“What did you say?”
I didn’t even bother to take the kettle off, I let it whistle as I repeat myself. He still hasn’t heard, and is miserable at reading lips. To tell him this while making my usual cup of tea, casually, as though I didn’t have this planned for the last ten months, seems fitting. Like there isn’t an alarm that will be going off on my phone in the next hour congratulating me on making the biggest step in my adult life. A step made five years too late, that’s my style for most things. It’s too late for me to cry over the many hours wasted.
My piece is said a third time. He hears me. Immediate protests of all kinds, but he finally comes to the strongest objection he can cook up,
“But..but...you hate the cold.”
A fairly obvious observation. I am tempted to tell him there is no colder place than our shared bedroom, even during this warm and mild October. He tells me this must be some kind of joke. But the transport van will be here any minute, and my bags are already on the front porch. He was so absorbed in the television screen, he hadn’t even noticed when I started dragging them out. We watched that documentary about the people who work in Antarctica exactly one year ago. I’ve been warning him ever since of my new dream, a threat he has been all too happy to dismiss as fluff.
The television is still on. A shootout is occurring on one of those obnoxious programs he is so enamored with. A bunch of men shouting at each other to go to hell while they run through what looks like an old abandoned hospital. Buildings such as that are always in abundance on these shows. They put them in the category of suspense, but I have yet to watch an episode in which there was even a whiff of the element of surprise. Maybe my mother is right, I act too superior.
“I want to do something noble. Something that means something for once. Can’t you understand that?”
No. He can’t. The girl who skipped out on meals on wheels Thanksgiving Day so that she could sit in bed with boxed wine and mashed potatoes. The girl who once found a little envelope on the street outside a restaurant containing cash and a label that said, “Angela’s Tips”, and promptly spent all the money on a new outfit at the outlet next door. That the same girl would suddenly submit herself for six months selflessly to anything, especially something adventurous in nature seems preposterous. He’s right. Getting away to the ends of the earth is not figurative in this case. Aside from an expedition to Mars, I couldn’t rocket myself further from him. And I’ve grown and learned from my mistakes, even if slowly.
Bat in the cave. He gets them so often. I’ve wondered every day of my life whether he feels them, because given how long they remain, it would seem he does not. He slides a clenched fist along his mustache, missing his nose. The little piece of snot just hangs there, begging to be talked about. But I have to go.
“I’ll be back in May.”
He knows that I won’t. Not really, I won’t be coming here again. He hesitates in front of the cupboard, pulls out my favorite mug. The one with the etching of the deranged little brown rabbit on it who looks like he was drawn by some medieval gentleman who had never seen a rabbit in real life. His nose, a pointed snout decorated with a bright red bulb. The tea is steeping, but I have to go. I say it again, the clanking of the metal spoon against the mug obscures me.
“I have to go. I don’t have time.”
He doesn’t look up. The spoon twirls around and against the sides, making that familiar monotonous clang clang sound. I wish he would stop and look at me. I just need one moment of our eyes meeting to feel okay with leaving. He won’t give it to me. He hits the power button on the remote.
“You’re a child.”
This time the words are perfectly clear. No sounds to muffle what he’s said to me. I don’t answer. I just stare. Outside, they are beeping the horn. Its sound is shrill, worse than the kettle. He hates my tea, claims he’s allergic to jasmine. Too bad, there’s enough of it in the cupboard to supply an army of old ladies for the next three years.
No closure, he wouldn’t look at me. But, at least I’m free. On the steps, bags by my sides, I wait for the breeze to blow and the proverbial weight to lift off my shoulders. Strangely, the air feels more stagnant than expected. Oh well, it must not be time yet for feelings of relief. I expect that about ten miles outside of Seattle, just before we reach the airport, I will start to really feel it.
There are only two other people in the van so far besides the driver. They both introduce themselves, but I don’t hear either of them really. I will have to ask them both again. The driver helps me load my bags in the back. I can see Craig watching me from the apartment window. He’s gotten rid of the thing in his nose. He looks sad, but doesn’t dare to come outside. Neither of us wave.
On the road, the radio is loud. An advertisement for condoms is blasting. I ask how many others we will be picking up along the way.
“I’m sorry dear, I can’t hear you.”
The driver does not turn down the radio. So, I turn to the guy sitting next to me, who gives me a blank look and shrugs.
“I guess we are all just a bunch of empty biscuits.”
I am the only one laughing. An inside joke Craig and I made up what feels like a millennia ago. The origin, I’m now unsure of. But it is a common part of our everyday language which I realize now sounds foreign to everybody else. My two back seat companions whisper small talk while I watch the scenery pass and listen to the radio blasting Gloria Gaynor.
The vents are all open, a cold air, the coldest air a human made machine can manufacture is blasted over me. It’s blowing from all angles, but the most annoying one is smacking me directly in the chest. I should have worn a sweater, but outside it felt unneeded. I turn to my companions to ask them if they feel the cold too. They are making out. The driver is softly singing along to the loud music. He futzes with the dials and the force of the air increases even more.
Goosebumps on my arms. To comfort myself, I put my lips together and try to whistle to the familiar tune blasting from the front. A coping method from childhood. But, the cold has me too shaky, I can’t hold my lips steady.