I must have been about seven years old when I tried to run away for the first time. My room had deep pink walls, and was huge, the biggest place I’ve ever lived, and the first time I’d ever lived in not-an-apartment. We shared a house that my step-grandparents owned while they were living/working in Europe. I’m not sure if my baby brother was born yet, but he must have been on the way. I had already started to show the signs of what was later diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Sometimes I would fly into an inconsolable rage or despair. I broke things. A lot of things. Tore all the clothes from my closet and screamed until my face was dotted with cherry sprinkles of broken capillaries.  (understandably) Cut my father’s picture from every photograph I had, refused to go to school.

But this wasn’t one of those days. I don’t remember where I planned to go, or what I planned to do when I got there, I just knew that I had to get away. I’m almost certain that my father had gone missing in action again, and that I had some thought of looking for him.

I pulled the quilt off of my bed (still have that quilt, still sleep beneath it almost every night) and packed up what I thought I’d need: the dingiest and most-loved of my stuffed animals, my journal, probably my watercolor set, knitting box, and jacks inside, bundled it up and dragged it to the stop of the staircase (earlier, probably that same year, I cracked my tailbone after slipping and falling down those stairs).

And then I asked my mother to call me a cab.


Because I’m running away, I explained.

Oh. Okay.

The cab never arrived and I’m sure I had to explain myself to my stepfather later, or maybe Mister Jackson, the creepy white-haired counselor who asked me weird questions about my feelings about my vagina (I hated going to see him, hated talking with him, he made me so uncomfortable and did not seem to help with anything).


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