I pulled a tiny black suitcase behind me, the wheels squeaking as I continued down the balcony of my parent’s first floor apartment. They gawked through the living room window as they watched their eldest daughter leave home. I was four and headed for Grandma’s.
I don’t recall this particular memory as I have only seen a photo of that day. What I can say is, this wasn’t the first or last time I ran away from home. As I shuffled into my teenager years, it no longer became funny, but illegal. I was an expert at running; pack everything and go.
My hair was whipping in the wind as we headed over the Seven Mile Bridge, crashing into the tears streaming down my face. A war was going on between my mind and my heart which sent me into a temporary state of insanity. I was crawling in my skin and felt the only way to cure the sensation was to go, to just drive. I was leaving The Florida Keys, headed West.
I recall only one time ever sobbing like a little bitch during a departure. It was October 23, 2012, the day I crunched out of my father’s driveway in The Van. Why did I leave then? I molded The Van into a home, while also tearing down a four and a half year relationship. I was twenty four years old and not a fucking clue on what to do with my life. All I had was a campervan, a broken heart , Ziggy, and $300. What would any normal person do?
That was almost a year and a half ago… Jesus. Where does the time go, honestly? The original plan was to travel around for three months, clear my head, go back to Chicago, and settle down. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I said fuck it. For the first time, I felt purpose in my life. My eyes lay upon a whole new world, a beautiful one. Here I was, laughing and smiling with complete strangers. Taking them in like family, like my own brothers and sisters.
Mom always told me to never talk to strangers. Ma, I think you were wrong on this one.
Something happened down here in the Lower Keys and it took me driving 50 miles away from Big Pine to figure it out. I’m a strong believer in driving to figure out whatever shit you have rattling up in your brain. All problems, I mean ALL problems will be solved behind the wheel. You need to be one with your thoughts, no distraction from the outside world, just the tunneling of the road which lay ahead.
As I inched closer to the mainland, I couldn’t shake the feeling of a force tugging me back. With every mile, the energy became overwhelming. You hippy freak…force….energy? I never believed in any of those things, but after you learn to just let the universe in, these feelings become undeniable. I couldn’t take it anymore. I veered off into a Tom Thumb and threw The Van in park. I told myself I was only going to make a sandwich and figure out the next course of action.
An hour goes by, the sandwich is merely crumbs and I’m sweating my tits off. Why the hell was I still sitting there? My phone breaks the conversation of me and my racing mind. It was my seventy eight year old friend John…..
“Hey, you still around?”
“No, I left this morning.”
“Damn, I was going to ask you to take me to the airport on Friday. I’ll pay ya.”
I’m thinking, are you fucking kidding me right now? He couldn’t have called two hours earlier or told me yesterday when I saw him at the swimming hole? There is no way I am going back..no way….
“John, I’ll do it.”
“ Don’t worry about it hunny, just had an idea of giving you the money rather than the shuttle.”
“No, I want to. I have to pick up my last paycheck from Springer’s on Friday anyways.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to drive all the way back for me.”
“John it’s okay. I wouldn’t do something I didn’t want to do. I’ll take you.”
“Okay, call me Thursday or I’ll see you at the swimming hole.”
I hung up the phone and began crying & laughing at the same time. It wasn’t time to leave..
So why did I attempt to leave The Keys in the first place? This is going to be a bit difficult for me as I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not perfect….Ha! From the moment I arrived down here, the men were on me like a cheap suit and getting me drunk. I was the new chick in town and everyone wanted the piece of the pie. Being on a small island, the whispers about me throughout town was like a bad game of telephone. Having lived in various small towns throughout the Chicago suburbs, it wasn’t the first time I had been a victim of gossip. Talk is cheap and so were the beers.
One of the hardest things one could ever do, is to spend time in solitude. You learn so much about yourself; the good, the bad, and the ugly. What I discovered about myself was how giving I could be, how sensitive I really am, and my weakness for charming men. These traits all crashed together with such force, I felt as if I had detonated a bomb within my core. I was no longer centered, yet vulnerable and alone. Everything I had concealed from the world was now expelled in every direction. My shell had been exposed, exposing me raw.
I peeled out of The Avenues as fast as I could. Hours later, along US 1 I discovered this: You are not running from anyone or anything, you are running from YOU. Gold mine. What seemed to be happening is anytime I let the world in, I am also opening the door for agony. I essentially became a loner as this seemed to be the only way to avoid having to lick my wounds. I’m not saying this is solely what I have been doing for the past year and a half, but I would be lying if I said I was just driving aimlessly through America.
The past few days, I felt as if I was climbing a mountain which didn’t have a top. I was rummaging through every detail of my life attempting to make some type of sense out of it. The Van has been my cocoon in all of this, as I have morphed into a completely different human being. My dilemma now is what does she want? What will make her happy? I have not a fucking clue, but you know what? My feet are exhausted from running and I see a chair just up the road calling my name. I’m going to kick up my feet, let my dogs rest for awhile.