things get too big for you to handle, when the pains
and pressures of life wear you down, when you're facing
a really tough challenge, maybe the toughest in your
life, what do you do?
don't know about you, but I run away.
was almost finished with high school. Thankfully,
it looked like I would be graduating, although not
with any kind of honors. I had squeaked through the
system, leaving little bits of flesh and hair caught
in the gears, but I was nearly free. The wonder and
glory of adult life lay spread out in front of me
to the horizon, throbbing faintly with the promise
of new hijinx and adventures.
then it broke down.
have been, throughout my life, susceptable to a certain
type of unreasonable, unstoppable panic. I am seized
by a certain impulse, usually to escape, and I follow
it uncontrollably, not knowing where it will lead
me or caring. Three days before the graduation ceremony,
it hit me again. In the grip of an implacable fear,
I packed up my hiking backpack with food, a change
of clothes, a sleeping bag and a waterproof tarp.
My plan was to walk to California, getting there in
time to meet my best friend, who would be attending
UC Santa Cruz. I allowed myself three months to walk
down the coast from Seattle.
wrote letters to the people I cared about at the time,
leaving them and, for some reason, all my CD's on
my friend's porch. Then I hopped on a bus to Tacoma.
mother was out of town; helping out with the Special
Olympics. I left a terse note, something about exploring
America before I died.
plan for the first day was to make it to Olympia,
where I was sure I could find a place to sleep. However,
I took the wrong exit while I was walking on the freeway
and wound up on some backroads to the west. I walked
for hours, through a town called Roy, where I had
just missed the rodeo by a day.
I walked, I fantasized; I could have run away with
the rodeo, changed my life completely. I sang odd,
repetitive songs, as loud as I could sing them. There
was nobody around. A car pulled over to the side of
the road, a station wagon, back seat filled with detritus;
front seat with a mid-30's man and a little girl I
assumed to be his daughter. They looked like they'd
been driving for a long time. I declined a ride.
wound up, nearly 15 miles of walking later, in Yelm.
The sun had long set, and I was falling apart tired.
I laid out my tarp in a secluded corner of a Key Bank
drive-through enclosure, rolled out my sleeping bag
and fell asleep, waking every five minutes at the
flash of headlights from a nearby video store. Clarity
was brought with sleep; the feeling of panic had passed.
All I wanted now was to get home. I woke at 4:00 AM
and turned north.
local bus pulled over by the side of the road, and
I rode it to the freeway, where I walked for hours,
thirteen miles to Olympia, my original target. I found
the Greyhound station with my instinctual homing sense
and paid the $10 ticket.
the end of the day I was back in Seattle again, feet
hideously inflated with blood, smelling like dead
animals, collapsing in tears at my mother's feet.
I had held longstanding crushes on lost all respect
for me for coming back; I had taken the easy way out.