The Atlas Highway

The Atlas Highway

A Story by P. Bienert

A short realistic depiction of a man's grief over his wife's passing and how he attempted to fulfill a promise to see the world even after she had gone.

My wife died so I traveled the world. It’s what we had always planned, way before we tied the knot. I left a week after she was buried. I didn’t give a s**t about what anyone else thought about it. They didn’t know her like I did. She would’ve wanted me to get the f**k out the day after. I only say I didn’t care, but that’s why I held it off for a week " because I did.

I’m sorry I can’t see the world with you anymore.

She was wrong. I knew she’d be with me in spirit. She was and is a part of me, so wherever I go, she goes. Does it really matter who is alive and who’s not? At least that’s what I kept telling myself. Because no matter how you act and think like you’re handling it well, nothing can prepare you for the endless road of crap you have to wade through. Time heals all wounds? F**k that. It’s been two years. In that time, I’ve seen the world as we were supposed to see it, lived, died and lived again, yet the world is still crumbling around me bit by bit.

I’ve literally been everywhere, yet I am a directionless wanderer in life. I am at the point where I feel like I’ve just been slapped extremely hard across the face and was asked, what the f**k are you doing? I’m not quite sure how to answer that. I’m a pretty clever guy, but this time, I just don’t know.

You’ll still go without me, won’t you?

I very much regret now that I hadn’t done it way before she succumbed into her illness. We could have just jumped onto a bike and rode off into the sunset, as they say. But real-life stories don’t usually end like that. Don’t get me wrong, the last the two years of seeing the world had not gone to waste. In fact, it helped me in many, many ways. But as I’m sure you can understand that it would’ve been entirely different had she been with me. Did I not say that that was what we’d planned all along? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why career and travel are in a love-hate relationship. Career demands all your time, and travel requires dosh. 

Swear to me you’ll go. For me.

She hated her family. Only her true friends saw her spontaneity and thirst for adventure. That’s why I said she would’ve wanted me to leave at the earliest opportunity. She wouldn’t have wanted me to go through that physical and mental torture of grieving with her extended family post-burial. And again, I still did. Because no matter how fucked up they were, they were still family. Plus, I wasn’t going to see them for quite a bit of time anyway.

I did tell them I was going away for a while. I didn’t say where or how long, though. I didn’t think it mattered. So I quit my job, stuffed what clean clothes I could find in a giant rucksack and I flew to Asia. She was normally good at that sort of stuff. I’m not a very organized person, so if I remember correctly I had to buy a new toothbrush at the airport. Of all things!

I was contemplating so hard I almost felt like my veins were about to pop out of my skin. I mean " come on " in one week, I’d lost my wife, quit my only job, locked up my apartment (and not entirely sure if I had turned the mains fuse off), and boarded a plane to nowhere with only a handful of stuff I could carry along. I had an entire life savings which I’d lived off comfortably enough for two years.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

No, I was sorry. I was sorry because I made that promise to her many years ago. I said we’d go together, live the rest of our lives together. Together. The more I say it, the more it sounds like a made-up word. What does it even mean anymore? F**k. I miss her so bad.

I thought two years would’ve made a difference, but it hasn’t changed a thing. I’m still in the same deep pit I was in before. Only this time, I thought I had accomplished something. Even meeting new faces didn’t take my mind off of her. I saw her wherever I went; on the back of that street sweeper’s head, in the orange of the dying sun day after day. It was constant.

Not that I wanted to forget about her, of course not! She was " is " my fuel. I just had this mental image of what grieving was like. I thought there would be nonstop crying in the first few weeks and then they start to get less and less until you meet another person and then you move on. And now I shudder to think that I ever had that kind of mentality. I didn’t want anyone else. I just wanted her, her to be alive and well and breathing again. But of course life decided to be a mean b***h.

I will always be with you.

I believed her. And she was. I felt her next to me in bed at night, walking with me in the streets, stretching out on the white-hot sand. I talked to her a lot. I cried, too. I wanted her to know how sorry I was about her passing, why she had to go so soon. The people I’ve met throughout my journey are the most fantastic set of characters I’ve ever come across, yet none of them knew the full story. I didn’t tell them about how my wife died or how I was fulfilling a promise to her. I think I was in denial the whole time. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I knew that as soon as I’d told them about my reasons for traveling, their eyes would go all puppy-like and start awwww-ing.

Because this is the sort of story you’d only read about in books, and I wished more than anything for it to be a prank, you know? Like meeting a fellow traveler and telling them, my wife died three weeks ago so this is my way of mourning, and then he/she gives you the obligatory sympathetic face and then you go, ha-ha no, she’s very much alive and well. In fact, she’s just in the restroom right now. Care to join us for drinks?

I still get that feeling of bewilderment whenever I see a new place. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that. Perhaps I don’t know where I’m going to end up or what I’m going to end up doing, but I think this is her hitting me in the back of the head and telling me to just live like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not saying that everything has just started to make sense to me " because a lot of it still doesn’t " however I’m now in a more suitable position to take those little steps to the where the right direction is, the light at the end of the tunnel. I think time, although not the sole reason, was a definite factor in the healing process. The where is unclear to me at the moment but I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way. I’m confident because I know she’s with me.

© 2015 P. Bienert

Author's Note

P. Bienert
I am considering extending this story further, but as I haven't written anything in such a long time, I wanted to hear some feedback first. Thank you!

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Added on September 19, 2015
Last Updated on September 19, 2015


P. Bienert
P. Bienert

Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom

I've been writing since I was about eleven and have always been a frustrated writer. I'm fond of crime/mystery novels, horror movies, and long walks in the park. Yes, I can be the most random person b.. more..