Compass By D.I. Jolly
Jeremy had been born as part of a plan, he had grown up with a plan and had spent every day of his life following that plan. So, contrary to that plan, on the most important day of his life, he packed up his bags and set out on the road out of town. At age eighteen he could drive but didn’t own a car, so he started walking. By the time the sun had set he received two rides from two different people but both times he’d received the same question.
“Where you headed?”
Both times his eyes grew distinct, he raised his hand to point forward and replied.
After a slightly strange look, followed by being assessed as ‘not dangerous’ the drivers would say something along the lines of,
“I can take you as far as…” or “There’s a town a way up, I’ll have to drop you there.”
Having no intention of denying any ride anywhere it didn’t really matter what they said or where they were going, he knew he was always going to agree and climb in. After six straight days and countless rides with similar encounters, something different finally happened. He had been walking for longer than usual for the number of cars that had passed him, and was grateful when one finally did stop. Walking up to the window he waited for the same conversation to begin, only this time the man inside looked at him for a few moments longer than usual and in a way he’d not seen before. For a moment he tried to assess whether or not he should run, but didn’t see danger in the man’s face so instead, waited.
“Have you ever seen the ocean?”
“The ocean, you know, the sea, the big blue part on all the maps people make.”
“Oh, no, I haven’t.”
The man nodded and looked thoughtful.
“Well then, you better get in it’s a long way from here.”
They rode together for three days, mostly in silence. Occasionally stopping to refuel and eat, often times also in silence, but never once in that time was it an uncomfortable silence. Until eventually, they come over a hill and the ocean lay in front of them.
“There it is, isn’t she beautiful?”
Jeremy stared out at the largest most beautiful expanse of nothing, and everything, he’d ever seen and found no words but felt his throat tighten and tears well up in his eyes. The man saw his reaction and drove on a little, until he found a good place to park and look, and waited for Jeremy’s emotions to even out. After what felt like no time to the man and an infinity to Jeremy he found his words again.
“On Tuesday last week, both my parents died in a car accident. They had been such organised people, always with a plan, a goal, a direction. They had planned their careers, their lives, they had planned when they were going to have me, and everything I was going to do long before I was born. Then suddenly it all ended, totally against their plan, it just ended and I found myself with no direction, no guiding force and since I’d spent my whole life following direction I decided to follow no direction and it’s taken me here, to the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
He turned to face the man who sat patiently waiting and looking at him.
The man smiled and nodded.
“Would you like me to take you back to your home?”
Jeremy looked at him confused.
“Why, why would you do that? Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“No, not particularly.”
“But, who are you then?”
“Just a man, also lost in the world, also embracing or following the, as you put it, no direction. I have nowhere to be, and nothing to do but, I don’t like being nowhere and doing nothing so I’m happy to be here doing this. Helping you, if it would help you to go home that is.”
Jeremy turned to look out at the ocean again and stared at the sunlight dancing on the water and the golden pathway that was being created as the sun sank towards the horizon.
“Can we go that way, out there instead, follow the sun and see where it takes us?”
The man looked out for a moment and then back.
“As long as we’re going towards something rather than away from something.”
Jeremy looked at him questioningly.
“Well, running away is going away from something. I don’t like that, I like to head towards the sun, not away from the night. There might not be direction in my movements but it’s certainly not away from anything.”
Jeremy thought it over for a few minutes then nodded to himself.
“Can we then, maybe, chase the sunset after you take me home? After everything is settled?”
A broad smile spread across the man’s face and a warm happy laugh slipped out of him.
“After that, I, you, or we can go in whatever direction we like.”