Sometimes in life you just have to give everything up and go on an adventure.
I was sitting in my apartment, sipping on a cup of coffee and watching the cars stream by my window. I had the time to waste; I had just quit my job working at (insert something here), the most recent in a long string of disappointing career moves.
I had reached the point in time where I had to question the decisions I had made and map out a plan for my future. I needed a job, a career… I needed to find out what I wanted to do with the next fifty years of my life and make it happen.
And I had just decided that I wasn’t going to have any of it.
I put down my empty coffee cup, threw on an old jacket, slipped my keys into my pocket and made my way into the world.
Outside, I stopped. Just like with every other of my plans in life, I hadn’t thought this one through.
What I did know is that, for an adventure to be successful, it really needed to be shared with others. So I called up the one friend I knew I could convince to join me and started walking.
“Hey Rob,” I said “It’s James. Drop everything; we’re going on an adventure.”
I heard an odd grunt on the other end of the line and wondered whether I had just woken Rob up. When it came to Rob it didn’t really matter, he was always sleeping.
“Will there be drinks involved?” He sounded bleary and muffled. But his tone was hopeful.
“Sure, why not? Get dressed. I’ll meet you at The Tempest in half.”
The Tempest was a worn-down second hand bookstore full of curiosities and hidden wonders caught in the backstreets of the city. It was warm and forgiving like most old bookstores. It was also almost always empty. I used to spend quite a bit of my time there, wandering among the bookshelves.
While I made my way up through the leafy streets and dog parks, I wondered how someone went about having an adventure. In all the books I had read and the stories I had been told they just, well, they just seemed to happen. But there I was, a quarter of a century old and I had never lived through anything really, breathtakingly exciting. I had never taken part in a bank heist, never hunted big game or even had a torrid affair. Those were the things which seemed to populate the lives of more interesting people I read about, so those were the things I needed to aim at. There had to be a way to make my life more remarkable, I told myself, but how? I’d have to make a list.
I liked lists, then, they always made me feel as if I were accomplishing things, even if they were only as trivial as to Wake Up and Have Breakfast. Each item I wrote down was followed by a little box that I could check off. Checking off boxes is always so satisfying.
I took out the notebook that I always carried and flipped through the pages until I reached my latest. I had written it a few days ago in the hope that it would help me to get my life together. It read:
- Write something, anything
- Find a job
- Figure out why you want that job
- Try to understand what you want to do with the rest of your life
- Work out the meaning of life
I liked to be thorough.
I flipped to a clean page. Then, leaning on the graffitied wall of the building next to me, set out neatly: For a Successful Adventure. I stood and thought for a while and then wrote: Find someone to share the adventure with. Then I drew a small box next to the line and ticked it off. While I was doing this a small nondescript mongrel wandered over to sniff my shoes. I turned to it and smiled. I had finally made a positive decision and that was enough to keep me happy.
I had been browsing the books in The Tempest for twenty minutes and was just flicking through A Moveable Feast, trying to find some inspiration, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Rob. He was well built and tall, with the sort of dark hair and deep brooding eyes that made him very attractive to women. This was just as well since he was very attracted to them. I sometimes wondered whether it was only his good looks which stopped him being categorised as sleazy. I had told him this once. He had looked at me and shrugged.
I was probably just jealous.
“James…How’s it going? I thought you said we were meeting at the pub? There I was all ready and willing to join you for a drink, I know you need one, and here I find you, as always, with your nose stuck in a book.”
He stopped and looked around, as if just noticing that he was in a bookstore. I tried to quickly finish the paragraph I had started.
“Who are you reading?” He asked.
“Hemingway.” I said, carefully sliding the book back into its place on the bookshelf.
“I should have known, eh? Anyway I’m here now and I’m fucking thirsty.”
“You’re always thirsty, at least when you aren’t sleeping. And you’re the one who mentioned the drink. It’s eleven am.”
I stopped browsing the bookshelf and looked up at him. He wore a mocking, pleading expression.
“Fine let’s go, I have a list we have to work on anyway and I think Candice is working. We’ll find a table near the window.”
Candice stood, idly drumming her fingers on the bar. Her dark brown hair hung loose around her face, her deep brown eyes stared absently out the window. She was about a year younger than me and desperately pretty. She looked out of place among the old men at the tables.
They were permanent features, these men; as engrained as the beer stains in the carpet. I often wondered about them. About what they thought of as they sat there day after day, reading their newspapers (an impressive act in itself in an electronic age), chatting quietly as the world moved on around them. Occasionally one of them would head up to the bar for a small beer and the opportunity to flirt with the younger, female, bartenders. Candice had told me that she didn’t really mind, she just really hated being called sweetie.
When she saw us she smiled.
I had met her a while back when we’d both been studying at the University of Sydney. She’d been studying Art History; I was doing something equally inconsequential. She had been sitting on a sandstone ledge in the university’s iconic quadrangle, hunched over, her hair covering her face as she read from her notebook. She was preparing for a French oral presentation, an elective she took partly because she wanted to travel through Europe but mainly out of a misplaced sense of romanticism. I heard her muttering to herself as I walked by and I couldn’t help but stop to tease her. She was too striking not to. I offered her a cigarette and tried to be of some help. I wasn’t much and she ended up being late for her exam.
We went out for a beer afterwards and that’s when she told me about her boyfriend, Brad.
I hated him from the start. Brad couldn’t deal with the fact that Candice was head and shoulders smarter than him and it showed. The few times I met him he came across as arrogant and hostile, and not just because it was pretty clear that I was infatuated with his girlfriend.
A few months after we’d met Candice dropped out of university. She started bartending full time to support Brad through medical school. In return Brad waited until he had graduated then immediately dropped Candice for a vapid 19-year-old nurse full of sex appeal. C’est la vie.
“Hey darling,” Rob said as we reached the bar (Candice hated being called darling almost as much as sweetie). “How are you lovely? Keeping busy?”
He stood watching her for moment before ordering a few beers.
We sat at our usual table by the bar. I took out my notebook and flipped it open while Rob stared out the window at two young women walking by.
“So, what’s this all about?” he asked
“Well, you know how our lives are pretty much pointless and aren’t really well… um… going anywhere?”
“Of course. Go on.”
I paused, trying to marshal my thoughts. I wanted to tell Rob that lately nothing excited me anymore, that when I looked in the mirror it was like looking at a stranger, and a pretty boring one at that. I wanted to feel different again, to feel like I was an individual. I faltered.
“I want to do something. Something worth doing. I want people, when they see us, to think ‘those guy are alright, look at everything they’ve seen and done.’ And I don’t mean done as in accomplished. I don’t want to accomplish all that much.”
“No, too much effort.” Rob agreed, taking a sip of his beer.
I tried to explain to Rob about the fear that overpowered me that I would never amount to much more than average. That there was nothing in my life that felt like it was leading anywhere real. I reminded him about the dreams and plans that we had dreamt up, when we first lived together, on campus and how those all seemed to have fallen away. I tried, but even as I spoke the words seemed empty and meaningless. I always found it hard to say anything real to Rob. Or at least I needed to be a fair few drinks deeper.
“So by the time we’re old…” I said
“Yes, or dead, well at least they’ll be something to say other than what people say about absolutely everyone: They worked hard, they were good to their friends. That kind of thing.”
“Shit, that’s not for us.”
“So I thought,” I went on “I thought: What we need is an adventure, a story, something which can be told.” I stopped. The table rocked precariously as I tried resting my drink on it.
“So what you want is instead of writing a novel, is to live one?” He asked. I nodded.
He smiled. Then he did something that I wasn’t expecting; he agreed with me. He would come on the adventure, he said. I tried not to look taken aback. I knew that Rob didn’t have a huge amount going on in his life but I didn’t think that convincing him would be this easy.
“What just like that?” I said.
“Just like that.”
I had expected at least some sort of push back from Rob, I had half wanted him to be the voice of reason, to tell me how silly and implausible I was being. Instead he was being almost aggressively supportive. I didn’t know what more to say. Maybe he thought that this was just another fantasy, another way to keep myself busy. Or maybe he wanted to get out just as much as I did. It was possible. Maybe he wasn’t thinking about much one way or another, that was always a possibility.
We sat in silence, watching as a group of young men and women walked by our window, each looking down at their phones. Rob sighed.
“Alright then,” he said, turning back to me, “how long have we got for this adventure?’
I considered this.
“I guess…well…as much time as is necessary. A day, maybe a week, maybe a year, maybe even the rest of our lives. No matter. Why? You have something pressing to do?”
“Well I was planning on watching the game at five.” He said. I laughed.
“Ok you can watch the game. This’ll take some time to plan.” He nodded.
“First of all an adventure requires some form of lubricant. We’ll have to make sure to pack enough drinks.”
“That’s a given.”
“And we’ll have to travel.”
I wrote Travel, underneath Find someone to share the adventure with. I drew another box next to it. “What else?”
“Hmm…Well, there’s going to have to be danger.”
“Yes! Danger. Good.” I jotted this down too. “What else?”
“An unexpected revelation.”
“Good. What else?”
“Yes… And how about some form of dispute?”
“Ok, sure. A physical altercation.”
“A brush in with the law.” I said.
“Yes we need to be men. Like in the good old days, when men were real men, women were real women…”
“I’m sorry but as opposed to what?”
“Right, right sorry. Anyway where were we?” He asked.
“At the next idea: A reversal of fortunes.”
“A race against the clock.”
“And of course women to chase…” Rob finished.
He caught sight of Candice, standing behind the bar watching us and flashed her a smile.
“Speaking of which, will we need another member of our little team. Maybe we should invite Candice to join us later.” He said.
I nodded somewhat reluctantly. I wasn’t sure having Candice anywhere near Rob was a good idea.
I awoke the next day with a hangover. I couldn’t remember a huge amount about the night before. I didn’t much mind. I got up and made myself a coffee.
Rob was curled up on the couch, sleeping, his jacket wrapped around him for warmth. I put the coffee down and rummaged around in the cupboard until I found what I was looking for; it was a ragged, grey blanket. I carefully draped it over him as he began to stir.
“So it looks like we’ve found our third.” I said when I was sure that Rob was awake. He grunted and turned over so that he was facing the back of the couch. I finished my coffee, grabbed my keys and left, confident in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be up for another few hours.
When I reached the Cafe I saw that Candice was already there, waiting. She looked the worse for wear and yet still, somehow, enticing.
“So how are you feeling?” I pulled up a chair to sit opposite her. She looked up and grimaced.
“Well isn’t everyone just full of fucking sunshine today.” I said, laughing. “How was your morning?”
“Okay. Although I don’t think my roommates are too happy with me. Then again they never have been.”
We chatted for a while about her roommates, all young professionals too busy trying to be adults to allow any joy to enter their lives. Candice wanted desperately to move, but couldn’t find any compelling reason to leave.
I asked her about the adventure and the plans we had made the night before. After we had sat her down and explained as best we could, and especially after she had had a few drinks, she had seemed willing, even enthusiastic about the prospect of just getting up and leaving all her worries behind. Rob had made an especially good case for emotional freedom.
It had turned out that Candice was actually a lot more prepared than we are to get up and go. She had saved up a fair bit of money and done a fair amount of research on travel destinations. Both were in preparation for the trip that she and Brad had been planning before they broke up, while he was screwing his girl on the side.
They were going to go visit Italy, where she had been especially excited to visit the great museums of Florence. She had wanted to finally be able to walk through the halls of the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’ Accademia and see all the painting she had studied before dropping out of university. She had told us that if she wasn’t going to get her romantic holiday then she might as well blow the money on something fun.
Now I wanted to know what her thoughts were, in the cold light of day. I knew how easy it was to decide upon something one night, after a few drinks, only to immediately regret it the next morning.
“I don’t know James…” She was hesitant. I could feel her slipping away and with her the momentum for change. The adventure, I could see, was crumbling already, ready to be washed away completely by a great wave of reality.
We sat and watched the people walking by, each with their heads held high, their determination never varying. They all knew their destination; it was clear where they were heading. I wondered whether I would ever feel that certain.
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