Glen woke up one Christmas night and thought his life on earth was a dream. He was quite young – in third or fourth grade or roughly eight or nine years old when he found himself resting comfortably on the ground beneath a very strange sign. He stood and brushed off the seat of his pants and saw that he was at a crossroads. He could not remember how he got there or what he was doing there, but this was his reality.
Life on earth, back in the village, was a dream where Brother Tom got dibs on the Christmas presents that Glen was supposed to share, and Glen got presents he was supposed to put together. Father put together Mister Machine. Glen never learned how to put anything together. So when Glen stood in the morning light and brushed himself off he was curious as to why none of the family was around. Not that it bothered or surprised him to be alone.
The crossroads was six points where five roads or paths in the wilderness lead off from the sign at roughly sixty degree angles. Starting at zero, he followed sixty, one-twenty, one-eighty and two-forty degrees, and immediately realized the three hundred degree sign was missing. But then, there was no road at three hundred degrees. It just looked like the woods and the wild.
So Glen started at the zero point and read the signs. The first was Prophetic Peak. No miles were given, but he imagined it was some distance. Still, to climb into the heights and be able to see a long way fit his idea of prophetic.
The sixty degree sign was Principle Point. Glen had no idea what sort of principles that might represent. He supposed they might be like school principals. Some might be good, but many more were probably foolish.
The one-twenty degree sign said Political Plain, and Glen believed it. At eight or nine years old, politicians all looked the same to him. And they all seemed like flat-earth thinkers as well, not unlike the village idiot, but what did he know?
The one-eighty degree sign, opposite Prophetic Peak was Personality Place. And it occurred to him that the politicians were somewhere between having principles and being personalities without substance. They did want to get elected – smile and kiss babies, but they were not entirely without an agenda, even if they were not honest about it during the campaign. Sigh. Then it also occurred to him that prophetic people were not often invited to parties, if you know what I mean, being by nature the opposite of those with so-called personality.
He moved on to two-forty. That pointed the way to the Performance Plateau. Glen imagined there might be sports people, and celebrities. Some that leaned too much in the direction of Personality Place might be the type that you wonder why they are famous. But to be honest, Glen’s first thought was of artists. He imagined the great painters, musicians, writers and poets and playwrights with actors and such all climbing up to the plateau. He was tempted to look down that way and wondered if it might lead him back to the comfort of the cliffs of creativity and the endless sea.
Then there was the place with no road and no sign. Glen wondered briefly if there was supposed to be something between performance and the prophetic. He couldn’t imagine what that might be. In the end, though, Glen decided that none of the other directions necessarily fit. It was the three-hundred degrees direction – the wild and wilderness that attracted him most – the chance to get out from under the constant negatives and blaze his own trail.
Even as he set himself to journey off into the wild at three hundred degrees from the zero point – toward the place where there was no sign and where there was no road, he suddenly became aware of others moving along the roads. A man came to the crossroads from the Performance Plateau. He had his arm around his son and whispered instructions most of the time. They went off toward Personality Place and Glen paused to wonder what was going on.
A woman chose that moment to come out from the road called Principle Point. She had a young girl by the hand who tugged a little against the tide. The girl looked up toward Prophetic Peak and appeared to want to go there, but her mother shook a finger and said a firm, “No.” They skipped over the road to the Political Plain and also headed toward Personality Place.
And Glen guessed.
The children were being educated, gaining those skills and those all important experiences that would stand them well throughout life. Glen looked at his empty hands. He had no arm over his shoulder, of course, but he imagined he could do the same on his own, or he could try.
Glen thought to experiment. There was something about Performance Plateau that attracted him. Perhaps it was the slim chance of seeing the artist’s alcove of his youth and stand again between the pillars of imagination and inspiration with his back to whatever that other one was. So he wandered down that long and winding road for a time, and said hello to people along the way though he hardly got so much as a head-nod in return. Glen thought, this was easy. He reached a spot where he could see the village up ahead nestled up to the base of some sort of cliffs, but then he came to a road block. There appeared to be a section under construction. There was a big pit in the road. Glen did not know if he could or at eight-years-old, if he was allowed to go around.
He had to think for a minute, and while he did he had quite a shock. Glen saw a man and his daughter come up to the warning cones and walk right through them as if they were not there. The man was speaking volumes to his little girl, and they walked right across the pit as if there was no pit, like they were walking on the air. Glen watched them reach the other side and continue on the road without having noticed a thing; and he thought this was wonderful.
He backed up. It took a minute to muster the courage. After all, he did notice the pit, but he set himself to pretend it was not there and walked straight ahead. Needless to say, the cones proved a barrier, and after he pushed through them he slid on the mud down into the pit and landed flat on his rump. That was when he saw a sign. It was attached to the back of a cone where no one could see it from the road, and Glen wondered if the cone got accidentally turned around. It said, “Keep out. You are not welcome or wanted here.” What could Glen do?
The pit was much too steep and tall on the other side, and it looked as muddy as where Glen sat so there was no way he could climb out on the village side. All he could do was scramble back up to the road, to the place where he had fallen in. He thought to look to either side of the road, but there was a trench there, too. It was a trench that got bigger and more impossible to cross as Glen came close. And the conclusion was, there was no going on for Glen in that direction. The truth is Glen never felt completely comfortable in any sort of performance. He always felt he got a long way down the road, but never quite arrived.
Glen went back to the place of the signs and wiped off as much mud as he could. He looked down the road toward Principle Point, but he saw the cones put up there, too. It hardly felt fair. He thought if he had a grown-up to hold his hand it might be different. He might be welcomed in those places, but he did not.
Glen wanted guidance, encouragement and support. He never got that from his parents, his family, or for various reasons from anyone else either. He needed to hear that he was good at something, that he might have a future, that someone believed in him. But all he heard was he was useless and hopeless and always wrong. He had no one to hold his hand. He was perpetually alone, the rejected disappointment, the one to be ignored and forgotten.
Glen thought of his father, but Father worked, even when he was home. He was a writer and magazine editor, and what time he had he used to encourage Brother Tom in his writing.
Glen thought of his mother, but she had Sister Carol to take care of. They made cookies and went shopping and stuff, and Glen suspected his mother did not even know that the crossroads existed. Sister Carol, of course, was too young to be of help.
Glen thought of his brother. He was only fifteen and a half months older, but he lived in an entirely different world. Instead of Glen and his brother being close all of their lives, Mother felt it was best, perhaps especially because they were so close in age, to keep their lives utterly separated. Brother Tom had friends and was encouraged with his friends. Glen was told to go get his own friends, or sometimes simply to just go away. Glen was not encouraged. He was treated like the stupid one with his little stupid friends by Brother Tom, though to be sure Brother Tom simply echoed the attitude their parents taught him.
Glen had no one. He never did have anyone, really. And as for instruction, encouragement, support – he was on his own. He felt like he lived in the Wilderness. He decided might as well go there.