Monday, February 11, 2008


When I was a kid, my parents didn’t really get along. There was a lot of shouting in my house, much of it punctuated by swearing on my dad’s part. I don’t know why they fought all the time. If you’d asked me then, I probably would have said they didn’t like each other. Quite frankly, that’s really the only thing that makes sense to me even now, but I’m sure there were other factors: not enough money, my mom asserting her independence, my father still recovering from years of alcoholism.

I hated listening to them screaming in the kitchen – always in the kitchen, it seemed, making it somewhat remarkable that I have such a fondness for food today. Either they were arguing over dinner or after dinner or while my mom was making dinner…it made my stomach hurt.

I read a lot, and even though I never needed an excuse to read, the best part of my books was that they transported me someplace else, someplace where my parents weren’t there saying stuff about each other that I really didn’t want to hear. Thanks to their loud, prolonged fights, I have the ability to daydream like nobody’s business – I can absolutely tune out everything around me and float away into my own mind like a butterfly. This is a valuable skill that they gave me, along with: How to wield words like knives. How to make someone hate you. How to make someone feel sick because they love you even though they hate you.

In my room, I had very large closet with sliding doors. There were drawers beneath it, so the floor of the closet was elevated. Inside, on either side of the doors, there was a section like a hollow pillar. These two hollow sections were perfect hiding spots for the types of things little girls hide, notes passed in class, shoplifted lipsticks, cassettes of forbidden music, a journal. In addition, in the hiding spot on the side of the closet that housed the clothes I'd outgrown (the more secret side, I thought), I kept a little bookbag for when I would need to run away. I figured sooner or later I'd have to leave home; I wouldn't be able to take it anymore. I doubted my parents would even notice.

I don't recall everything I kept in that bag. I know I had a change of clothes, snacks for me and some dry food for my dog, who would obviously need to come with me, and probably a book or two and a few dollars from my allowance. I used to check anxiously on the bag every week or so, hoping my parents hadn’t found it and that the food I’d placed in it hadn’t gone bad.

But then a weird thing happened: my parents started to fight less. Just like I don't know the reasons why they fought, I don’t know why they stopped. Maybe they figured they'd inflicted all the psychological trauma I could afford to fix in therapy over the course of my lifetime and decided to give me a break. Maybe they were tired of arguing. Maybe it just didn't seem worth it anymore. Whatever it was, it made me a bit more relaxed. Eventually, I took the bookbag out of my closet and put the things inside of it away. I guess I decided to stay…at least for a while.

When I moved to California, I really did run away from home at last, but in the most professional way a kid could, with a scholarship and a permission slip and everything. I was sixteen and when I got here, I felt like I finally let go of a breath I’d been holding my whole life.

Which makes it a little odd to me to realize that despite my escape, I still live my interior life like I think I'll need to run away sometime. I always think that pretty soon I’ll need to leave, that the people I love aren't really to be trusted, that nobody would even notice I was gone.

Man, that's no fucking way to live.

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