Things weren’t looking good. I was hitchhiking on a lonely, secondary road in the Maritimes, it had just started to rain, and the night was quickly sinking into the landscape around me, colours taking on ever-dimmer shades of grey. I heard a minivan hissing over the horizon and turned to walk backwards, a half-hearted thumb held out into the road, knowing that, in terms of getting a ride, the odds were certainly not in my favour. A family car, the rain, the dark, the isolation, my beard. I’d be lucky if the driver didn’t speed up just to better spray me on the fly-by.
But this minivan, which looked to be fresh out of a showroom, slowed down, swerved, and came to a stop right in front of me. I opened the door to a hesitant, middle-aged man. “I… I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before,” he admitted. “Is there some… protocol, something I should be asking you?”
“Uh. Well, generally you ask where I’m headed. Then, if we’re going the same way, you tell me where you’ll likely let me off. And that’s it. So I’ll start. I’m heading to PEI.”
He nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “PEI. I think I might be going there too.”
So we drove, through the long, quiet dark, and we talked for hours. He was balding, slightly overweight, and was living out the quintessential mid-life crisis. The second his divorce papers had been finalized, he sold his house, quit his job, bought a van, and filled three Rubbermaid containers with pricey outdoor gear he had yet to use. He had never done anything inspired or adventurous in his whole life, he confessed, until now. I asked how he was finding the experience so far. Mostly, he said, it was scary as hell.
I loved the tone that he spoke in. It was so pure, so brimming with potential, yet was also tainted with this kind of nameless apprehension, like someone who just dove into the deep end, only to remember the last time they were in a swimming pool was during childhood. His perspectives were shifting, turning inward, outward, widening. So, naturally enough, I found myself asking the question I’d been asking a lot of people while crossing Canada: What were the biggest, most pivotal moments in his life? I wasn’t prepared for how forthcoming he was. I wasn’t prepared for how poignant his stories would be.
Later, I promised myself that I would write a novel one day, which would use the most remarkable of the moments I’d collected from my candid conversations with people from my travel and work across the country. And I knew that, for much of the book, I wanted to use the voice that this balding man had used, driving me through a rainy night in New Brunswick, many years ago.
That novel, my second, was just released by Brindle & Glass. Believing Cedric is about a middle-aged insurance broker who is going through the strangest experience of his life. He’s re-living his most pivotal moments, physically, opening his adult eyes inside a younger body, and facing the biggest events of his life for a second time. Only this time around, he’s capable of showcasing the accumulation of his deeply flawed understanding and wisdom. At the same time, Cedric, along with the reader, is trying to figure out just what is happening to him, and why. It sounds like a complicated format, but rest assured that everything resolves itself cleanly and neatly by the end.
Of course, my hope as a writer has always been to move people, make them think, feel, reflect. But I also hope this novel prompts people to see their own lives as stories, and to maybe even consider the many, rich tales of the individuals who significantly shaped these stories. After all, we all have our own version of hitchhiking on a lonely road, and being taken away, transported to somewhere very different, by the most unlikely of inspirations.
Mark Lavorato is a musician, photographer, and professional nomad. His freelance work has been published in over twenty-five magazines including Ascent, Orange Room Review, and Poetry Canada. Mark is also the author of a collection of poetry called Wayworn Wooden Floors (2012), and his first novel, Veracity (2007) is available on his website. Mark currently resides in Montreal, but his wandering habits may soon take him elsewhere.
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