My name is Maxwell but my friends call me Max. Or at least that’s what I used to be called when I had friends. The life that I have known is the life I always strived to run away from. I never wished to be at my current state. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my consciousness, I always wished for success, clarity and good tidings. I had envisioned myself having a beautiful family. The traditionalist in me couldn’t help but be carried away by such happy thoughts. My conservative leanings always persuaded me into structuring my universe along those lines.
In my very younger days, I would lay on my back in our front lawn while facing a blue sky and let my mind wander. I thought of the beautiful house that I would build for myself either on a prime plot next to a beach or in scarcely populated area next to a mountain. In my mind, it was always a medium-sized. Never in my dreamy world did I ever think of mansion. I had my reservations about luxury and extravagance before I could even comprehend the optimal functionalities of capitalism.
Besides owning a beautiful house, I wanted a happy ending for myself. What young boy doesn’t dream of a happy ending for himself? What young boy doesn’t look at his toiling father and wish to emulate him? What young boy doesn’t think of finding himself a sweet and kind lady?
So, I had this desire of someday finding myself a pretty lady with big eyes and beautiful dimples. I came from a family where dimples were thought of as the eighth wonder of the world. In my beautiful imaginary world, I would make the perfect husband to this lady. We would go on adventures and road trips. We would climb mountains literally and figuratively. We would attend concerts and dance our nights away to the lyrical energies that the musical world present. Because poetry has always been embedded in the deep of my body, I pictured myself writing poems for her and reading them out loud while toning each stanza differently like the true Shakespearian lover that I am.
Sometimes I wondered whether we would disagree to the extent of her telling me to “have a nice life”. I had such expectations too. I thought it all out. I was like Michael Scofield. Although in my case, I plotted a perfect future instead of a prison break. Of course the thoughts of kids crossed my mind too. Two or three would just do. Their warm embrace would be enough to carry me through the rough days. Candy would have been preferred name for a girl. I hadn’t figured what I would call a boy. Probably Jeroboam. Or Nehemiah. Maybe even Hamlet. I had endless possibilities and endless imaginations.
From our small grass-thatched house in the middle of a little known wetland, I thought I got everything covered. I didn’t have any worries despite the fact that I walked to school barefoot and had torn socks. We had a beautiful lawn where I’d perch whenever I had troubling thoughts or anytime that I felt like I need a break from Primary Science, which seemed so difficult at the time.
Twenty-nine years later, I look back and ask myself who that young boy was. I do not recognize myself anymore. I feel as empty as space. I take a panoramic view of my life sometimes and grin when I should actually be crying. Life played chess with me and won, by a lot. Surely, somebody should have STOPPED THE COUNT before things got out of hand. I feel too helpless for someone who is a year away from hitting three decades of existence.
Every dream I ever had is all gone in smoke. I wonder whether I should blame myself or blame the circumstances around my life. I have a cocktail of fear and guilt. I once read somewhere that fear and guilt are the dark angels that haunt rich men. But here I am, highly impecunious and looking for a reason not to jump from this fifty story building. My fears are as chilly as the Canadian winter while the guilt that pierces my chest has the force of Katana Sword. I am at the edge and I realize that fate has every power over us. Just like Mary once told me.
A man does not just reach this point out of sheer coincidence. My journey has been filled with sharp thorns, bitter pills and terrible portions. I lost my beloved parents to a terrible accident when I was seventeen. I have lived a life of pain but the departure of those two is still quite raw for me. The pain makes bee-stings look amateurish. It’s an open wound that has defied time. Not even the greatest healer of the universe can bring it cure.
My brother, who was a year older, took the mantle of parenting me after the untimely demise of my old folks. I was only starting to cope with things when he breathed his last a year later. I watched him waste away to pneumonia in a small hospital bed. I could see the resignation in his eyes. Perhaps that is what broke me more in the whole spectrum; the fact that he had no fight left in him. He had spent almost a year waking up early and coming back late just to ensure that I could live comfortably. I remember persuading him to quit his two jobs when his health was getting worse to no avail. He wouldn’t listen. He had made a promise to take care of me and nothing was going to ever stand in his way.
He passed on in a very thin frame and I couldn’t help but think that it was all my fault. I wondered how I could live without him. How would I be alone in such a cruel world? All my life, I had dreamt of happy endings but the more I stayed optimistic the deeper I drowned. I encountered disasters that could bring ruin to any teenager. My life could have made a perfect Shakespearian tragedy. The cards that life was dealing me easily put me in the same category as Hamlet the Prince of Denmark or Othello or Julius Caesar. My last recollection of that Sunday afternoon is of a nurse dressed in white telling me that it was time for his body to be taken to the morgue. Somewhere in the background, a sad romance violin tune was playing softly. Fate is a joke.
I spent much of my time after the funeral reading Anthony and Cleopatra for no good reason. I slept on the days when I could. It was not quality sleep though. It rarely exceeded two hours. I had these lucid dreams where my family was back together again until some dark smoke came and swept them away. I longed for someone to share the darkness in my heart with but there was none in sight. I had no relatives around and my neighbors perfectly minded their businesses.
For some reason that I can’t clearly explain, I ended up in a maximum prison. Things just moved so fast and quick. One moment I was in my bed reading an old book, the next I was being handcuffed by police officers. I thought it was all a bad dream until the reality of being in a cell hit me. Within a record time, I was in court answering to charges that I had no idea of. I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs but I had no energy. They brought out some consignment of cash and asked me where I had got them from. The narrative was that they were found in our house. And that it was stolen cash. So if I failed to prove my innocence, I was going to be put away for a very long time. Just how bad can things get for a young man? They put me away before I could process the whole situation.
Spending time in a maximum prison sucked life out of me. I operated like a zombie. I had no purpose. What purpose can someone muster in confinement anyway? I languished in this horrendous situation until I met a friend who I used to call X. He thought that there was a way to escape and found a listening ear in me. His plan was risky but it intrigued me. So I played a long.
On the D-day, we escaped by climbing the high prison perimeter wall at 6 O’clock in the evening. It did not come without hurdles though. Luckily for us, by the time the alarms went off we were miles away from the hell-hole. I didn’t know what X planned to do with his life. I didn’t even ask. I just hugged him tight and wished him safe travels wherever he went as we parted ways.
I had only had one thing on my mind. HOME. I went to see the graveyards of my brother and parents for what I perceived to be the very last time.
And now I am on this story building looking back at my short life. I am at the very edge. I am a minute away from being deceased. I don’t have much options. I can’t afford to go back to prison. That’s a slow painful death. Maybe the heavens will send a sign of hope before this dark day becomes darker.