* * *
Greta was my cool friend. There was a giant poster of some kind of sports car in her living room and I saw star trek for the first time at her house. I remember her mother tried to explain “divorce” to me. I didn’t understand – my parents fought all the time but they were still married.
Greta was the first person who told me that the way my father treated me wasn’t right, that it wasn’t okay that he yelled at me, threatened to hit me, told me I was a bad girl when I was just being a kid. She told me I didn’t have to suffer.
After one particularly bad fight I climbed out of my bedroom window, down the wisteria tree and ran to Greta’s house.
I expect I was crying but I don’t remember tears.
She said we should run away. I thought this was a grand idea. We found old broomsticks in her backyard brush pile, then took shirts from the rag bag. I would bring crackers, socks, peanut butter and my teddy bear. She had a map and a bottle of orange juice. Between us we had a few dollars. We agreed to meet at midnight on her front steps. I went home to prepare.
That night my mother made creamed corn for dinner, my favorite, usually reserved for my birthday or when she wanted me to know she was sorry my father and I fought. That she didn’t stand up for me. That I wasn’t a good girl. She wanted me to know she loved me anyway.
After dinner I went to my room. I played. I filled the shirt with stolen crackers, socks, a jar of peanut butter and what money I had in my piggy bank, then I tied the bundle to the end of the broomstick. I would be a hobo if it meant no one would yell at me anymore. I hid my prepared supplies under the bed.
My parents read to me, tucked me in and turned out the light.
I think I fell asleep around 11.
The next day I walked to Greta’s house, ashamed.
She asked me why I didn’t come, she’d been on the steps at midnight, why wasn’t I there? I imagined this little girl, in the quiet pool of the streetlight, waiting. The world was so big at night. I realized I never would have tasted my mother’s creamed corn again and I was glad I hadn’t come.
“I fell asleep.”
“Well, at least you didn’t chicken out.”
We played all day.
I got home before dinner, left my hobo stick under the bed just in case, and stayed up long past bedtime, staring out of my window, listening to the night.
(c)2011 Laura S. Packer