-suggestion of domestic violence-
Her last, fervent wish was to land on the bed of roses and crush them all. As she soared in the air, her hat floating above the seat next to her, she looked down and saw the gorgeous roses next to the roundabout, reds and yellows, blues, purples and whites, no dead heads, no weeds and she loathed them with all her heart.
A memory was launched as well, of a similar roundabout, 10 years ago and a choice to be made: take the third exit and turn off into a chance for adventure, or the fourth exit to the comfortable and safe, Bill.
Bill of long arms, a soft caring face, and a limited view of life which centered only on himself. She thought she had decided, until the roundabout. She drove around and around the traffic circle. A life of new experiences, against security and stability. A man who said he loved her and her parents' wishes stacked against leaving everything she knew to travel to another part of the country. She looked at the airport turnoff with the ticket in her purse, unable to act: her bags packed, her body racked with fear of the unknown.
After the third circuit she gave in and passed the turn for the airport and went to meet Bill at the restaurant. She could go next year, she thought then. But choices are their own living things, growing and thickening so other options languish and fade. When Bill had the bouquet of roses and got down on one knee, she did not know how to say no. Regret, she learned, smells sweet and feels like the velvet petals of a Red France rose.
No dead heads on the roses, no weeds, everything in the front yard had to be perfect, Bill was adamant about that. Bill had an image of the perfect house, perfect family which she had to live up to, or else. After the first rosebush died, a finicky Blue Dragon, she found large hats and sunglasses blocked the sun and distracted from the bruises. Bill apologized afterward of course, ‘it will never happen again’, he said. But it did, again and again. Eventually, while the roses thrived, her connections to her parents, her sister, her few friends slowly withered, as all living things do when deprived of attention. Bill’s needs came first, and the house, and the roses.
She thought the child would make things better, but it didn't. Nor did the second, or third. They just made Bill want to stay away, avoid the chaos and diapers and runny noses, because those things weren't perfect. She understood. She dreamed of getting on an airplane, soaring away from the constant need. Her days blended together, the small mouths, greedy for food, for love, for attention. She didn't have enough for them and the roses. Something had to give, and Bill only paid attention to the roses. The days faded from the sunlit and colorful mornings in the garden into the gray afternoons, brightened slightly by the vodka tonics.
She needed to escape the drudgery of the neighbors prying questions and crushed aspirations, to take flight to escape. She planned a trip, a vacation to a tropical island for the family, to see the animals, the lush and vibrant plants, a way to catch her dream. When Bill decided against it, spent the vacation money on the sports car, something inside of her was severed, a vine reaching toward the light, pruned back. She spent that day in the roses. Her own gift, the new dishwasher, went unused for a long time.
Fear won that day when she took the fourth exit instead of the third, and fear has gripped her every day since. Scared to leave, scared to speak up, scared to live. She could have gone to University, stepped out of her small plot of land to establish roots somewhere else. Her Father told her she wasn’t smart enough. Her Mother told her she should lose a few pounds, stop wearing glasses, then maybe she could find a man. She doesn't need glasses to see where that got her. She had struggled to get accepted into the University, working the angles to get a scholarship. If she took the third exit who would she have met, what would she have learned? But she missed that turn.
It was so easy, the purchase of the plane ticket to Hawaii, and signing up for the tropical tours. A dream coming true. She couldn’t tell Bill, not after last time. This time just her, and she will achieve her lifetime wish of taking flight and seeing another part of the world. Fear almost stopped her again just this morning, she could not step out of the door. A lifetime of following the rules, then 10 years of being Bill’s wife made it hard to be independent. But after a fortifying glass of vodka, she found her best hat and with the clock ticking down, she left.
Being late, she took the red car. Bill barely let her sit in it, let alone drive it, but today she needed speed, and took off for the airport, racing against all the bad decisions, all the safe choices she has made in her life. She pressed down on the accelerator and the small car jumped quickly at her command, so different from the minivan. The wheels hugged the street, answering her every command with a smooth and tight response. Nothing had responded to her like this, she was in control. She felt the power pulling her, driving her forward to her destiny.
She did not forget about her responsibilities, she made a plan. She left a written schedule of the watering and weeding, their special fertilizer mix. For the children a week's worth of frozen dinners. A twinge of guilt pricked at her heart, however she tightened her hands on the steering wheel until it passed. Bill can handle this right? She laughed at the thought of him pruning the roses, feeding the children, or cleaning up. He can use her dishwasher! She laughed out loud. She took both hands off the wheel to wipe tears from her eyes and-
Screech!! She grabbed the wheel to jerk the car left and then back onto the road, just missing the bicyclist. Giddy with her escape, she knew nothing could stop her, she felt loose and free. She is making the right choice, toward adventure and new experiences. She will take the correct turn this time and it will change everything. The roundabout was coming up, she would take the third exit, to the airport and her freedom!
Far down the expressway the signs for the airport and her flight show the way, just through the roundabout. The traffic is light this morning, with the windows down she feels the wind rushing in her hair. She enters the roundabout, fast and sees the third exit. She pulls hard on the steering wheel into the turn, it is getting tighter and tighter, the colors outside rushing by in a blur, she has never felt so alive. As the tires slip her thoughts are on what it will be like to be in an airplane, she imagines red velvet seats, dining tables and desk lamps, a tall young waiter in a black tie bringing her a vodka tonic. Then the arrival in Hawaii, and the blue ocean, the vibrant greens. She hopes there are no roses.
This little car, her escape pod from her life, slides, un-tethered, tires losing the road. Focused on the exit, the yellow-striped cement traffic barrier does not register in her consciousness. Re-affirming her decision, she presses her foot on the accelerator, then the banked traffic barrier catches the wheels just so, launching the small red car and she is finally, after all this time, flying.