Every Monday through Friday, Adrian sat at a computer in Seattle and made his daily quota of phone calls for Highland Marketing. All day, the friendly, chipper voices of his coworkers maintained a rolling boil in the company’s strip mall office space. Adrian dreaded every call. As soon as he introduced himself, he felt the annoyance come from the other end of the phone like a slap in the face. The calls kept grinding away at his self-respect, while he read scripted questions and clicked the radio button next to the appropriate answer on his screen.
One evening, after a failed five-minute effort to unwind watching television, he began to reflect on his current state and his general sense of being displaced. He looked around his apartment, at the bare, white walls, the television and Ikea chairs. There was nothing that was personal or felt meaningful to him. “I’m going to move,” he said out loud.
Adrian felt a grin creep involuntarily over his jaw and then spread up the side of his face, into his cheeks, all the way to his scalp. He grew suddenly warm and shivered with invigoration. The simple but authoritative decision thrilled him; he felt more powerful and right than he could remember. He looked at the blank television screen and was compelled to immediately turn it toward the wall. Then he decided never to look at a screen of any sort again. This was even more invigorating. He glanced at the clock above the sofa. It was still early enough for him to make it to the bank before it closed, so he drove as quickly as he could to his local branch. He emptied his bank accounts to have cash on hand and went back to his apartment to get a change of clothes, a backpack, and a pair of comfortable shoes. Two days later, someone finally called from the office to check on him and heard the following message: “Hi, this is Adrian. You won’t be hearing from me again, so just hang up. Bye.”
He was already as far west as he could get on foot, so he started walking east. His figure on the road was unimposing; he was tallish but lean, with brown straight hair that was growing disorderly around his ears. He found traveling difficult at the beginning, in the denser populated areas. When he finally reached a small highway in western Washington, he stopped, breathed as deeply as he could, and thought that might have been the first deep breath of his life.
A month later, Adrian was in the middle of the Northern Plains. He had enjoyed crossing the mountains, but he found the flatlands were mind-bending. In the expansiveness, he felt like he was walking on the world rather than in or through it. Every dozen miles or so, he stopped and turned slowly in disbelief at the solid band of horizon sitting on the earth like the lid of a mason jar. He strained his eyes across the plains to find a definite end. He was unsure whether his vision gave out or the Earth curved out of sight. It gave him a quick, uneasy feeling; he thought of the thousands of times he had watched the inside of a cup as he drank, and now he felt an unexpected sympathy to that tumbling over the lip of a mug, tilting forward with pastures, crops, fences and sloughs, about to spill out into God’s hand to be crushed and made over.