Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: This Side of Paradise (not about the book) (07/14/11)
TITLE: Chasing Footprints
By Joseph Moslander
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I haven’t always lived on the east side of Paradise. There was a time when all I knew about this place were the few details my father would allow into his stories. They all told stories. The details varied depending on who was speaking. But the punch line was always the same: “Just (dramatic pause), don’t go over there. Trust me.” Some would even admit to having crossed the bridge a time or two themselves, but nobody wanted to really talk about the place. Maybe that’s how I ended up here—pure curiosity. Whatever it was, however it happened, it worked.
The thing is, everyone who lives here is free to go. There’s nothing holding anyone here. The work sucks, the company sucks and the scenery—what scenery? There’s nothing good here, but we know that. It’s something I can’t describe. The bottom line is that we want to be here. It feels like home.
The only thing that doesn’t feel like home is the loneliness. I mean, we convince ourselves that we’re not alone, but we are. We talk to people and sometimes we even laugh. But it’s not real. We all know it; we just don’t talk about it.
It’s our choice to be alone though. I literally make it every Saturday morning. I’ll make the choice again in a couple minutes.
The first time it happened, the first time I heard the knocks, I answered. It was my father, standing out in the snow with a smile on his face. A smile that said, “I don’t care, I’m not judging.” It was a real smile. I didn’t invite him in and he didn’t ask to be. He simply said he would love to see me come home. It actually worked and I walked across the bridge with him that morning. I didn’t stay long, however. By nightfall I was back on my side of the river.
Two more times I answered the door—not having been used to the pattern yet. Both times the same thing—but I never went back with him after that first time.
It’s been two years now since I opened that door and saw my father’s face. Not one week has gone by where there wasn’t a knock. Like clockwork, my father.
Knock, knock, knock—loud enough to hear, but not overwhelming.
He’ll wait, aimlessly, and after about thirty seconds he’ll try again.
I sip my coffee.
“Any second now,” I tell myself. But the knocks never come. I’m amazed. And quite honestly, hurt. How could he disappoint me like this?
I wait several minutes before walking over to the door. I stand there for a moment, staring at the handle, waiting for a knock. Nothing. I finally reach down and grab hold of the handle and, holding my breath, open the door. Again, nothing. Just footprints in the snow.
I shut the door and noticed something on the ground beneath my foot—a letter.
I open it. It’s a small piece of paper with a short hand-written note on it.
I love you. I loved you before all of this. I loved you through all of this. Nothing you can do will change that. Please come home.
I freeze. I assume my heart keeps beating and my lungs breathing—but I’m not certain.
How could this be? There’s no way he could love me after everything I’ve done. Everything I’ve done to him.
Before I feel it I see the teardrop land on the note. I haven’t cried in two years. In no time I lose it and begin to sob uncontrollably.
I wipe my face, grab my coat and am halfway out the door before I remember shoes.
I’m not sure how its possible for him to still love me. I’m not sure what kind of love that is. What I am sure of, more sure than I have ever been before, is that I’m going to find out.
So I run, chasing my father’s footprints.
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