Monday, February 28, 2011
I was in the back seat, beside him, listening to The Black Crowes and gazing out the window onto the bleak landscape. We were going skiing, sort of, if you call skiing in Wisconsin skiing. One of my best friends sat up front. The conversation had dwindled and we rested in the quiet. My mind was whirling, as it tends to on road trips. Without thought I blurted what was on my mind.
What if one day I just want to run away, hop on a plane and escape?
No one really knew how to respond. Maybe they didn't care, maybe such statements were just too misaligned with Midwestern manners to warrant a response. He was less than pleased.
I'd completely forgotten about that day, that ride, but she reminded me of it recently, my friend in the front seat. He's no longer in the picture, but she is. I still see her from time to time, we click right into our former roles and talk as if no time at all has passed. True friendships work this way.
As anticipated, I did escape, but not by plane. It was hurried and by car. He'd gone to 7-11, for what I cannot recall, while I jammed all I could into a suitcase and drove away. I soon found myself in the lobby of a nice generic hotel downtown, checking in under a false name, only leaving my room to visit a nearby Thai restaurant where I felt safe. No one knew where I'd gone. Not this friend I refer to, not even my parents. I needed time alone, to sort things out.
Eventually I moved into an attic above the rooms of two Chinese friends. They were sisters. They introduced me to dim sum. They couldn't bear watching me pay to live in a hotel as if it were an apartment. I was only with them briefly before finding my own space, a quaint little apartment, mostly empty, all mine.
Back then I wanted to erase the last year and a half of my life, but I accept it all now. It's part of who I've become, and I quite like her, usually.
In trying to determine where my dreams of breaking away originated, they've been with me for quite a long time, I returned to a pivotal point I believe to have taken place very close to, if not in, my 10th year. Complete blame rests upon From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Gosh, I loved that book. A brother and sister moving into the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- taking baths in a fountain and dreaming upon antique beds. I couldn't have imagined a more exciting and elaborate way of running away.
Soon after my reading I wrote up a plan to run away and live in a nearby grocery store. Not as glamorous, yet quite practical. The museum was obviously more brilliant, but I didn't want to be a copycat. Unfortunately, I couldn't interest my sister, or my cousins.
While single and living in Chicago, I entertained the idea of leaving Corporate America and running away to Italy. I'd be a a waitress. I'd start a new life. I'd worked as a waitress one summer in college, so I had the experience. It was the perfect plan, collecting my pay in cash, strolling through olive groves, and living quietly beneath the radar.
How about moving to San Francisco with someone I'd only known for six months, leaving my career behind, and going back to school full-time to earn my MFA? Oh, that one really happened.
I've imagined my sister on a train, far far away, watching the sun drenched countryside from her window. She stops in a rural town and begins a new life, happily employed by a small bakery.
And then there is the scenario where my mother accepts a position in an ad I read. She moves to the rolling hills of Olema, CA and lives in an Airstream. Room and board in exchange for caring for the horses, a little gardening, and helping maintain a small property. She's happy. I can see her smiling sun-kissed face.
I've envisioned another good friend of mine in a snippet of an alternate life. It's kind of retro 70s music video style. She's laughing and running through what seems a never ending field of yellow flowers, topless and free, her long hair flowing, the sun shining. It's all happening in slow motion and takes place to the soundtrack of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' American Girl.
American Girl (studio version)
* more poppies and other blooms over at Jane's today *