“The moment I fall asleep, this summer will be over forever.”
I wrote those words at 2 am last night, and they were the only words I wrote all summer. Yes, it’s true. The Summer of the Great Escape, the Summer of the Simple Plan, ended up instead, like all the others before it, being an escape of a different, far less productive, much more tropical sort.
Maybe the problem is that I can’t handle freedom. I certainly found myself muttering that phrase a few times toward the end of this past vacation. Or maybe the problem actually lies in the fact that the “freedom” that summer offers is only an illusion, and not just because summer is ephemeral or that because when you lose your wall you have nothing left to climb. The illusion is deeper than that.
It’s like this. When school ends, the gates of captivity come crashing down. This June I could actually feel the Earth tremble as they fell. And when the dust cleared, I could have seen all the way to the horizon if I didn’t have to shield my eyes from the sun.
I was like a felon stepping out the entrance of a prison on the last day of his sentence. I was alone. Stunned by the silence. Mesmerized by the clouds. I was free.
So I ran. And ran. And after 70 days of freedom, covered in mud and scratched to hell, the walls re-appeared. And today, on the first day of school, I ran right smack into them. And yet I’ve already written more in the last two hours than I did in the last 70 days. I’ve washed off the mud, and the scratches are healing over. Perhaps that’s the greatest trick the Summer ever pulled – convincing me that my job is the prison wall, and that its absence is the key to my happiness. When in reality, when the outer walls fall, an inner wall still remains, and that’s the real prison.
“So if it’s not the job that’s holding me back then what am I really digging at with this spoon?” I ask myself. I drop the spoon. It clangs against the cold floor. I bump the wall with my shoulder and then quickly press my ear against it. I think I hear the loud chatter of Dominican teenagers coming from inside. I stand back and pound the wall with the soft side of my fist and listen again. I’m sure I hear a pregnant girl screaming curses out of a bleeding mouth. Or is that just the muffled cry of my future self?