(Memoir Excerpt #1)
So, this is where my story actually began. The day I ran away from home. I was 17 years old, in my last year of high school, when I ran away from home and ended up traveling around the world for five years. I’ve been trying to understand why I ran away, why I left the way I did, where I thought I was going and where I actually ended up. I’ve been writing a memoir, using my old journals as a guide. I journaled almost everyday of my travels. I’m working to make sense of it all.
This is how the journey began…
It was the first week back in my last year of high school. I walked through the hallways with a secret deep inside. Adventure was seeping through my pores. I didn’t say a word about my plans to anyone. I couldn’t risk being stopped. I spent the days slowly plotting my getaway. Each morning when I left for school, I put a few more things in the trunk of my ‘81 Buick Regal. It was an old but good solid car that I had bought from my grandmother the year before on my 16th birthday. I had it painted black and had to sit on a pillow because the drivers seat was so bent out of shape. It had a cassette player, a dirty ashtray and thumbtacks holding up the sagging beige roof liner inside.
Every night that week I worked on my getaway to-do list- I deleted my friends phone numbers from the speed dial on my bedroom phone, I stocked up on asthma puffers, I cleaned my room of anything relevant and erased any evidence of my life.
By the end of the week I was rearing to go. I hadn’t set an actual day to leave but when I woke up I just knew, today was the day.
I called Chuck. “I want to leave today.”
He didn’t want to go, he had things he was waiting for, he had a life he was working on but he simply said, “Okay”.
I waited for my mom to leave for work. I had a long talk with my cat and explained why I had to go. I cried as I kissed her. I put on my favorite outfit for this momentous occasion, a dark blue corduroy button down mini dress and brown leather lace-up booties. I made my bed, organized my room and took a last sweep around for any remaining items I cared about. I took my grandmothers pearls that she had given me at my grade 8 graduation, I packed a photo of me and David, my best friend since third grade, and I grabbed the fresh clean journal I was ready to start my life in. As my heart beat quickly, I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. I sat down at the table and pulled out my felt tip pen,
“By the time you get this I will be long gone. Don’t worry about me…”
I wrote two letters. I left one folded on the fridge for my mother. The other I dropped off in David’s mailbox. He would get it when he got home from school.
I ran out the door and hopped into my old car. I turned on the radio, rolled down the windows and pulled out my Dumarier extra light regulars and lit one while I was still in the driveway. I starred at the front door of the pink brick townhouse my father had forced us into. I glanced at the flower bed out front, that had never seen flowers, the side yard that was used as a bathroom for the neighborhood dogs, and the blank billboard next to the highway that my brothers friends had once graffitied. I won’t miss this place.
Instead of heading to English class, today I was heading 2600 miles away. I was heading west. As I whizzed out onto the road, my bleach blond scrappy haircut blew in my eyes. I felt empowered. In charge of my own destiny. Free.
I turned up Alanis Morissette on the radio.
When I swung around the corner and into Chuck’s driveway to pick him up, I felt my brakes give. I had noticed them squeaking and chugging for a few weeks now. Shit, I’d have to have my car quickly serviced before we left, I thought. I honked outside Chuck’s house. He strolled out in tearaways and a tight black v-neck t-shirt, showing off his protruding chest and arm muscles. He carried a warn-in blue backpack and threw it in the backseat. He sure knew how to pack light. He’d hitchhiked many times before- across the United States and Canada. His younger brother, with long curly light brown hair and a cowboy’s strut, moseyed down the driveway with a half-smirk on his face, “Have a great time guys” and handed us a bottle of white wine.
We spent the rest of the day sitting in the parking lot of Canadian Tire getting the brakes on my car replaced. The day before, I had withdrawn every last penny from my savings account, which added up to just under $700. The brakes would cost $550. At the time I didn’t see this as a sign, just an obstacle.
“Maybe we should leave in the morning?” Chuck said as we sat on the curb on the road waiting for them to bring the car out.
“No, I’m leaving now.”
By the time my car was ready and we finally got on the highway, everyone was home from work or school finding my notes, and we hadn’t even left the city yet…