I ran away from home when I was 14.
I wish I could say it was one of those 'rite of passage' kid moments where you go to your friends house with a knapsack and hide out in their tree house for a few hours.. parents knowing where you are the whole time and just letting you come home when you've figured things out for yourself. Hm.. not so much.
That's not to say I didn't have that experience.. I did. But that's not what I did when I was 14.
We talked about it for probably a good 2 weeks or so before we pulled it off. My friends and I that is. It seemed the more we talked about it, the bigger the group got. It's a good thing we left when we did, otherwise we might have had the whole 8th grade class go with us. I think our count the night before was 10. At departure, we had 7. 4 girls and 3 boys.
I remember packing my backpack the night before. I stacked my school books on my chair next to my desk and tossed in a change of clothes, some random snacks, a few personal items, and about $80 of allowance/lunch money that I had saved up. I wrote letters to my family - one to my parents and middle brother, and a separate one for my oldest brother. (I'd tell you what they said, but then I'd have to kill you..) Everything was set.
But the next morning, I chickened out. I unloaded all the stuff from my backpack and shoved it under my bed, put back my school books, tossed in half a bagel and a bottle of water, put my money away, and threw away the letters. As I zipped up my bag, I glanced at the clock.. 7:10. The bus would be there any second. I peeked out the window at the bus stop across the street and could hear the sound of the bus coming down my street. Crap. Grabbing my bag and pulling on a jacket over my flannel shirt, I laced up my wanna-be Doc Martens and headed quickly out the door.
The bus pulled into the parking lot at the junior high school at about 7:50. I could see my friends gathered in a corner of the parking lot and I headed their way to inform them that I'd changed my mind.
But I thought about it.. with every step I took on my way over there.. I felt regret sinking in. I wanted to go.. I wanted to go so bad. The only thing stopping me was fear. Fear of what? Well-founded fear of failure. Who wants to be some homeless 14 year old kid wandering the streets? But my friends had a plan.. a plan I didn't entirely understand and wasn't so sure I trusted. But they ensured me they had a plan. It would be fine. By the time I reached them.. I was decidedly.. undecided.
"Are you ready?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I decided last night not to go.. but I'm starting to reconsider again.."
"Well, come with us and you can decide before we leave campus."
We walked across the back field to meet up with Devon. He rode his bike to school with Alika and they'd be arriving in the back of the school. Patty would be walking up that way too. So Baby (I think her real name was Christina), and Megan (my best friend), and Katya, and John, and Danny and I headed off to meet them. I analyzed my clothing as we walked.. I'd dressed pretty well for walking around outside, since it was January.. I could live with the jeans, thermal, Pearl Jam shirt, flannel, boots, and coat.
We found the rest of our crew waiting by the back entrance to the school.
"Shall we head over to Will Rogers and take it from there?"
"Sounds like a plan."
So, off campus we went, to go see the runaways off on their adventure. Megan had her camera with her to take some pictures.. obviously upset at the idea of possibly never seeing us again. She had more sense than I gave her credit for. My parents tended to see her as 'not so bright' at times, but she was certainly far more intelligent at that moment than I was. Here we were telling her 'Don't worry, we'll be fine. We'll see each other again - it'll be great. You'll see.' All while she was pondering the very real risk we were taking and recognizing very clearly the danger we placed ourselves in.
"So are you going? or not?"
"Yeah... Yes. I'll go."
We stood there in a group. Danny, Patty, Devon, Baby, Alika, Missy, and myself.. along with Megan, Katya, and John who'd come to see us off. Megan pulled out a cigarette and Patty lit it for her - there were others smoking, but this was significant to me..
"I didn't know you smoked."
"Well.. I knew you wouldn't approve. Now? It just doesn't seem to matter so much."
I wasn't sure what stung more - the fact that she'd hide it from me, the fact that she'd think I'd be so 'disapproving', or that she no longer cared?
"You said you weren't ready.. will that be a problem?"
"No. I mean, if we could swing by my house, it would be great - I have money - but if we can't, that's ok.."
I felt a lump rising up in me. Anticipation. Excitement. Fear. Elation. I wanted to get away and escape SO bad.. it was finally happening.
I felt like a dog at the pound. I'd watched all these people file past me for so long. Stopping to notice, to say how cute I was, to offer comfort and condolences.. a scratch behind the ears.. 'Oh, the poor thing..' but never opening the door. Never taking me home. Finally, someone had the key and was slipping it into the lock. My heart pounded and the air caught in my throat as I waited for the door to open. I wanted out.. SO BAD.