As I drive my Captur out of town, the landscape changes quickly. There is more green than steel-gray right after the outskirts, even though most of it is still pale and parched from the cold winter. It’s not exactly nice and warming a sight, but it gets me to take a breath, a deep one.
It would probably help me loosen up, if I weren’t so damn focused on putting as many miles as I could between me and my office, my apartment, my life. In all honesty, I just deeply wish I could leave myself behind, but I am not quite sure how one’s supposed to do that. So I’m grudgingly carrying myself with me, and focusing on driving, my foot stomping on the gas pedal as the car roars and overtakes another couple. Maybe three.
They’re clearly not as committed to getting the hell out of there, or they would get a move on already.
My phone rings. The blasted thing. One time I forget the silent mode and it comes back to bite me in the ass. I keep one hand on the wheel and quickly retrieve it with my right (it’s a good thing I dropped it on the seat next to me, along with a jacket and my backpack. A quick look at the screen tells me all I need to know.
It’s her. Unfortunate how good her timing is: sometimes it’s just like she can sense that something is wrong. Well, nothing’s wrong. I’m good – great actually – I’m beating my record speed on the almost empty road and letting my lungs fill with the sweet sensation that everything is being left behind. I am running away.
Three minutes later my smartphone is ringing again, and I am getting impatient. My heart is flickering in my chest, like a caged bird that seeks freedom. There is no way for that bird to flee unless someone lets it out. Is that what is happening to me? Am I just flying around in a cage, as fast as I can?
My head spins, hot flashes shoot through my body and I groan out loud. Panic. I know the physical effects of it by heart – which is good. They can never develop in a full blown attack. Recognition is my best defense.
I slow down just a bit as I kindly ask Siri to call her back. I am almost as gentle to Siri as I would be to a real human being. But then again, I apologize to trash cans when I bump into them on the street.
“El? Finally, I was getting worried. Are you still in the office? It’s really late.”
Her voice echoes in the car as I keep my eyes on the road with a purpose, almost as if she is right there staring at me and I fear meeting the look I know so well.
“Oh, yeah?” I answer casually, my fingers tightening around the wheel. “It’s so hard to tell since the days are getting longer. I still need to get used to the sky not being dark at this time.”
My tone is even, unreadable, but it’s a non-answer, and we both know that. As I know what’s coming next.
“Baby, what is wrong? Where are you? Is that a car engine I hear? Wh-why would you be in a car, when you work 10 minutes from here on foot?”
Her voice is holding back a note of worry that I still sense. She’s trying hard not to jump to conclusions, something I always complain she does, yet this time she would probably be right and I would be proven a fool. The irony.
I hesitate, my lips pursing. It’s not as complicated a choice, it’s just a crossroad: either I go right, and tell her the truth, or I go left, and I lie. I can go ahead until I’m far enough that it would take her days to find me, in the best hypothesis. I wonder if she would still search for me, days after I’m gone. Maybe she would. Maybe she’d think I don’t want her around, give up on me. I would be alone with my thoughts, my silence and my gas bills.
Is that what I want? To be alone with myself? Come to think of it, I can’t remember a time when I was alone and could enjoy the silence. My head is never as quiet as I’d like, never been able to shut the fuck up. A bird in a cage.
“I am running away.”
I repeat the words calmly, and accept the silence from the other side. There, now it’s quiet. It’s all quiet. Like the heart of the storm, or those few seconds when it passes. Quiet like the minute before the clock chimes midnight.
I completely neglect the firm whisper – or perhaps I don’t, for my foot stomps on the gas (some part of my brain clearly listened and reacted).
“Baby girl. Pull over.”
I’m breathing hard now, sniffling and obstinately holding back my tears. This is stupid. This is as completely dumb as it always is. As dumb as it is that I still try.
A bird in a cage. I can’t run from my feelings, my fears, my mind. I can only run from responsibilities, and fill my bags with guilt.
The Captur slows down and I grin wrily. I really almost laugh out loud, bitterly, wondering if I didn’t choose that car on purpose. Some part of me again. There are slices of me that are unaccessible to the rational side – more like puddles, maybe. Or pits. Deep inside.
“I’m parking.” I explain blankly. When the car rests on the side of the road, quiet, I feel like I’m physically aching. It’s hard to explain, the physical ache that comes from emotions.
“Send me your position.”
I retrieve my phone again and I do as I’m told, biting hard on my bottom lip. I look out the window. Now other drivers are overtaking me without giving me the slightest look. Like I’m a piece of furniture in the highway. I blend in with the guardrail.
“Stay right where you are, do you hear me?”
I don’t answer, busy frowning at the black Jeep that just roared past me.
The words catch my attention. It’s rare for me to hear them. She probably knows that as well.
“Yeah.” I murmur, laying my head against the headrest.
She gives me a little cough-cough.
“Yes, ma’am, I know. I will not move an inch.” I have nowhere to go anyway. There is no way to run.
“Good. I’m getting in the car right now.”
“Thank you.” Is the last thing I say before I hang up. My eyes are stinging and I don’t want to cry. And I can’t pull myself together if she’s on the phone. And I want to be ready for when she gets here. I want to be the tough, little, brave bird that keeps flying in the cage, as if not bothered by the truth. After all, the world is full of little brave birds.
I shiver, and curl up on the seat making myself as small as I can, looking out at the dying sun.