Forever, On The Road 1.0: Head in the Clouds


There’s a thorn in my side,

A pain in my hide.

I can’t get it out,

Or find it

I tried.


            College was a big step for someone who was just seventeen in 1971.  Glen was not ready, and he knew it, but family had a way of getting under the young man’s skin in those days and the manipulative guilt he grew up with was unbearable.  Uncle Dick went to so much trouble to get him in.  Actually, Uncle Dick sat on the college board and probably just told someone to do it.

            Glen sat on the plane and fantasized about losing his luggage.  He thought without all of his things he might have to go home and restock.  More likely his parents would make him stay, send him not nearly enough money to replace his things and he would be stuck wearing the same flannel shirt until Christmas.  He decided to gaze out the window.

            The clouds were white and free floating in a blue sky under a warm sun.  They were utterly unaware of the big metal box in their midst, and utterly unconcerned.  Glen wanted to float free.  He felt trapped in that big metal box, forced in at gunpoint, or tongue-point and with his own family holding the lid closed.  The prospect of Freshman English galled him.  He imagined it was word review for the terminally inarticulate.  Freshman Biology, Freshman Algebra, and whatever else he was going to have to suffer through sounded like a repeat of the tenth grade.  They all told him he would have to suffer through those courses at first before he could take the courses he really wanted.  It sounded stupid, and Glen wondered if he could skip straight to graduate school – not that he knew what he wanted in graduate school.

            Glen caught sight of his own reflection in the window.  He tried, but no matter the angle or how much he squinted, he could not picture himself riding away on a cloud, so he looked more closely at his reflection.  He tried to look himself in the eyes, an exercise he always found uncomfortable.  He looked away and finally closed his eyes altogether.

            Glen did not know who he was.  He needed to find himself, as they said.  He felt he was headed into some kind of purgatory because he had no clear alternative.  He did not know what he wanted to do with his life.  He wrote a song about it.  He wrote a bunch of songs in High School.  He wrote two plays.  He wrote some stories. He spent plenty of time acting on stage, played drums and then keyboards in a rock and roll band, and he was not bad with a canvas, though he never went much further than watercolors and pen and ink.

            He was an artist in his soul, not strictly a geek, but where he could go with it, what he could do with it and how he could make a living at it was beyond him.  He did not know the right people.  Truth be told, he barely knew the wrong people.  He was not exactly mister popular in school.  And anyway, he had it driven into his mind, deep as crucifixion nails, that writing, music, theater and art was fine if he wanted a hobby, but he needed to do something real with his life, not just dream it away.  The pain and unhappiness that caused him over the decades to come was incalculable – but they nailed him to that cross.

            The plane touched down when Glen was staring at the seat in front of him, wondering what he did that was so terrible his own family gleefully sent him into exile, so far from home.  He knew perfectly well he would sleep through classes, not do well on any work he saw as pointless – which is what he expected for most of his freshman year – or he would not do the work at all and more than likely flunk out.  The truth was, he was not ready for college and he was convinced he was being set-up to fail.  Though it is not a word common among teenagers, Glen knew he did not have the maturity to succeed in college.  He tried to explain all this to his family, but they would not listen. Now this would be one more failure and it would feed into the poor image of the useless loser his family already had of him.

            Glen sighed.  The airline did not lose his luggage.


Next Time  1.1 Cold Near Death


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