For Myron, Blanche, Vic, and Hilma, who farmed the hills of southern Minnesota and cultivated a legacy of hard work, forbearance, laughter, and love. All my stories start with you.
HATTIE / Saturday, March 22, 2008
RUNNING AWAY sucked.
Here I was, standing in the exact place I’d daydreamed about in math class so many times, right in front of the departures board at the Minneapolis airport, and every detail was just like I’d pictured. I was wearing my travel outfit—black leggings, ballet flats, and an oversize cream sweater that swallowed my hands and made my neck look even longer and skinnier than usual. I had my beautiful leather suitcase and enough money in my purse to fly anyplace I’d ever imagined. I could go anywhere. Do anything. So why did I feel so trapped?
I’d snuck out of the house at three o’clock this morning and left a note on the kitchen table that said only, “Back later. Love, Hattie.” Later, of course, meant anytime after now. Ten years later, maybe. I didn’t know. Maybe it would never stop hurting. Maybe I could never get far enough away. The “Love, Hattie” part was pushing it a little. My family wasn’t the kind to leave love notes lying around the house, but even if they suspected something fishy, they were never in a million years going to think I was flying across the country.
I could practically hear Mom’s voice. That’s not like Hattie. For Pete’s sake, she’s got less than two months of school before graduation and she’s playing Lady Macbeth in the school play. I know how excited she’s been about that.
I shoved the imaginary voice aside and read the destinations again, hoping to feel any of the exhilaration I’d thought I would feel when I finally escaped Pine Valley. I’d only been on a plane once before, when we’d visited some relatives in Phoenix. I remembered there were a lot of buttons and lights on my seat and that the bathroom looked like a spaceship. I wanted to order something off the snack cart, but Mom had fruit roll-ups in her purse and that’s all we got to eat except peanuts and I didn’t even get those. Greg knew I didn’t like nuts and took mine. I was mad for the rest of the trip, though, because I was pretty sure I would have liked airplane peanuts. That was eight years ago.
Today was going to be my second flight, to my second life.
And I wouldn’t be standing here, feeling paralyzed and miserable, if there had been a seat open on any of the flights to La Guardia or JFK. That was the problem with impulsively deciding to run away from home the day before Easter. The airport looked like Black Friday and the security lines stretched out to the drop-off curb. The earliest available flight to New York was at 6:00 a.m. on Monday and that was too long to wait. I had to get out of this state today.
I could fly to Chicago, but that seemed too close. Too Midwestern. God, why couldn’t there be a seat to New York? I knew exactly what shuttle to take from either airport, exactly what hostel I would stay at and how much it cost and how to get to the closest subway station. I’d spent hours on the internet memorizing New York City, so long that it felt like I’d already moved there and I’d assumed that’s where I was going when I left the house this morning. Now I was stuck looking at this stupid departure board for some second-choice destination. If I couldn’t go directly to New York, I needed to at least get closer to it. There was a 2:20 to Boston. How far was Boston from New York?
Even though I knew it was dumb, I kept glancing at the doors, watching people pour into the airport with their mountains of luggage and their keys and wallets and tickets all jumbled up in their hands. No one was coming to stop me. No one even knew I was here. And even if they did know, would anyone really care? Except for my parents, nobody in the world loved me enough to bother bursting through those doors, yelling my name, desperate to find me before I was gone.
I tried not to cry as I went to the counter for the Boston flight. A tanned, overly perky lady told me there was one seat in coach left.
“I’ll take it.”
It was $760.00, which was more than I’d spent on anything besides my computer. I handed her my driver’s license and eight crisp one-hundred-dollar bills from the horrible envelope that started all this in the first place. There were two bills left. I stared at them, looking so small and alone in that big white space. I couldn’t put them in my wallet. I’d earned every penny in my wallet and I didn’t want my money to even touch the contents of this envelope. Lost in another wave of depression, I must not have heard what the woman said next.
“Miss?” She was leaning toward me, obviously trying to get my attention.
There was a man with her now and both of them stared at me like that dream where the teacher’s asking you questions and you didn’t even know there was a homework assignment.