завръщане у дома


After his college graduation and against the advice of his mother, Simms went to Europe. Simms planned to ride by bicycle from Brussels to Bulgaria, and to live in Sofia until the money ran out. Simms was not on the road three months before the accident.

They told Simms that he crashed out descending a pass in the mountains north of Milano. The subdural hematoma had required a craniotomy and two burr holes were drilled into his skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain. Simms was hospitalized two months at Milano before being returned home to Chicago. The doctors told him his memory of the ride would not fully return. His bike and all his gear was lost.

All that remained was a single photograph included with a greeting card sent by a Belgian couple to his parent’s home that Christmas. In the south of France Simms met the couple after a long, hot climb in the Midi-Alps above Nice. They waived Simms down and offered him a lunch of cheese and sausage, bread, and fresh cherries. In the picture he is wearing a green wool turtleneck sweater and standing over his fully loaded bicycle in a pine forest. Nice and the Mediterranean do not show. The pine trees might have been the pines of the Wisconsin north woods. Simms is smiling broadly.

Soon after being returned to Chicago, Simms recommenced his training. He went riding on the bike paths around the city, he swung his kettle bell, he shadowboxed, he hit the heavy bag and jumped rope, he did pushups and situps and pullups, and he ran the hill at the park. He was slowly getting his body back into shape. He told his mother to tell no one that he had returned. He did not want to see any of the people he knew. He did not consider his being returned to America to be important. He wanted to maintain his European frame of mind and he did not want to be disturbed from it.

The way they lived was better in Europe. The buildings were old and beautiful and the people had history. In France he had enjoyed eating food for the first time. Just remembering the cassoulet made him hungry. And all those wines. You didn’t understand it if you haven’t been there. The Americans didn’t have anything on them. America was strip malls and parking lots. Americans were obese and badly dressed. After seeing and talking to French girls, he couldn’t tolerate American girls. He didn’t know how he tolerated American girls before. He didn’t want anything to do with American girls now.

When Simms walked through the neighborhood he watched the American girls going to work. They were large and serious and their skin was pasty and they did not wear makeup and many wore their hair short. After work the American girls went into the bars and intoxicated themselves and looked for men to have sex with. He knew what talking to them was like. She would ask what he did for a living and where he lived and if he owned his own place and then, if she wasn’t too drunk, she proceeded to test him in more subtle ways. It was a game. If he played the game correctly he would have sex with her. But sometimes her girlfriend came and dragged her off. That was how it worked in America.

Even if an American girl offered herself he didn’t want her. He was done with that. He didn’t feel any attraction for American girls. American girls were only interested in their careers and reality tv shows and shoe shopping. He didn’t need a girl anyway. He had training and study ahead of him. There wasn’t time for American girls. Besides, they wouldn’t like it that he lived at home. They wouldn’t like it that he didn’t have a job. That was how they judged you. He knew how it would go. He could tell lies but there was no getting around it when he needed a place to take her. He wondered what Bulgarian girls were like. He’d heard they had moustaches. They couldn’t all have moustaches though. If they were anything like French girls he would be happy. He’d get to Bulgaria finally and see for himself. Simms went out on a long ride and tried to forget about girls.

Each day when he finished his training, Simms practiced his Bulgarian and studied the country’s history. Afterwards he liked to listen to his little brother practice the cello. His little brother admired him very much and wanted to hear his European stories. His father was only mildly interested. His mother did not want to hear about it. Through the winter Simms trained and studied and he began to feel quite good again. He ordered new panniers, a sleeping bag and a tent. He began to think that in the summer he would return to Italy and resume his ride for Bulgaria.

One evening Simms was studying in his room when his brother knocked at the door and asked he come down to the dinner table. His mother and father were waiting for him. The table had not been cleared from dinner and his parents were finishing a bottle of wine. Simms took his seat across from his mother.

“Thanks for coming down, Billy,” his father said.

“Now, William,” began his mother, “Its time we had a talk about what you’re going to do.”

“Sure,” said Simms.

“Your father and I think that you should begin paying rent if you are going to stay here. We agreed that $250 per month is appropriate. It will help to motivate you to find a job.”

“Sure,” said Simms. He looked at his little brother and winked.

“William,” said his mother sternly, “We paid for a very expensive education for you and you graduated at the top of your class in the business school. The dean told us you could work at any of the top investment banks.”

“That was before,” said Simms.

“I am sure Goldman Sachs would still want you, William.”

“They wouldn’t. They only want you right when you graduate.”

His mother turned to his father.

“What do you plan to do then, Bill?” his father said.

“I don’t know.”

“You must have some idea.”

“I’m going to Bulgaria,” Simms said cheerfully.

“That’s enough, William,” said his mother, raising her voice. “We’ve heard just about enough of that. That little adventure is over and you’re going to get a job like everyone else.”

“Let’s not be too hard on the boy,” his father cautioned.

“No! I am going to be hard on him. He goes off not wearing a helmet and falls off his bicycle and we have to take care of his mess. Who do you think paid to fly you back here, William?”

Simms was quiet.

“I worked all those years with head injury patients and I always told you to wear a helmet and what do you go off and do? Where was your helmet, William?”

Simms thought to describe the feeling of the wind in his hair, barreling down a mountain, all that freedom and how Dennis Coello didn’t wear a helmet either. Neither did the Dutch. But he didn’t say anything. He knew from experience not to say anything.

“Well?” His mother glared at him.

“I’m going to Bulgaria,” Simms told her.

“No you’re not!” she shouted. She turned to his father, “Tell him! Tell him he’s not!”

His brother stood up from the table and left the kitchen.

“What’s in Bulgaria, Bill?” asked his father.

“It’s the cheapest country in Europe,” Simms said.

“Bill, I think you should consider working here awhile.”

“Its not what I want to do.”

“He’ll be eating out of garbage cans! Who does he think he is! In life you can’t do whatever you want to do!”

Simms looked calmly at the woman. She was red-faced and furious. He suddenly felt distant from the whole scene, like he was observing it all from far away. He watched the woman as she stood up from the table and drawing back her arm, swept it across the tabletop, sending the plates and glassware and utensils crashing onto the floor. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.

“You’ll see!” the woman shrieked, “You’ll see!”

“I want you out of this house tomorrow!” she screamed at him.

Simms watched her leave the kitchen. The man who was his father did not move. His head was down. Without looking at Simms, he stood up from the table and followed his wife upstairs. A door slammed. Moments later Simms heard her muffled yelling from their bedroom. Then it was quiet.

So that was it. He would have to leave. He was not in great shape but the roads were flat from Illinois in whichever direction he rode. He had gotten into shape on the road before and he would do it again. He would pack his panniers tonight and leave in the morning. There were good maps and America would be wonderful to see on a bicycle. There were forests to camp in and, though they were far off, there were mountains. Mountains, thought Simms, he was looking forward to seeing the mountains very much.


  1. This is an inspirational tale of a young man at odds with his surroundings; odds in this sense are pressures to do things; these pressures are real, these pressures to make your parents happy, for you parents gave you everything you have. You should respect your parents. They sacrificed the ease and comfort they had and gave that ease to you. But their values are warped, and you will be doing them a favor by leaving. Leave the ease and comfort they provide.

  2. The helmet doesn't protect Simms' happiness. The helmet would trap all the bad ideas of which he is trying to let go. The last bad ideas escaped with the holes that were drilled. Simms is a free man.


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