This short, nonfiction piece is about the day I left New Jersey and moved to Chicago, over fourteen and a half years ago. It is perhaps the beginning of a novel. It is also a piece of work that got me accepted into the Long Ridge Writers Group School of Writing over five years ago. This version has been revised and edited a bit. I also changed it from third person to first person. Although I KNOW it is not perfect, it is just something I wanted to throw out there. I hope you enjoy it.
On July 11th, 1994 I headed westbound on route eighty passing Rockaway, New Jersey in my maroon, Volkswagen Golf. Packed in the car were all of my worldly and valuable possessions, including my nineteen-inch television, stereo, favorite movies, CD’s, and some clothes. The wallet in the back pocket if my Levi jeans held the last two thousand dollars to my name.
Not more than thirty minutes ago, I shared some very tearful good-byes with my mother, sister and two nephews. The last words I heard were from my sobbing sister, who whispered in my ear. “I can’t believe you’re leaving.”
The day before the good-byes were with my father, stepmother and brother. My dad left me with, “We’ll see you soon.”
My family’s tears were not the same as mine. Theirs were of sorrow, and sadness in hating to see me go. They all hoped and believed that at some point I would change my mind.
I felt the complete opposite. My tears were of shear joy and elation for having the strength and courage to say good-bye and start over again somewhere else. That somewhere else being Chicago. I knew with one hundred percent certainty that there was no turning back and I would not be back, other than to visit.
As I approached the first sign for the Delaware Water Gap, like a reflex action, I let out a huge sigh of relief that only I could appreciate. It seemed as though the weight of the world had finally been lifted off my shoulders. The feeling of exhilaration was nothing like I had ever experienced in my entire thirty years. It truly felt like some angel had swooped in and gently removed the two thousand pound gorilla that I had been lugging around for the past fifteen years.
I stopped to pay the toll at the Delaware Water Gap, where route eighty exits New Jersey and enters Pennsylvania. The scenery on a drive like this is always picturesque, as you enter the Pocono Mountains and head into the heart of Pennsylvania. Mother nature takes over with incredible snapshots of the mountains and the Delaware River. Unforgettable, soothing views of the highway cutting through the mountains can take over the senses and easily become therapeutic. But, on this very warm July day, every physical image around me was totally irrelevant. I didn’t notice any of it, as the drive itself became my therapy.
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