I had to get out. That was all I could think. I couldn’t even be bothered to put on shoes before rushing out the door. During that time, meltdowns like this were a common occurrence, whether over a fight with my siblings, or a limit my parents set. I had no experience with the typical “run away” that most people can tell a story of their own about, though.
I started out at a run, emulating a character in one of the books I loved to read. I did things fairly theatrically, because I read a lot and acted in plays, so playing the part of a wild child runaway was right up my alley. Of course I never meant to stay away, only to satisfy my classic middle child thirst for attention by making my entire family sick with worry and ashamed for antagonizing me in the first place.
As night began to fall, I started to regret not bringing shoes or something warmer, but I couldn’t turn back now. In reality, I probably hadn’t been gone for long, but to a fourth grader with adrenaline pumping through her veins, it felt like hours. I deliberately took wrong turns and tried to get myself lost; my old, safe neighborhood grew dull and tiresome. I especially didn’t want to run into any nosy neighbors. Soon I passed a couple I didn’t know walking their dog.
“You alright sweetie? Need any help?” the lady asked. I stopped abruptly, embarrassed and guilty, as if I had been caught doing something I shouldn’t.
“No I’m fine, thanks. My house is right up there.” I said hastily, pointing vaguely. I walked away quickly. As it got darker and darker I started to get uneasy. Why didn’t I ask the couple for directions? In reality I was probably within a mile of my house and having always been granted free range of my neighborhood, I knew I would never face any real danger. My real problem was getting back home. I kept taking more and more turns, thinking I recognized street names, but I only got more and more lost. Then, I saw it: CVS. I had been walking or biking to CVS with my sister for years to pick up candy and snacks, so to me, that fluorescent drug store sign was like an oasis in the desert.
As I quickly made the trek home, the guilt started to set in. I felt sure that my parents had filed a missing persons report by then, and when I walked in the house I would be met with tearful hugs and kisses. This always happened; I would do something I couldn’t take back in the heat of the moment and then regret it once I had cooled down. Why couldn’t I ever control my temper? My cheeks and neck started to burn bright red. I took a deep breath and got ready to face the music, certain that I deserved whatever punishment my parents decided on. I walked through the door and into a dark living room. Hearing the door shut, my mom came downstairs and I braced myself for some sort of reaction.
“Hi sweetie, were you on a walk?”