Every kid has their own version of the running away story, and it’s always so cute. The kid, usually lashing out in anger and rebelling in the only way a tiny kid can, ends up not coming home from the bus stop right away or going into the woods for like an hour, and before his parents notice he’s gone he’s back, starving, crying, in need of a bath.
When I was three and we were living in an apartment building in Philly, I somehow escaped. My mother found me trying to push the elevator button so I could go buy some Nip Chee in the deli on the first floor, I had explained. Like, please. I know these people, mom. Buying Nip Chee is my jam. I don’t remember this happening, but I’m pretty sure when it was all said and done, we all laughed heartily, my mom probably called me a tricky little booger and gave me a noogie, and maybe we had a light snack. Hopefully some fucking Nip Chee were involved.
I learned something from the stories in this week’s Loop, though. Some kids are actually serious about running away. Sometimes running away is not a joke. Sometimes kids are like, “fuck this, I’m outta here.”
Fuck It, I’m Outta Here
by Holly Tawney Luce
My family and I spent a few years living in a crime ridden, drug infested neighborhood in Cleveland. Bad for me but great for my mom and step dad. One morning I woke up and went downstairs to make breakfast for my 2 1/2 year old brother as I did every day. After all I was 6, and he was my responsibility. The little brat was especially annoying because he was starving. That was the point where I remember thinking “fuck it, I’m outta here”. My plan was to feed him breakfast and then break free of this shit. As he was eating I thought of things I would need to get me through a couple days. When breakfast was over I went upstairs to look for my clear book bag with the brown and yellow flowers. Soon after I found it, my bag was packed. I went downstairs and put my brother in his room and told him I was going to a friend’s house. There was a small part of me that was afraid for him because it was still early in the morning and the adults of the house wouldn’t be up until at least early afternoon. Fuck it, I’m outta here.
Since we didn’t have a phone, my plan was to find a pay phone and call my grandparents. Whenever my grandparents or an aunt or uncle would take me for a weekend I would attempt to memorize the route from my place to theirs because I always knew I would run away some day. I would remember things like, go right at the first street, go left at 7-11. I made my way about a mile from my house across the main intersection to the only pay phone I could remember. My attention to detail finally paid off. The phone was a bit high for my reach but I managed to bring it down to my level. You didn’t need money back then to make calls from pay phones. I knew you could call collect because my grandparents were always drilling their phone number into my head and told me to call collect if I was in trouble or needed anything. My grandfather answered the phone and was very happy to hear from me. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to see them very often because they were my real father’s parents and seeing my real father posed a serious threat to my step father, I guess. I told Papa to pick me up at the 7-11 and he arrived within minutes. When he asked me how long I could stay, I told him that my mom told me as long as I found a phone to call them, I could stay all summer. You know you have shitty parents when your grandfather comes to pick you up on the corner of a busy intersection and thinks nothing of it.
When we got to my grandparent’s house my grandma made my favorite lunch, a ham sandwich with lettuce. We spent most of the day watching TV and hanging out. After a while I went to the living room. The living room was at the front of the house and since they lived on the second floor, had a nice view of the street, cars, and even anyone who was driving a car. Some time had passed before a Cleveland Police car pulled up in front of the house. They sat in their cruiser for quite a while and then I saw it. They pulled out an 8X10 picture of me! I nearly shit my pants. I knew I was in trouble. I ran into the kitchen and told Papa that the cops were here for me. He immediately shoved me behind a door in the bedroom and answered the front door. I remember hearing muffled conversation and my grandfather telling them I wasn’t there. Before I knew it, papa got me out of the room and asked me to explain what happened. I told the officers that my “parents” were drug users and my step father was abusive. My grandfather begged for them to let me stay until it was all straightened out with my parents but before I knew it I was in the cruiser on my way back to the house that I hated so much. Fuck it, I’m outta here. After stopping for ice cream, we pulled up in front of my house. The officer went to the house to talk to the adults and made them promise him that they wouldn’t hit me or yell at me for what I had done. They must have agreed because within minutes, I was back in the house that I wanted to leave so badly earlier that day.
As an adult, I would have loved to hear my grandfather tell the story from his perspective. He was a hardened World War II vet who ruled with an iron fist. I never saw him scared until that day. I think he was more afraid for me and what I had to go back to. Even though they moved and changed their phone number after a while, it’s still the only number I have memorized, 30 years later.
by Desira Pesta
Growing up an outcast in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I’d often dreamed of running away and being someone else. I ran away often. My family owned a suburban home in our large town and sandwiched between other homes belonging to people we couldn’t stand, I felt trapped.
At school, I traversed the halls with my head down, picking it up only to answer questions in class, to be engaged with my studies and nearly nothing else. I ran away constantly to the minds and bodies of others in works of fiction and non, burying my head in books, sometimes laying out in the sun and finishing a whole novel in one sitting. I also ran away through my own works of fiction, by the time I reached sixth grade, I would complete one nearly full-length novel with characters who were on physical journeys, the journeys I would take with them. I played other people in my spare time as well. Years and years before Twilight and Harry Potter would debut, I hunted and escaped bites from my vampire neighbor who kept a garlic wreath on his door; and used my amulets and amethyst stones to procure magic in my neighbors yard. I was constantly bobbing up and down between fantasy and reality, tying real life into the dreams and fictions I lived out in my head. I sometimes had accomplices in my journeys, a best friend named Michael who was equally in need of escapism. I once ruined a brand new outfit after dunking myself in a pool of mud as I was tried as a witch in Salem and found guilty, my mother ready to punish me as I emerged from my dream.
The beautiful thing about my hippie family was our large property in the woods just a few miles from our home. We planned to build there one day, but until then, we just spent 2-4 days a week in the woods. It was here that I lived out my greatest escapes. I ran blindly through the fields of trees I knew as well as the back of my hand; and took off at lightning speed escaping imaginary captors, wicked warlocks, and sometimes just a life as an orphan. My parents let us roam far and wide in this woods, knowing we knew our way, but once, I went too far. For hours I walked and walked, weaving in and out of paths, following no clear direction and after the sun was lowering in the sky, I knew I was lost. Weaving this reality into my tale du jour, I decided that I would sleep in a burrow I would carve out, eat some of the plentiful teaberries and raspberries I knew the woods grew, and drink from the cool clear creek that undulated and turned through the length of the acreage we had. I was not afraid, I was an experienced warrior in the forests of my ancestors and I would emerge a hero at journey’s end. As the sun was setting, I grew not scared, but despondent, the thought that my parents would freak out broke my excitement and fervor for my adventure. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, or so I thought. Taking up screaming “hello!??” for a while, while walking in what I felt was the direction towards the car, I somehow reunited with my parents and made my way to my home, my fantastic journey thwarted by stoplights and radio banter.
A few months later, during the summertime, my sister, her friend and I set off on an epic adventure, following the creek that ran northward through our property and up to the next. We forged the creek, which sometimes poured down rocks and sometimes merely trickled. We climbed up steep embankments, braving the 90 degree angles using all fours to continue. At one point, the path grew perilous and the steep walls that we would have to cover to continue following were very difficult to cross. As I groped and footed my way across the wall, I started to slip.
Grasping for leaves and roots around me, I found no savior and tumbled into the cold pool of water below. Fully under and splashing, I emerged to hear my sister screaming for my help above, despite the fact that I had already reached the place she was afraid of heading. Her friend grabbed her and helped her to safety further on the bank and I made my way out. Fully drenched from head to toe, my thirteen-year-old self declared that I would get frostbite and I removed my pants. We decided that in efforts to save my life, we should head back. An hour later, we caught site of my father up ahead, chopping wood. Seeing my pants-less legs, he yelled “What’s wrong with you?” Weird people were living in the woods and I would be an easy target for foul play.
I proudly declared that I didn’t want to get frostbite and he brashly replied, “you can’t get frostbite in 50 degrees”.
I hated my town and left for college as soon as I could, but over the years, I have gotten a pain and it’s deepened as time goes by. Since leaving, I have found myself, found “my people” and ideologies and adventures in real life; and as much as I wanted to escape the place I found to be so unbearable as a young person, I come back to it. I miss it. I miss the things that plagued me as a child, that I wanted to replace. Our shabby chic home, I wished was more grand, the tractor I had to drive to cut the grass or the two ton duel wheel pickup truck of my dad’s that I drove to high school when everyone else drove BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexus’. We were different, I was different and it took running away from this place to make me come to a realization that this is just fine, in fact, it is awesome.
Running Away From Yourself
by Tiffany Brown
I can’t recall now what I was running from but I do remember that for me, at five, running away was an activity to be anticipated and I had a whole house of people who’d play along with my pint-sized shenanigans. Living in a high rise on the fifth floor and unable to reach the top lock, actually getting out of the house was out of the question. And the truth is I didn’t actually want to leave, I just wanted to inspire a chase scene, something to break up the monotony of playing with my Jem dolls and watching All My Children. With no real escape route I had to get creative.
There were two destination points: The Yogi Bear tent perpetually pitched on the terrace and under the coffee table. The tent was a triangular affair made of what was probably the same material used for shower curtain liners or disposable table cloths so while it was water resistant it was in no way warm. And since pillows and blankets were not allowed outside it also wasn’t the most comfortable place to sit and reflect or read (seriously even at five I could get pretty pensive). But it was bad ass and the astro turf that carpeted the terrace made the running away process feel more wild. The coffee table was generally a better place, it was in front of the television and if I was quiet I could usually get away with being up after my bed time. Plus it was never off limits (rain or snow meant I had to stay inside) and perfect for spur of the moment adventures. I’m not sure whatever happened to that tent (or the coffee table for that matter) but back in high school, living once again in the same apartment after having lived so many other places, I found myself able to recapture some of that runaway magic with a friend of mine. He had just finished building me a model roller coaster for my final physics project, a wonder at almost two feet tall and assembled into sections. And as we lay side by side on the deep green carpet I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d ever wanted to leave that space. Why at five, with my whole world organized for me, I couldn’t find peace, but at seventeen in a swirl of hormones I suddenly felt sated. Maybe it was nostalgia or carpet dust but in that moment I realized that trying to run away from home when you’re five is like trying to run away from yourself.