss of his mother threw Carter into an emotional abyss. Even minor setbacks now seemed like major ones. A missed bus, a spilled cup of coffee, or a cross word from the checkout girl at Hudson’s Grocery, were exaggerated in Carter’s depression. Each slight or stumble equated another failure in his mind, and he’d lost hope.
He hadn’t always been this way.
I can remember being happy, I just don’t remember how that felt.
To ask his friends, he was the life of the party. Jokes flew easily from his lips, and that smile of his charmed nearly everyone who met him. Carter thought about the reaction his friends would have if they knew the truth.
I’m dying inside, and they don’t even know it. Would they care? What if these people knew who I really am—a fraud? For a year, I’ve been living a lie.
Carter had only a vague sense of where he was going. He remembered his father taking him to a cabin in the woods when he was a boy. The mountain lake contained rainbow trout, and his father taught him to fly-fish there. He breathed in … and could almost smell the pine and earthy goodness that the mountains held.
For a week he’d checked and double-checked his supplies. A tent, a few dozen packages of freeze-dried meals, a fishing pole, a gun, ammunition, all-weather clothing. I think I have it all. Carter glanced at the mounds of gear heaped in the backseat of his vehicle.
Fatigue wore away at him like a toothache, and finally he needed sleep. A sign said the rest area was five miles away. The clock on his dash said 1:23 in the morning.
Today, well yesterday, went by in a haze. How far have I driven?
He looked at his odometer, but his mind was too foggy to do the math. Dreading the company of other people, he forewent the exit to the rest area. Instead, he found a nondescript dirt road and turned right.
No one will bother me here.
During the night, the torrential rain ended, washing away the summer dust that covered everything the day before. Carter awoke to the sound of singing birds and saw the world was fresh and new. The pines and earth set loose their aromas, and for the first time in months, Carter felt young and alive.
Pulling out his pack and supplies, he ventured a quarter mile down the dirt road where a wooden sign caught his eye: Hiking Trail.
This is it.
Unsure whether his time in the woods would last days or forever, Carter stared down the canopied path ahead of him and breathed in the soothing redolent air.
Check out Caroline’s website! http://www.booniehatbandit.com/