She came in through the bathroom window. The blackbirds outside the house announced her entry, but it didn’t matter, there really was no need because when she came in through the window the window came with her, glass and frame.
Her jacket provided some protection, at least it prevented major shards of glass from severing an artery or doing other serious damage. But it didn’t matter to her, the London Fog jacket she had borrowed from her last boyfriend had sustained mortal injury, grievous wounds made it apparent that it had purchased a one way ticket.
How silly it seemed, the fight that she had with her boyfriend. It was like so many other fights, battled over trivial things. Days later she wondered why his refusal to wear underwear bothered her so. What difference did it make, but it did. Something’s are not logical, nor rational, but they are important to us for reasons that we cannot always understand nor fathom.
The day of the final fight had given no indication that this would be the last day that she would speak with or look at him. One more act of impulsive behavior and one more place she would not be able to go back to, not even if she wanted to. But she never did, once she left she was gone. A traveler in the dark whose most important possessions were those that she always carried on her person.
They had woken up and made love in bed and again in the shower. And for a brief time she had thought that she could ignore the problems that made her shake her head. She acknowledged her role, owned her feelings and admitted to herself that she was impulsive and that if she would let herself forget she could forgive. But she didn’t forget and so she couldn’t forgive.
Her exits were not dramatic or exciting. A simple “I am going out for a walk” in which she left out the part about never returning. As she grabbed her hat and keys he yelled out from the bedroom, “It is cold, take my coat.” And so she had taken the London Fog and ambled out the door.
The steps to the staircase down did not slow her progress as they had in the past. This time they encouraged her. Not withstanding the 30 seconds it took to tie her shoe and adjust the coat her exit from her old life had taken a grand total of six minutes. In all of 180 seconds she had evaluated the prior two years of life and found them lacking and so she continued striding down the hall, accompanied by the strains of Gloria Gaynor singing “I will survive.”
Some people don’t like the clickety-clatter of chaos and confusion caused by the end of a relationship. That had never been a problem for her. When it was done, it was done and she always knew. Some of the men had begged her to reconsider, professed their undying love and offered to change, but by that point it was too late.
It was dead and there was no second coming. She wasn’t like her friends, willing to ignore problems because of a fear of solitude. It wasn’t honest and she was honest, too honest. She knew it, but it wasn’t something that she worried about or focused upon. In her eyes there was a natural cycle for relationships, they began, developed and grew into something that would last a while, but were ephemeral in nature.
And so it was with the last relationship, at least that is what it had appeared to be. But like many things in life, appearances can be deceiving and she had learned that leaving this last guy behind was far more difficult than she could have ever imagined.
Initially she hadn’t thought twice about it. She just walked out and headed towards the bus station. She never shared her finances with her men. She was far too independent for that, insisting that she maintain her own checking account. It was part of how she maintained control and in part responsible for how she kept from getting too close to them. They could only get so far in her head before they reached the end of the line.
Inside her pocket she clutched a small purse. It contained a lipstick, a stick of gum, bank card, checkbook with a balance of $7,237.34 and the first and only credit card she had ever owned.
All of her clothes, books and music had been left behind in the apartment. She liked making a clean start and this was going to be just that, clean. She figured that she had enough money to start over wherever she ended up and just where that would be remained up in the air.
Once she got to the station she would purchase a ticket somewhere and during the ride she would consider her options. She might even go on a vacation, lounge around on a beach somewhere and enjoy herself. She was single and all things were possible.
A billboard advertising the “Simple Life of Country Living” led to one of her famous impulses and so it was she ended upon a mostly empty bus headed down South. Her father had a hunting lodge that he rarely used, it was quiet and comfortable and she knew where the caretaker left the spare key.
Years ago her mother had warned her that if she spent too much time with the guys she would never find the guy. At the time she had blown it off, attributed it to a woman who had never known a man besides her husband. Married at 19, pregnant by 20 and the mother of three children by 24 she couldn’t possibly understand why it was important to experience life and to live a little. So she wrote it off to motherly advice and went about her business.
She had always liked men and they had always liked her. She appreciated all the things that made them different from women, strong masculine hands, rough hewn features, broad backs, thick hair and more. There were so many little things about men that attracted her and so many different men to choose from.
So she set off to prove herself right and her mother wrong. She dated a lot, but was very selective in who she gave herself too. Not everyone made the cut. She wouldn’t talk herself into liking a man strictly to have a boyfriend, she’d rather be alone than settle. Besides, those relationships never worked, they were train wrecks waiting to happen.
Her thoughts were momentarily interrupted by the bright lights inside the bus station. With the exception of a man sleeping on a bench and the woman at the ticket counter it was empty. The fluorescent lights made the faded yellow paint look even more washed out than it was.
The checkerboard laminate floor was raised in places, sticky substances pulled at her shoes. In a different time and place she might have taken that as a sign that she was supposed to stay, but for now it was just gross. She choked back her thoughts of what made the floor so sticky and headed for the ticket counter.
It was 9:30, the next bus didn’t leave until almost midnight. Five hours after departure it would reach Durham. Then it would be a matter of finding transportation out to the lodge.
That gave her seven hours of downtime. Seven hours of being with herself. Some people had trouble being alone, they couldn’t take the silence, couldn’t handle the lack of contact with others. That had never been a problem for her. Her brother had locked her in a closet and left her there in the dark for hours. He thought that he was punishing her. She merely closed her eyes and went to sleep.
The harder part of the trip would be contending with the other passengers. She wasn’t unsocial, but she was not inclined to spend the rest of the night sharing recipes, stories of home or being mauled by some guy who thought that he had found an easy way to pass the time.
For a moment she considered turning around. She could walk back and step right into the life that she had left. It was almost comical to her. He had no idea that she was about to run off into the night, no clue that she had decided that their relationship was dead.
And for a moment she felt badly about it. Men were not real observant. He would not have noticed that they hadn’t had a real conversation for weeks, would not have noticed that she hadn’t initiated any sexual encounters and even if he had, he would certainly not have realized that she was no longer present.
He wasn’t a mind reader, she couldn’t expect him to fix something that he didn’t know was broken. It would be easy to come back like nothing was wrong and to just pick up where she left off, but it wasn’t honest and she couldn’t have that, couldn’t live with herself.
The Girl Who Was
It was hot outside, so very hot. If you were dumb enough to sit outside you could watch the heat radiate off of the highway, could see it shimmering off of the blacktop. An old radio with a broken knob pumped out a live version of Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones.
“Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away”
Yes, Mick could sing. She had never been one to chase after the older men, but he was different. In a past life she and her boyfriend had gone to one of the shows at the old stadium. Mick might have been old enough to be her father, but watching his shirtless body prance and strut around the stage she became intrigued. It was one of her many secrets, Mick was a boyfriend who would never be, but he would still be Mick to her.
It was a week since she had left the old life behind. Seven days ago she had been a committed woman on the verge of being committed. Seven days ago she had been living a different life, been a different person and now she was just starting to learn who she would become.
Her thoughts were interrupted as Mick left the stage to make way for another of her favorite artists. Rod Stewart serenaded her into a daydream about endless youth
“May the good Lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you’d have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you’ll always stay
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young”
She missed the days when she could still believe that she would always be young. Her face and body still belonged to a young woman, but her heart and soul were much older. Too much baggage, too many scars to be the girl who could sit and daydream about the cute boy in her class, to kiss his picture and say that she was Mrs. Goodlookingboy.
Now she was more like Mrs. Robinson than a miss and it hurt. It hurt to be honest with herself, hurt to admit that she had been fooling herself for so long. When had she given up on feeling that crazy “high school love.” When had she decided that it was ok to not really feel anything.
The worst part was acknowledging her betrayal, not of another, but of herself. It is bad enough to lie to others but to lie to yourself is the greatest and most damaging lie of all.
But now she had an opportunity to fix that, to learn from the past and make it right. That was the great message of Hollywood, you can screw up and still make it ok. There were a million examples of it. Politicians, athletes and celebrities are celebrated on camera for admitting their faults and insecurities, lauded for admitting that they share the same human foibles as the rest of us. Everyone can get a second chance.
Hell, even Nixon managed to die as a revered elder statesman and not someone who had been run out of office.
A snort escaped her lips. She couldn’t quite believe the garbage she was spewing out, not that it mattered. She was the only one here. Aside from a couple of trips into town for supplies she had had almost no interaction with anyone else.
It had taken two full days to call home to say that it wasn’t home any longer. She had intentionally waited until the middle of the day, wouldn’t risk the conversation. Not because she was afraid of confrontation, but because she couldn’t think of a nice way to tell someone that she wasn’t in love with him anymore and probably hadn’t been for longer than he would believe.
There really wasn’t any point in hurting him like that. Just a short message to say that she was ok, was sorry that it had taken her so long to call and a request to donate all of her stuff to whatever charity he saw fit. No need to worry about bills or banking and just like that her present became her past, a story to be relived in dreams and journal entries.
And now out here in the sunshine there seemed little reason to look backwards, there was a big world out there and the only question was where to go and what to do. A pained sigh escaped her lips as she realized that she had fallen back into wondering where and what her place in the world should be.
She was comforted in knowing that the grey skies of Ohio were behind her, if she had to start over it might as well be in a place that had nice weather.