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The Road Taken

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The Road Taken

It is a searing July afternoon. I am fourteen-years-old, staring out of the cracked and dusty classroom window. Outside the air is thick with pollen, dried earth and freshly cut grass. Honey-ember sunlight and tree shadows dance playfully upon the ground. I hear a voice call my name. Mr. Clark tells me to stop daydreaming and rejoin the class. We read Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Mr. Clark tells us writing is about making choices, taking the right road. He says it is the choices we make that define us.

I am twenty-two-years-old. One morning I open a letter to find I have had two stories published. My mother kisses me. My father shakes my hand and tells me I can do great things. That night I meet Chloe in a club. She is shy and toys nervously with her fringe. She has soft amber hair, freckles and milky porcelain skin. We talk and drink a lot and dance self-consciously for several hours. Later, spurred by spirits and sheltered by darkness, we clumsily fumble each other’s bodies, two heartbeats in a tangle of sweaty, yearning acquiescence.

I am twenty-four-years-old. Chloe and I are engaged and move in together. I get a job in sales so we can pay rent, bills and debts. At night I write stories and work on ideas for a novel while Chloe cooks, tidies, washes and cleans. Two years later we marry. My mother kisses me. My father shakes my hand and tells me I can still do great things. The days become blurred, long and stressful. At night I look at different writing courses and career options, but always end up lazily filing them away for later. I go back to my neglected, incomplete manuscript and try to write with burning, tired eyes.

I am twenty-eight. Chloe has her first ultrasound. I get a promotion. During the evenings we eat dinner, watch television and fall asleep on each other. Sometimes I try to write, but end up sitting exhaustedly staring at a blank screen.

I am thirty. Chloe tells me she is pregnant again. We argue. I tell her I’m not sure I want it. I say I want to change my job, to study again, to write. She says she is keeping the baby. She says I can’t daydream about that stuff anymore. I have responsibilities, obligations. She says I need to grow up.

It’s December. Christmas. I’m thirty-five. We’re celebrating. Another promotion. My mother smiles at me. My father quietly shakes my hand. I am greyer, heavier, with a crinkling face and growing paunch. I smile mechanically as Chloe, Sara and little Jack excitedly open their presents. My family. Numb, I think about all the unfinished writing and all the unattended courses. I think about all the choices I didn’t make and all the riskier roads I didn’t take. I think about the opportunities turned down and time wasted. I think about everything. And I realise that now it is too late.


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