His name was Alex. He had lived all of his uneventful life in the little, white house with the big porches on the corner of Camden Lane with his dad, and his mom, and his sister, Natalie. His brother, Dave used to live there too, before he moved away to college. “Goodbye.” he had said the day he left. “I’m sure this old town won’t forget me, but, by golly, I’m going to try to forget it.” It was just that kind of a town. The lazy kind that often causes you to feel like molasses being slowly poured through your life. Alex had never minded it much. He rather enjoyed the crawling speed. It left him more time to think, and to read. Reading was probably what he did best. He read everything he could get his hands on. And he was always hungering for more. He had never really liked causing trouble, never had the desire to play video games, never was much good at football. All of this combined, classified him as an A+ failure among the boys. And the girls...well, they stayed well away from him. And he returned the compliment.
Dave had been one of the best players on the football team, and everyone had expected that Alex would join when he entered high school. But he made it clear that he would rather go fishing or work on his treehouse. He didn’t have any friends from school. Nobody seemed to understand him. He would rather sit on his front porch and watch a sunset than go to a party. He didn’t even like watching TV. No, he didn’t have any friends, but he wasn’t lonely. He found companionship in his books, or even in the crickets chirping on a summer evening. He would have been happy if he had gone on living his carefree, peaceful life on Camden Lane until the end of his days. But, of course, that not the way things happen.
Year after year slipped away like water through your fingers until, before he knew it, he was standing in front of the principal of Lakeview High, dressed in a light blue robe and cap, receiving a roll of paper tied with a blue ribbon. This paper certified that he had received a government approved education, which really meant nothing to Alex. But it also symbolized his plane ticket to Dallas...and to college. He had no desire to leave. In fact, he would much rather stay right where he was. But, his father would hear nothing of it.
“You were enough of a disappointment as a child.” he said. “You’re going to make something of yourself, not just sit around here listening to the wind in the trees for the rest of your life. You’re going to make me proud, and you’re going to leave this town open-mouthed.”
Alex had never bothered arguing with his father before, and he didn’t now. And so, he left. Though it must be confessed that he went with tears in his eyes. For four long years, he worked and studied and made good grades. He won more awards than he could keep track of. He was at the head of his class in physics and calculus. Nobody could believe what he had achieved. “He can do anything if he puts his mind to it,” Alex’s father told everyone proudly.
When Alex at last emerged from the university, clothed in another robe, this time a black one, he was admired and envied by everyone who knew him. He had filled his head with facts, and charts, and dates, and formulas, but as for wisdom, he hadn’t gained any.
He seemed content now. He was no longer a failure. But he was no longer himself either. He was a different person. He didn’t really miss the little white house with the big porches, or Camden Lane anymore. He didn’t have any time for fishing. Life, to him, looked changed now; less beautiful; less simple. He could have no longer contented himself by merely listening to crickets on a summer evening. Now, he would rather listen to the radio. Sunsets no longer held him captive by their magical spell. He had some impressive scientific explanation for them. He still read, but not for enjoyment.
He had gained a love of academic achievement, and lost his love of life.
He only saw the little white house one more time, when he happened to be driving within a few miles of Camden Lane. His mother had passed away a few years before, Natalie was at college, and his father lived with Dave’s family now, so they had sold the little house. Alex just couldn’t resist the urge to see the old place again. As he drove along the quiet streets where he had spent his entire childhood, it brought back memories; memories that were painful now, because, though he would never have admitted it, he realized that he missed them in a way. The house looked the same as it always had, except for a fresh coat of white paint. The climbing roses on the railings had grown a little, and so had the crepe myrtle trees. There were two children blowing bubbles and laughing in the front yard. It seemed like such a short time ago that he was there playing or sitting on the big front porch. He didn’t stop. He just drifted slowly by gazing back in the past at a life that had ceased to exist. The children stopped their play and stared agape at the shiny, new car and the sophisticated young man. He supposed that he should have been honored, but instead he felt a little self-conscious. As he drove away from the little town and got back on the interstate, he was surprised to feel an unfamiliar lump in his throat. He swallowed and shook his head, and then he clicked on the radio. “There’s nothing to miss.” he tried to tell himself. “I made my dad proud, and I left that old town open-mouthed.” But somehow, he couldn’t quite make himself believe it.
"We only get one chance, so listen to the wind, cause when it's gone, it won't be back again." (When It's Gone)