Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let her loose

There have been numerous opportunities to escape this madness. My friend A and I were driving on the NY state thruway, up into the Adirondacks, and we saw the sign for the Montreal exit. She slowed down. I started breathing funny.

"God, just do it," I said.
"Montreal?" The car was crawling in the right lane.
I paused, lit a cigarette, exhaled and sighed a long, sad sigh.
"Nah. Wouldn't be far enough."
"So true."

I'm not sure what I meant. "It wouldn't be far enough." Certainly, at some point, family members would come looking for me. My cell phone would heat up with texts and calls and frantic voicemails--Where are you? Are you OK? Do you want me to send your father? Nichole, this is your mother, get your ass back here right now...I would have to ditch the phone in a motel toilet. Then keep driving.

But how far would "far enough" really be? How far would I have to run to drown out the cacophony of responsibility and obligation? Because it's not the external sound of loved ones and friends that cuts through the desperate desire to just keep driving into the sunset.

It's the piercing scream inside. The one that would go on forever if I (we) left it all behind, took up a new self, and never looked back into the wake of what I had created.

"I could fake my own death..."

"Nah, your Ma would find you."

I had a classmate back in grammar school. We were all totally jealous of her...or "totes jelly" as my daughter would say, which continues to drive me nuts. That and "whatevs" and "adorbs."

Totally fucking nuts.

Our envy, turns out, was unwarranted. Her beauty, her great perm, her amazingly expensive collection of high-top Reeboks couldn't fill the void that her mother left when she jetted off to Hollywood, leaving my classmate and her little brother floating aimlessly in a state of motherlessness.

It's one thing to be fatherless...I mean, 35% of children in this country (actually, most likely the number is higher) are being raised by single mothers. This is not to say that not having a dad around is cool. Cause it isn't. Good dads are solid and fun,  average dads at least make you feel safe and not listless.

But no mom. Who is tethering you to the earth? Who is making sure that your soccer uniform is clean for the third day in a row and that your pants aren't too high at the ankle and that you hold the door for elderly people and that you drink a full glass of water upon waking up and that you take your Vitamin D every day, twice a day in winter 'cause you're white and black? Who?

I always felt empathy for my friend. With her mom choosing to be so far away. I talked about it with my mother once, while she was fixing yet another shirt that I'd ripped.

"Those poor kids. They'll never forgive her."

But as I close in on 40, and my daughter rages alternately between tenderness and narcissism and my son fights me on every shower and homework assignment and my job prospects as a writer are limited and I can't get Ethiopian food or crawdads...running away seems to have its merits.

I look at that mother from years past, fleeing to that greener pasture, and how can I judge her? I mean, I can, but it wouldn't be an honest judgment. Who doesn't seek adventure? A new lease on life? Maya Angelou left her young son back in the states while she toured as a dancer for "Porgy and Bess." All through Europe, gone and gone. She had a blast. Took lovers of all nationalities, saw the world, drank good wine, hit the beaches in Greece. And not once did she seem to regret the decision. She made a good living. She supported her son while he lived with her mother.

The other day, I made an off-hand remark about going to Italy for a few months on a writer's retreat. I was daydreaming in front of my mother. She didn't look outwardly horrified but...

"Oh god, you couldn't leave the continent. You'd be too anxious about the kids. You'd never be able to relax. And forget taking a lover."

I nodded. Yet I could smell the Mediterranean as the bus pulled up and ejected my two ragged children from its squeaky bowels. I imagined myself there, alone, writing, hitting the beach, smoking, drinking good coffee and wine, wandering through vineyards...blissfully alone.

"Ma, what's for dinner?"
"What are we doing tonight?"
"I need new ear buds."
"Can we go to Olympia?"

"C'est va, guys. My day was good. Thanks for asking."

I'm in too deep. I know what I'd miss while sunning myself on volcanic rock. I would miss my daughter's first goal ever in soccer. I would miss the look on my son's tuba solo (yeah, they actually have tuba solos). I would miss my nephew's first varsity football game. I would miss random Instagram messages from my niece where she has a dog nose and a flower crown. I'd miss watching my papa get tipsy on egg nog at the Reveillon.

I'd be lying if I said the urge has gone away. It never does. Sometimes at night  I count the years until my son graduates from high school. And I think of ways to fill those years with travel to obscure towns and islands and experiences and people...until I can finally disappear into the nighttime throng on Frenchman Street or some remote beach in Sardinia--pen, paper, bikini, thick-haired Adonis with a Ducati...


"Yeah, papi?"

"Can I live with you until I'm at least 25?"

1 comment:

  1. I would have continued straight on to Montreal if I had the chance, also, Nichole. You just have to keep at it until you reach your goal or destination. It was my birthday this week and your post made me smile and think. Keep up the good work.

    Jon Swartz