It was one of her flights that finally let the truth bird out of its silver cage. Vanessa was like a nervous little bird, anyway; she flew off the handle at everything (even when she was small, especially when she was small). Sometimes her flights got her into trouble or lost. Sometimes it served as a catalyst. Sometimes it made a point. Sometimes she was Norma Rae with her Union sign. Sometimes she was Norma Jean, crying her mascara off and trembling.
This flight, as a stand-alone event, and as an thread in the quilt entitled, “The Great Scheme of Things”, was beneficial. It was hard, though. It took a lot of getting up and then sitting right back down again. It took a lot of Vanessa sitting in the storage room behind her family’s carport, sweating in the dust (and dust settling on her sweat), waiting for her mother to come home. Her mother got home from work early, around four o ‘ clock*, but Vanessa still had to wait, perched on a metal stool with nothing to look at but her school books and her father’s extensive, though barely used, tool collection. Vanessa read all of her required reading for that week and then decided to read ahead in her book, which made her remember a teacher in fourth grade who yelled at her for reading ahead, who clucked at those who raised their hands too much so some of the ones who were initially fast and excited to learn had tucked just a little bit more inside themselves. She remembered that teacher, but she also remembered that she wasn’t in fourth grade anymore, and that the teacher’s power over her and her mind was forever gone. Like a dragon without fire-breath. Like a de-fanged vampire.
But why did Vanessa run away and hide so much? When she was small she did it for fun. Adrenaline moves super fast through tiny bodies, and it completely takes over any fledgling sense of caution. So at three, four, and five she ran away and hid for fun. It was thrilling.
When she was six, seven, eight it was more about attention. She was losing her baby-cute. She had to wear glasses. She was (according to jerk-faces on her bus) a nerd. Recently she had heard someone call her a “lez”, and she didn’t know what that was. Maybe it had something to do with having glasses and raising her hand in class.
When she was nine, ten, and eleven (and eleven was her age at this moment), she flew around gangling and pouting. It wasn’t cute anymore. In her soon to be hormone ravaged mind, she wouldn’t be anything more than what she was now; oily faced, skinny, gap-toothed. She liked to run fast, though; she was really good at track. Jumping. Running. Sprinting. Her father wanted her to wear sports glasses, the ones with the safety strap, for when she ran in meets. She thought she looked like someone in Special Ed when she wore them. Then she felt bad for thinking badly about the Special Ed kids (she was really sensitive), and then she felt bad for herself, and so she didn’t wear them at all. Her own (unstrapped) glasses ran down her nose as she ran, and her speed decreased since she had to keep pushing them back up her face. Her father didn’t like that. She didn’t like it either, but it was better than those strappy glasses. She ran from situations that made her sad, uncomfortable, embarrassed, nervous, ashamed, blamed, angry. She ran a lot. She was eleven.
This time, the time she ran to the shed off of the carport, this time she ran it was because she wanted it to be the last time she had to hear what was happening in her house before her mother came home. So she ran. She ran fast from the hall to the steps to the living room to the front door to the carport to the shed. She thought if she ran super fast and hid until her mother got home, she could finally make it stop. All at once. Not like a movie ending, with credits rolling for twenty minutes and music playing and little surprise bits while the names rolled down the black screen. All at once. Like a door slamming. Like a door slamming and the house that held the door crumbling to ash. Like a door slamming and the house that held the door crumbling to ash and the ash floating up to space to make a new star that was very far away from where the house stood. That far. That hard. That final.
*This was back when a lot of companies didn’t mind if people had actual families to attend to, back when the company was not your family, your actual family was. And you weren’t made to feel guilty for getting all of your work done at an early hour so you could cook real food for your real life family, instead of being time-crunch-exhaustion pushed into picking up take out just so you could spend an hour talking to your actual family instead of chopping vegetables or something.