A reader comment from my memoir "A Life Wasted" has caused me to rethink the structure and meaning of my life. The comment was made after she read about my fourth escape, this one from a south Georgia chain gang, where I ran into a dangerous swamp while being shot at. I've lead an interesting life and have many interesting stories as a result, but this particular story was one of the most dangerous adventures of my life. In a 24 hour period I was shot at on three separate occasions and spent all day and half a night in a south Georgia swamp naked except for my underwear. I'm not sure if its an interesting story to read, but it was a memorable event for me.
After reading this story of escape, survival, and near death encounters the reader wanted to know if I made it back to Mary. (Mary is my wife, the woman I have loved for 39 years). My reaction was, "Really! That's what you want to know." My reader didn't care if I heard the bullets buzzing past my head or if I had an infection from the millions of mosquito bites. Not a question about my pain or exhaustion, or even a warm and fuzzy "how did you feel about." No, after pouring out my heart and sharing one of the more challenging moments of my life my readers want to know if I made it back to Mary. My response on Wattpad was a pithy, "I'll give you a spoiler for the rest of my life story--I always make it back to Mary." That was earlier today and I haven't been able to get this exchange out of my mind. After several hours of chewing on this it finally hit me. Of course! It made perfect sense that someone reading my life's story would ask such a question. Since the moment I met her my life has been centered around Mary. Mary's all I talk about. Anyone who even knows me casually understands I am crazy about my wife. It makes sense that this would come through in my writing.
I've lead a hard life. I'm a country boy. I consider myself a man in the classical sense of the word. Nothing soft and fluffy about me. I've never been to a play, or an opera, I don't like musicals and I don't believe man is causing global warming. I don't like cats. I'm not that kind of guy. I'm the kind of guy who makes fun of those kind of guys. So imagine my surprise when I figured out that my life's story is actually a love story. It's a difficult concept for me to accept, but I've had to accept it because it's the truth.
Congratulations Anniemena, in a few words you've managed to threaten my manhood. I mean really, what kind of tough guy loves only one woman his entire life? I'm that guy, no doubt about that. Now that I think this through, I've become an artist. On my bucket list are several art museums. I care about the plight of the spotted owl. I even subscribe to "Woman's Health Magazine." I read it for the health tips, though it is good to know what moisturizers are best. (Just kidding about the moisturizers, they only sell Suave in the prison store, but I have had a subscription to Woman's Health for years).
Anniemena's comment helped me realize I've changed considerably.
My life isn't a classical love story, but it is the story of two people who love each other through intense trials. It's the story of a man who loves a woman totally but is clueless how to show it. It's a story about a woman who loves a man despite his stupidity and mistakes. A woman who holds on to that love even though everyone tells her to leave him. Even the guys mother and brother tell her to leave him, but she hangs on to the dream she believes true. My story is an epic tale of true love. After the shock of learning I was writing a love story I found it pleases me. After all is said and done, what else matters than that we have loved and were loved in returned. I can say with confidence that I have experienced both. I have experienced both ever day of my adult life and always will. In that respect, I am blessed.
I still don't like cats.
You can read more from Clayton's autobiography "A Life Wasted" on Wattpad.