She was the best friend of Sally’s sister, and I had met her at a birthday
picnic. I was good at picking up girls by then.
What an astounding sight she was to me, in the Hoboken waiting
room. I drew her to me, gave her a long kiss. We were high on the drama
of it. The station was dingy and cavernous, paint peeled from its very
walls, and we were in a great scene in the tale of something important
and we knew it.
She had her car outside, a heavily dented Dodge Dart, and I drove
it—I always drove—and I knew the way too. It was a warm, rainy night.
We hardly spoke (I liked that she wasn’t gabby) except when I said, “I
love this weather,” and she chuckled.
Dale and Betsy, her roommates, were still up and had a little reception for us when we arrived. They had cheap wine, they had a box of
Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies. “Live free or die,” they toasted. Everybody liked my story—right-wing demons spawn normal child—and
my flight had already become a legend they lived with.
It was not the first night I’d spent in Lizzie’s bed, and we were sleepy
and drunk by the time we started in, but we were bold creatures; it was
our night to be bold. “Hey,” she said when we were done, “there’s some-
thing in this, isn’t there?”
The next day I phoned my parents from a pay phone in a drugstore.
My mother said, “Hello,” and I said, “Don’t worry, I’m fine,” and hung
up. Did I really think they could trace the call? How many detective
shows had I seen? When I walked out to the lunch counter and ate a hot
dog with Lizzie, I was still concentrating on my mother’s voice, familiar
all my life and now lost. Love or no love, I had more than loosened the
ties, I had torn them. I had stopped being their son, and later they would
say just that.
I looked like any of my friends (less shaggy maybe), but I lived in
a different stage of life, inside an older person’s fate. I had left home.
Why hadn’t I known how utter this would be? I’d had a little practice,
from running away in brief spurts, but not enough; I could see it wasn’t
enough. Lizzie, who was nobody’s fool, said, “It went okay?”
“Not bad,” I said. “Short.”
We had the day to celebrate, which meant dashing home to go back to
bed. But the next day was Monday, and Lizzie was starting her summer
job at a day camp, tending a band of seven-year-olds. Betsy was filing
records in the admissions office, Dale was taking linguistics in summer
school; I had the place to myself. I smoked what was left of somebody’s