I was pretty much convinced he has another girlfriend. Which didn’t really ever even bother me. I found it amusing; the waiting for the bomb to drop. Pathos was not a requirement there, because the devil was always listening. And I, like a cat in a bag, had nothing to lose…just waiting to do. In my mind I’d already gone to Oregon or somewhere far away and intangible; somewhere I couldn’t really get to but only imagined the satisfaction it would bring by quelling my need for escape.
We stopped on our way out of town, fleeing from our old life, at the Belmont Stakes where together we gambled wantonly, consumed copious amounts of mind altering substances, danced til daybreak and had a grand ol’ time. Me in my fancy hat and he dressed like a Dapper Dan–suspenders, seersucker suit, and all. So why were we running away? We left the dogs and the cat, barely made it out with the clothes that would fit in our raggedy backpacks. And I realized I was following him with blind hope, shreds of ghostly words, empty and hollow on the consummate end, a fable to my disillusioned manic self ever portending stoicism.
Maybe I should just slip away with my despair and count my losses. Evade the inevitable truth, however unwittingly I stumbled upon it. Watching the horses race round the bend gave me a new sense of revival, a seeming urgency to speed away from that moment and cross the country or even oceans alone. Instead of my emotions conspiring against me it was his company that began to draw out my paranoia. That fleeting glimpse of freedom, a vision brought on by the power and majesty of those thunderous thoroughbreds, was just the accidental impetus I needed.
Confidence, my easy-going nature, and humor had ever been my fortes and favored by the men in my life. This particular gentleman had somehow overlooked these traits or perhaps mistaken them and been hoodwinked by some other quality; but either way he took no alarm when I grabbed my knapsack and headed to the bar for another julep. I only looked over my shoulder once to see if his eyes were following me. They weren’t and though I had probably dodged a bullet by finally sliding away on soapy heels I felt a moment of panic and second guessed myself.
In that same moment along came a sign, literally and perhaps from the deities above, “Free Canoe, Looking to Lighten My Load and Perhaps Pick Up Something Better WorthTrading.” That’s when I knew what I had to do. The diamond was somewhere floating around the bottom of my bag in a folded envelope that had seen too many creases. I approached the man in his shitty VW van and asked if he was in a mood to barter. He smiled a bean-toothed grin and said it depended what I had to offer, but the look on his face suggested he had assumed it wasn’t much and might come from between my legs. When I produced the gemstone he laughed at me but a second glance at my resolute and unabashed composure told him I meant business and that I was as serious as the future for a racehorse with a broken leg. He became unsettled and wasn’t satisfied with simply giving me the canoe. He demanded to know where I planned to go and offered to provide me food, water, a tarp, warmer clothes, and a ride to the nearest river.
Four hours later with provisions a plenty and promises to write or call and a brief exchange of his contact information, I was ready to undertake the most ludicrous adventure from a little beach at Rockaway Park outside of Queens. I hopped in and got as comfortable as could be expected and began to paddle. I figured I could manage to stay fairly safe as long as I kept the coastline in sight and slept on land under the canoe at night. I rowed mindlessly wondering if my decision to leave it all behind was a wise one for what seemed like the better part of the day, but the sun appeared to have made up its mind not to set.
I awoke in the dregs of another sweaty confusion after the third night of the same dream. That scream…soul shattering. Had it come from me? I had thought that I would always be simultaneously too old to hook in and hold on or to be bold and break loose from my restraints but I had finally taken it upon myself to move on to greener pastures. I packed up my little camp and pushed out into the ocean once more hoping I was making legitimate progress and that no one was out looking for me. With the wind behind me and the sunrise to my right I moved northward and prayed that the warm ocean currents would be kind and aid my progress. I had nothing to lose and no-one to look back to and that empowered my spirit to float on for as long as I could knowing that wherever I ended up I could start anew without reservation or judgment.