I don’t know how much that had to do with the next thing that happened in my life, maybe a lot. It shook things up, things that were not too solidly in place to begin with. In any case, there was malaise in me, a restlessness and dissatisfaction with the trajectory of my life which, if I kept going, would probably bring me most of the things I already knew from my own family, monogamy and solvency. ”Is that all there is?” That was my question. And I wasn’t alone. There was another guy, Mark, chomping at the bit for some other experience, some adventure. And he was a smart guy, someone who could articulate the inchoate longings of the post-adolescent condition with great eloquence.
“This shit sucks,” said Mark.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Fuckin A, this school is pretty shit too.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Barry and Murray and I were the smartest guys in our school. They went to Yale and I got Brown.”
“Yeah, it sucks. I could have gone to Harvard. They wanted me but since my father went there… I shoulda gone. Don’t know what I was thinking about. We got to do something else. Take a break. We’ve been in school our whole lives and don’t know shit about the world.”
“You’re right. Let’s think about taking some time off when this semester ends.”
“Yea,” I said. Like Jack Kerouac, we could go on the road, maybe to Europe. Isn’t that the place where a young man gets experience, becomes a man?”
“No Rick, that’s the Marines you’re thinking of.”
“Fuck the Marines,” I said. “The first asshole who yells at me I’ll punch in the mouth.”
“That would be a real bad idea, Rick.”
“I know that,” I said, “which is why I won’t be joining the Marines.”
“In that case maybe Paris is a better option after all.”
“Yeah, ‘April in Paris’ and beautiful girls, free love. It did a lot for Hemingway. I want to be a writer but a writer needs experience. I don’t want the war experience he had but I will take the pussy experience.”
“Fuckin A,” Mark said. “I have cousins in France we could visit. That would be a good bet for me. I’ve been studying French for years.”
“Yeah man, and you’re real good at it. That would be a selling point since, if we do this, we have to make it sound like it makes sense to our families. I already spent a summer in Mexico tuning up my Spanish. Probably I would head for Spain and keep going with it there.”
“Sounds like a plan. I guess we’re seekers after the truth or at least a different truth than we know so far. The road less traveled has got to be more interesting than the one we’re on now.”
“The suburban life I grew up in never did much for me.” I said. “My sisters and I are junior beatniks anyway. It’s just the way we are really. We don’t care about the social shit we’re supposed to care about.”
And the conversation went on like that and gave us energy and focus. We just wanted something else, even if we didn’t know exactly what it was. And we wanted it enough to jump into the unknown, ready or not. Our excitement and youthful optimism were contagious. We polished up our salesmanship skills and miraculously, despite their misgivings, our families came to believe this was a worthwhile adventure. We were to take a year off and explore Europe.