Stanley M. Fried
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Along a Road


Along a road: walking. Along a trail that blends so well with its surrounding it is difficult to follow. Along a road that is marked quite well once the pattern can be seen, once the language of the road can be understood. Walking there after a time, he notices he is walking. There is nothing remarkable in this but that for all the time before when he was roaming, he did not notice there was a path or that he was on one.

His motion of movement seems natural enough: the body shifting its balance from one foot onto the other so that what once held him so securely now swung free to a new place where it could hold him from falling yet again. He was engaged in this movement for some time without any awareness of it. He had heard such things were possible but never imagined himself in this place. He was like the fish which having heard of thirst began to search for water: it was not until it jumped onto land in its quest to understand that it knew what it sought.

Once he knew where he was, he began to see many things happening alongside the route. What once seemed commonplace was now odd to him. Some of the things he had taken for granted now were glaringly apparent. He noticed there were others like him who walked on the roadway itself. He also saw that there were others cutting across the road without any sense of what they were doing, blindly stumbling around unable to find what now seemed so apparent to him. There were people who stopped trying to walk and spent their time attempting to convince others they should stop as well. Each claimed that the purpose of there being a road was so that one could walk to a place to stop. Each one convinced that where they stopped was where everyone else should be. Even a group which was up to their necks in quicksand was sure this was what they sought to find.

There were those engaged in great labors to keep from ever seeing there could be a road. Members of this enterprising group developed elaborate schemes to involve themselves in building structures to block the view of any trail. All involved in a serious effort to protect themselves from ever seeing that a simple road passed by and through where they lived on its way towards somewhere else.

There were other groups he met, each one sure that where they were and what they did was: all that could be asked for; all that could be expected; all that could be known in that land. Some of these were on the road itself. Such people traveled up and down the length of the trail studying its structure, its composition, studying the way it turned, the substructure of the roadway, the design of the markers, discoursing on who built it, measuring its subtleties: for they were sure that in their studies, the way of the path would reveal itself and become understood.

Another group he encountered from time to time, for they had many chapters, would record the names of travelers they could identify on the road and then recite these names over and over claiming that the repetition of their memory would bring them to where they thought the path might lead without them ever having to leave behind any of the things or ways to which they had become accustomed.

It was often tempting for him to stop for longer than just awhile with any of these people: to join with those who were so sure of where they were and what they did. But, he had come to the knowledge that indeed he was walking and that any of the places he had been or would be on his travels were nothing more than stopovers, motel rooms, caravanserai, way stations: none of them were his goal.

One day, while spending time with some friends he traveled along beside, he looked out onto the trail and noticed it had been there long before him and it would be there long after he was gone.

©1990 - Stanley M. Fried


Along a Road was performed in Freedom and Other Myths at Sushi Performance Gallery in San Diego, California, 1990.
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