The Runaway Lives

I am a runaway.

I flee. I ride off into the sunset at three in the afternoon to skip the afternoon rush hour leading to the sunset. I have important things to do at home. There is something on the stove I need to attend to. Did I tell you I was expecting a call? Gee, you know, I’m really worn out.

I am a runaway.

I crave the company of people, and when I am around people I crave solitude. I am constantly running in one direction or another. I am incessantly in pursuit of either end of the see-saw. My life is a carefully balanced tightrope walk. (As are most lives, I’m sure.)

What do I hope to find in “the other place” – whatever other place that is of the place I hold. I tell myself, without the slightest hint of irony, that I will know it when I get there. That is the half-truth that set off the ever-constant seeking of tepid middle grounds.

In fact, on closer examination, I find that this inbetweenedness (sound it out) has perpetuated throughout my life.

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Life #1

Life #1 was my first attempt at adulthood just after college. The boyfriend and I hit the big city, with “Jack and Diane” echoing on the station wagon’s car radio, as I sought stardom and he sought me. We bought a set of dishes and pots and pans at Target and played house. Living the dream.

The end of the dream was met on an uncomfortable, yet stylistic, armchair in the storefront of a men’s fashion boutique. It was there, sitting on an eggplant purple monstrosity, watching the comings and goings of a world that didn’t know, or care, that I existed, that I realized what I didn’t have.

I didn’t have the boyfriend.
I didn’t have the career.
I didn’t have a job I cared about.
I didn’t have a reason to stay.
And one more thing…

…I didn’t have a lease. Although I had a home, the same home the boyfriend and I had played house in, the lease had long ago expired leaving me a month-to-month arrangement.

And just like that, Life #1 ended and I ran away.

What I told myself at the time was that I was leaving for “easy”. I needed things to be easy. Things had long ago grown complicated, hard, frightening and alone and I was ready to chuck it all and sign on for easy. Easy could be found at home. I had been beaten up by the big city and was ready to indulge in a little home-cooked love.

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Life #2

Life #2 started, I remember, on the cool overcast day the moving van delivered my possessions from the cockroach-infested ground floor city cell to the carpeted-patioed-washer-dryer-dishwasher-parking-spaced palace of hometown. With warm loving hugs from Mom, Dad, and Big Brother, I was left alone in much roomier, warmer, softer, easier conditions.

Life #2 was chugging along well enough. I had accidentally fallen into everything I never knew I always wanted. Armed with my camera, an enviable social calendar, and a phone full of suitors, I hit my stride.

Yet, somewhere on the west coast, a place I had never been but always wanted to be, a friend was percolating a nefarious plan an idea. He arranged a job for me at his company on the coast. If I could pay my way to sunny San Diego, he could supply me with a place to stay and a job to get me on my feet. Dorothy’s yellow brick road had finally revealed itself and I was ready to click my ruby red slippers in an instant.

Did The Universe want me to wait a little longer to seek my west coast sunrise? Was I never supposed to seek sandy shores at all? Was I taking an easy way out that I hadn’t earned? Whatever the reason, The Universe tried to stop me from entering Life #3 with a slap upside the head – striking many loved ones with dire illness. As though rebuffed by my eagerness to discard the warmth and comfort it had provided, The Universe was trying to rip away, hurt or damage all of my dearest at once.

And all of my dearest told me to go regardless – as dearest often do.

And so, Life #2 ended in a dark gray PT Cruiser, packed to the brim with everything that wasn’t sold or stored, as I worked my way to my Cali dreams. Behind me lay the fractured ruins of a warm and inviting hearth as I ran away for prettier sights.

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Life #3

The neon glow of a Guitar Center sign welcomed me to Life #3. Although we knew we were close, and drove recklessly fast, we were unable to beat the sun before it disappeared. So, my first impression of Ron Burgundy’s call to fame was the day-glo cherry red, stylized typography of a Guitar Center sign as it beamed across “the 8” welcoming the inlanders.

I felt strangely comforted by the sign. Having never been to, nor having any interest in, a Guitar Center it seemed odd that I would feel emboldened by its presence – yet, I recognized the nationwide chain and told myself “if they have ‘Guitar Centers’ here, they can’t be that bad.” (No, really, that’s what I told myself.)

The provided apartment was at the top of a breakneck hill. When I dropped a box, I watched as a flurry of objects rolled all the way to the bottom. In the middle of the night, after days of driving, Life #3 started on my knees, in the dark, at the bottom of an unknown hill, retrieving my makeup from the gutter.

Life #3 ended with the dying gasp of a little gray kitten, holding his warm body in my arms as my tears christened his head.

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I am a runaway. I keep my bag packed. I know how to pick up and leave. Disappearing into the night is entirely possible given the right measures. I learned how to cook in microwaves, sidestep contracts, live without cable, and try not to let my feet get too comfortable.

I am not, however, a runaway because I enjoy a lack of commitment. On the contrary, I enjoy commitment greatly. I have not, sadly, found a commitment to which to commit. I’ve not found the place that slips around me like a shawl and invites me on a cozy night on the couch. And so, this runaway runs away because she has not found her home.

At least that is what she tells herself – as she runs away.

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