The Human Race

The Human Race

He pauses at a crossroads, dust filtering his vision. A grocery bag with half a PB + J rhythmically beats against his leg with the wind. The horizon is a haze of what-ifs, and his hands twist tight in indecision. Maybe if he had ever heard a poem by a certain Robert Frost he would be able to make a more informed decision. But his knowledge of literature is restricted to the backs of cereal boxes and magazine headlines. This is the moment, where he unwittingly makes a life altering decision without any research. His cognition is limited to simple analysis, the world has yet to teach him any form of peril or misery. Mud cakes his holy jeans, shredded by the wear and tear of carelessness. Yet here he is, choosing independence for the first time. On the edge of his mind, an inkling of uncertainty haunts him. But he has made it this far, and the freedom has instilled a sense of puerile wonderment. He tugs his backpack straps until it hugs him tightly; the road is calling.


 

In the background, she comes slamming out of the house. Her hedge of black hair is partially tamed by curlers, the other half a mass of brambles. Slippered feet pound the front porch steps, and her terracotta housecoat becomes a cape in the wind. Her eyes flash angry red, but her sporadic movements are what give away her fear. She ducks under an apple tree, impatiently calling out warning after warning. Her hands choke the tree and she shakes it, with a last gust of frustration. Profanity pours out of her mouth like steam. She searches the yard with hungry heels, rushing through a flower bed to another possible hiding place. She inspects the suburban landscape, fist rapping on neighbor’s doors. A stream of housewife jargon is traded before the slow nod that sends her away. Now that her strong front has finally eroded, panic has spread to her features. She flies back to her garage and comes barreling out of it in an old jalopy. She leaves her home in a gust of exhaust; the road is calling.


 

I sit still, mouth twisted into a wry, wrinkled smile. The rocking chair presses into my old bones, and I know the imprint will not vanish from my skin as it used to. Instead of leaving a mark, the world now leaves its mark on me. I shudder, watching their lives unfold. Inconsequential to their problems, I a small heap spying through the rungs. The little boy is sitting against the stop sign, a crust of sandwich abandoned by his side. Tears of ruined innocence stain his cheeks, his confidence gone. He scans the neighborhood for a sight of her. His back is turned to the crossroads, his eyes look homeward. Not quite yet. Maybe one day. The predicament is once more resolving itself. The mother turns the corner and catches sight of her sad little vagabond. Her vehicle loses meaning, she parks and ejects her maternal form from the driver’s seat. The little boy and his mother reunite in a frantic hug. He starts youthful promises he can’t finish. I’ll never leave. She spits half-hearted threats, but her grip never loosens on his tiny hand. Don’t ever leave. The road no longer calls me; I watch with eyes like God.

When the road ends, we all return home.


 

About the Author

Sarah Eberly is both an English and Geography major at UNC Charlotte. One day she aspires to be an urban planner and to inspire people to reconnect and interact with their communities. She was most accurately described by one of her friends as a person with “long legs and places to be.” She is thankful for the experience Sanskrit has given her, and cannot wait to see where her journey will take her next year.

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