travelogue of a runaway
|I remember New Year's Day 2013 as clear as the slash of pink marking the horizon of Ireland's east coast that morning. I was grateful for the view and for the blanket I'd thrifted in a November tourist-free seaside town and embellished with a bit of embroidery myself. In this moment, they were all I needed in the new year.
The world was working its way to seven and a quarter billion, and I believe most American adults had secretly hoped through all of 2012 that it really was ending in December. But it wasn't long-gone Mayans that pushed this girl to run head-long into the world, it was the promise of life lived more interestingly than weekly sitcoms on ABC, which my college educated parents still clung to in droning reruns. And ever since Facebook, they rarely read anything but email notifications. Yet I craved escape that mirrored the longing of Thoreau, and was also spurred on by a Nineteenth century humorist.
My senior year in high school English Literature I read Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad. Instead of turning in the paper on it, meant to assure me an A grade that term, I was inspired to blow off the academic's path laid out for my near future. My parents only wanted the break of me away at college, not really the promise that an English degree would provide for my future. I escalated their unspoken wish by running away as soon as it was possible. It was just sad that I never had the guts to do it when they still saw me as a child. One week after my eighteenth birthday, and during Spring Break, I cracked 2K out of one of the short-term CDs from my college savings portfolio and made passage to Europe. I ignored any intuition that it couldn't be done for that amount, and so I did it. That's how the universe really works, we usually just stay too ignorant to notice.
I was happier on the cobblestone crossing of that next nine months than I had ever been in American suburbia. That included the first third of my "world tour" when I spent and eventually earned some, but not enough, replacement money. I endured two months of straight out homelessness after my applications for Summer internships in London didn't come through as expected. I lost a ton of weight and a sliver of arrogance, but some of the final prep for the London Summer Olympics spared me having to call home for rescue. My Yankee accent ingeniously became a commodity for those weeks leading up to the huge influx of world spectators. I didn't have a clue that my grandmother and her neighbor had been planning a trip to Europe over the past four years.
There was no freaking out my grandmother, apparently. I guess she and I were more alike than I'd ever known. It was a very calm interaction in a public plaza near worker housing. When she recognized me, she just began grilling me.
I recall it only got heated once I let some of my motivating details out that I'd normally keep private from someone like my Nana. I must have had a sudden onset of homesick like some twelve year-old.
"After the closing ceremonies, there's some more work I can get before University begins, I have my student visa and passport. I'll take the train to go north into Ireland, and I can hide out in the housing George gets with a student stipend there. I'll be like Hemingway in Paris, except without the competition."
"Known him for the last seven weeks, we're lovers."
I don't specifically care to repeat what Nana interjected at that point. She didn't make it personal to her, but there was much she must have been carrying around on behalf of my mother. My mother apparently was suffering like Job, according to my grandmother.
"Well, Nana, if I recall, 'Other sons and daughters were given to him'...but, too bad about them first born ones, huh?"
My Grandmother's neighbor was very polite and unobtrusive up until that point. But the tickets they had were expensive, and they were pushing the time to get through security, so abruptly they left.
It was on that New Year's day I had no one conscious at my side. But it didn't matter. What I did have, besides the rising sun, and my own blanket around my shoulders, was the line of my first European-inspired poem:
The spirit of my lover always sleeps on the sofa.