It was almost like drowning. Jason felt himself sinking as he realized the severity of the situation.
He had worked so hard and now all hope was lost. Everything he had strived for was gone. Lost in an instant. He saw himself shipwrecked on an ocean of hopelessness, as vast and empty as his future now was.
He had been so sure it would all work out, he had been so certain. Nothing made sense anymore, what would he do? He had failed at the one thing he had been preparing for in life. Now all was over.
Jason dragged his feet on the sidewalk, his head hung low and his gait that of someone carrying a heavy burden. He walked slowly, not wanting to go home, but at the same time wishing he were already there, lying on his bed with the pillow over his head. He wanted this horrible day to end, but wished it never would. He hoped night would never come. There was no way to explain this, and nightfall meant explanations would be necessary.
Maybe I could just leave, he thought, and imagined himself sticking his thumb out, hitching a ride. Maybe someone would stop, and he would climb in, destination: anywhere. He would eat at truck stops, and wash in rest area bathrooms. Then, somehow, he would make it to the coast, and there, he would board a ship. Jason pictured himself a stowaway, but decided against it.
If only he’d been born at a different time, he might’ve sailed with Magellan, or plundered with Blackbeard. Always free to go where he pleased. Nothing to hold him down, no ties to pull him back to land.
Jason had always loved ships. He’d always been fascinated by stories of seafarers, pirates, sailors. Always wished he’d been one of them. By the age of ten he could identify almost every ship type ever built, schooner, man-o-war, caravel, brigantine, frigate, he knew them all. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he always said sailor, a response which had prompted many a ‘huh’.
Jason’s parents were against it, he was to study hard, graduate with honors, attend an Ivy League school and be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That was his future, they said, it’s what’s best for him. On land. Work hard, they said, and when you’re successful, maybe you can buy a yacht, hire a crew, and drop anchor in Monaco, or Capri, or Ibiza, they said, but study first.
Jason sighed as he walked home, his last chance at the future his parents wanted gone forever. He had not been accepted to any of his colleges of choice. He was a failure.
As he rounded the corner he saw his older brother on their stoop. Alex was perfect, everything that Jason wasn’t. He had gotten a scholarship to Yale and had just been accepted at Harvard Law School. He was his parents’ pride; Alexander the Great.
“Why the long face, Argonaut?” Alex asked when Jason sat down beside him.
“I failed,” he sighed, “I failed at everything.”
“Yeah I know, they told me. I thought you were in the running for a scholarship, though.”
“Didn’t get it, and Mom and Dad don’t have enough money for tuition. My chances are shot. Community College is my only choice now, and I’d still have to work my way through it, I’m such a loser.”
“You know why you think you failed?” Alex spoke after a moment of silence, “It’s because you wanted to. You didn’t really want the future they planned for you, and I’m glad you failed. I’d rather see you poor and happy than rich and miserable, so I brought you this.”
He handed Jason two brochures, one about the Navy and the other about the Merchant Marines. Jason looked at his brother in wonder and Alex smiled.
“Pick one, or both, or neither, doesn’t matter. Look them over, see what you like best, see what fits you best.”
“Mom and Dad won’t be happy.”
“No, but that’s their problem. Go on, little bro, choose your life. I’ll handle Mom and Dad.”
Alex gave Jason an envelope. It was full of cash.
“It’s for you, to spend on your future. It should get you out of this place and then some.”
“Where did you get this?”
“I’ve been saving up for this since the first time you said you wanted to sail ships and they shut you down. Just promise me that whatever you do, wherever you go, you’ll always do right. ”
They sat on the stoop and watched the sunset in silence. Jason smiled at the bright future ahead. Alex’s arm around him sealed their brotherly bond.