Jack Kerouac’s writing was never my thing. I tried reading his most famous work once but we just didn’t make sense together. Too many adolescent dreams, too much love and passion wrapping a single purpose. I quit after 50 pages or less, don’t quite remeber. Maybe the fact that I was 22 when I tried reading it had something to do with my poor capacity of understanding. Maybe when you are 22 you no longer want to conquer the roads and the pavements, you no longer want to take over the world with your mind which is starving for knowledge and power. Or maybe you actually do, but you realize you’re no longer 15 when you would spend half the evening hidden under the blanket with a flashlight in your hand, devouring novels by Jules Verne and Daniel Defoe. A poorly imagined trick to convince your mum that you’re sleeping and not ruining your sight and your school grades.
Some books are just meant to be read at certain ages. You can’t just wake up in a glorious morning at the age of 16 and decide you will read Les Miserables. Or anything written by Victor Hugo for that matter. OK, maybe Notre Dame could work. But Robespierre and the French Revolution throw a veil of history for which a young mind might not be prepared just yet. And then later, when that young mind grows a bit realizes that knowledge which has been gathered over the years would make her grasp historical meanings so much better, it is already too late. Cosette and Jean Valjean have taken their misplaced space on the shelves of the years and now other adventures lie ahead, there is no more time to turn back the pages. Time itself is running out, years run by like the white stripes on the highway.
Choice mistakes like Les Miserables and Gone with the Wind made me miss by thousands of pages other novels and authors. National and international names lie now in a darkness which is impossible for me to lift anymore. Ayn Rand and Constantin Chirita are now on the side of the road, they are small detours which I never followed, their hidden eyes and veiled hands are mere shadows when I look behind. But my eyes slide from the detours to the main road. It’s a clean road, the sharp grey almost glittering in the morning sun. No shadows, no grey clouds to stamp on the clarity of the image. Uncle Tom is waving to me, for some reason his cabin is half hidden behind trees grown out of the cement. Some steps behind him Robinson Crusoe is teaching English and Christianity to Friday on an island surrounded by storming waters. They stop their lesson for a minute to look at me. Everything is silence, their smiles stick to my memory while the decades’ sun is shining over my steps, warming my left shoulder.
The road, like a snake, leads south. Its crystal clarity is even sharper because it’s so empty. My steps will colour it with stories, characters, boats and wars. I can imagine George Elliot, Virginia Woolf and John Glasworthy sharing theirs secrets with me. Long way to go, the hours slide silently, but the sun is not yet above my head. It’s moving lazily, allowing itself time to admire the view which I’ve already left behind me. My chest fills with laughter and I pull out the sunglasses from the back pocket of my jeans. I will need them on the banks of the Seine.
*Photo by Ana Toma