Flash Fiction Friday: Mid-life

For the record, those of you who know that at the time of this article getting posted I will be on a big ol’ roadtrip, no, I did not write this on the road, but a few days before departure.  I’ll admit there’s some truth to the below, but ultimately, it’s mostly in fun…and an homage to the family I do absolutely adore…and will be missing greatly at the time this thing hits the page.

What is it about the male mid-life crisis and cars?  Perhaps it’s that feeling of escaping the daily routine the thirty-something male finds appealing, and so clearly defined by that of the automobile?

Whatever it is, the image is clear.  Finding himself with a paunch he never thought he would have, a family, a house, bills, children, more bills, a desk job, and altogether a life far different from that of the early 20-something he still believes himself to be, somewhere deep within his subconscious, the mid-life man (a misnomer in the age of extended life spans), seems to find himself at a crossroads.  And where there are roads, there must be cars.

The idea is simple.  The midlife man has worked hard to get where he is, has sacrificed, has struggled, and ultimately, has made a ton of compromises for the purposes of building a life for himself and his family.  But no matter how much that life may be perfect, there comes a time where he finally has to come to terms with how far separated it is from the plans he had developed for himself a decade earlier.

So, the easy answer is to do something selfish.  Something altogether stupid.  Something….reckless.

For many, this would be to buy the vehicle of his dreams.  A motorcycle, a sports car, or perhaps one of those army-style jeeps.  Something to show to himself that he is still the master of his own destiny.

For Carlos, it was to travel.

Carlos was thirty-three when his midlife crisis finally came full tilt.  He had struggled with it for years, working on a plethora of different avenues in which to avoid his own crisis and perhaps rectify the separation of youthful dreams and the reality of age.  Ultimately, reality, as always, won out.

And so, feeling guilty for leaving his wife and children, he departed for a long weekend on the road, just by himself.  He loved those he left behind dearly, and every part of his crisis struggled against his feelings of unhappiness when he knew that these four people made him happier than he could have ever thought possible.  He feared they would think they were at fault, that he might not return.

Sometimes he even feared that he wouldn’t.

But he would.  He always would.  Not simply because of his feelings of responsibility towards them, but because of his ultimate love for the four people he had made his life with.  They were the reason he was able to sacrifice so much of himself, of his ideal version of himself.  Because he wanted their lives to be perfect.

But the time had come.  He needed to be free.  Just for a few days.  Just for some time to remember what it was like to be young and wild and selfish.

So, with tearful goodbyes, he set off onto the highways and toward his destination.  He did have a destination, although he knew it was nothing more than an excuse.  So did his wife.

For hours and hours he drove on in silence, nothing to keep him awake except the droning of talk radio and rubber against asphalt.  Many times along the way, he considered turning back, knowing that he simply did not have the energy he had in his youth to perform this feat of cross-country travel any longer.  Ultimately knowing that he didn’t truly know how to cope with the silence any longer.

As the sun came up the next morning, and he was not yet halfway to his destination, he struggled further with the plan, the plan to get away.

His feelings of guilt about his selfish act had become overriden.  Carlos suddenly became aware, notably aware, of something he had long forgotten.  Not that he loved his family, because that he was all too aware of.  But that he missed them.  That he needed them.  And that providing for them, no matter what it might cost the young version of himself, was what he lived for.  What he needed.

He drove on, fighting the urge to turn back and take them all in his arms, knowing he should see this all thought, but also knowing that something had happened to him over the course of that long night.  Something that must happen to all men as they travel across the divide of middle age.  He realized the younger version of himself was an idiot.

His dream life was the one he led.  And the one he would always return to.

 

Have fun out there!

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