Walking Distance

More than once in The Eye-Dancers, Ryan Swinton wishes he could go back to a simpler time, when he was just a little kid, unconcerned with his reputation and the pressure he now feels to continually come up with new jokes.  Ryan is the class clown, and everyone expects him to be a one-man comedy show.  He lives with the pressure of always trying to make people laugh.  If he arrives at a punch line and no one “gets it,” it’s one of the worst feelings in the world to him.  But if they laugh . . .  if they laugh . . .

It’s a harmful cycle Ryan needs to work on.  Being too dependent on others’ approval causes him a great deal of stress.  And so he yearns for that simpler time–when he didn’t worry about punch lines and first-rate deliveries and searching far and wide for fresh, funny material.  He sees five-year-olds, six-year-olds, and wonders if they realize how fortunate they are.  If only he could return to those carefree days . . .

But Thomas Wolfe would say, “You can’t go home again,” and for all of Ryan’s longing, ultimately he must learn to find more peace in the present.  Wishing he could go back to his early childhood will avail him nothing.

Someone else needed to learn that, too.  Martin Sloan, a stressed-out thirty-six-year-old executive in an episode of The Twilight Zone called “Walking Distance.”

martin

When getting his car serviced at a gas station, Martin realizes he’s not far from his hometown.  He hasn’t been back this way in years, and asks the attendant how far away the town is.  When he learns it’s just a couple miles–“walking distance”–Martin decides to leave his car, and walk back to the town where he grew up.

But when he arrives, a strange thing happens.  Everything appears as it did twenty-five years ago, when he was a kid living in the town.  He smiles at the old-fashioned cars and reminders of his youth.

happymartin

Walking around aimlessly, he eventually encounters an oddly familiar boy–himself as a child!  He sees himself carving something onto a post . . .

martinandmartin

Remembering the act, amazed that he’s witnessing himself from a quarter-century ago, Martin tries to strike up a conversation with the boy–with his child self.  But the boy, startled, runs away.

He doesn’t know how, but Martin is back in time, back where he wants to be.  He doesn’t want to return to his hectic job, his fast-paced life in the city.  He wants to stay here, in the small town where he grew up, marooned in an idyllic and eternal childhood.

Later, Martin sees himself as a boy again, on a carousel.  He gets on the carousel himself, wanting to talk to the boy.  He wants to tell his childhood self to enjoy this time–there’s no other time in life like it.  But once again, the boy is scared, panics, and falls off the carousel, injuring his leg.

brokenleg

Suddenly, the adult Martin shrieks in pain, too, and grabs hold of his leg.  He resolves to visit his old house, see his parents.  We see him walk away with a noticeable limp.

When he reaches his childhood home, his mother and father don’t recognize him.  Martin tries to convince his father.  He shows him his ID, his drivers license from twenty-five years in the future.  Finally his father understands–this is his adult son, returned.  With compassion, Martin’s father tells him he must go back.  Go back to the year where he belongs.

“You have to leave here,” he says.  “There’s no room, there’s no place.  Do you understand that?”  He goes on to say, “We only get one chance.  Maybe there’s only one summer to every customer.  That little boy, the one I know–the one who belongs here–this is his summer, just as it was yours once.  Don’t make him share it.”

At the end of the episode, Martin walks back to the gas station, back, in essence, to the present day, still with a limp.  He tells the attendant the limp is from an old accident, a long time ago, twenty-five years ago–when he fell off of a carousel.

It’s a lesson learned the hard way–we can’t go back.  We can only go forward.  The closing narration of the episode goes like this . . .

“Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives – trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there’ll be an occasion – maybe a summer night sometime – when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of his past. And perhaps across his mind, there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then, too, because he’ll know that it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind – and that are a part of the Twilight Zone.”

These “errant wishes,” these “laughing ghosts” are things we all must face, at one time or another.

Ryan Swinton, perhaps, is fortunate.  He faces them, and has a chance to deal with them, at a very early age . . .

Thanks as always for reading!

–Mike

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kelihasablog
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 21:35:56

    Really good Mike! I enjoyed it…:D

    Reply

  2. petit4chocolatier
    Jan 12, 2013 @ 12:56:57

    Excellent post!

    Reply

  3. LyannV
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 00:01:45

    Reblogged this on My Latter Half and commented:
    “It’s a lesson learned the hard way–we can’t go back. We can only go forward.”

    Reply

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