The First Time I Ran
I write now about my family property in Perris, CA. The darkness at night is only mildly mitigated by the lights of neighboring properties. It is alive with sound, dogs, the crowing of an insomniac rooster, crickets, the hoot of an owl, the lowing of a steer, the engines of a jet. People who have never lived in the country imagine a quiet and serene place, but nothing could be further from reality. The stars are bright, much brighter than in the city, and they light the landscape eerily, stark, black sillouettes of trees cast wild shadows as if reaching out to seize passersby. It is a beautiful place to have a campfire and watch a meteor shower with a group of friends. On the night I left though, it was a place to strike fear in the bravest of young men.
At that time I believed myself the bravest of men. Seventeen and willing to face down anything. Seventeen and not willing to be dominated by parents. Seventeen and ready for war, but even so, knowing how weak I was.
I knew in advance I would be caught. I knew I would be caught before I left the door of the trailer I slept in. I knew, too, that with the knowledge I gained from the first attempt, I'd get away the second time.
How can I tell the story? I was seventeen, and I had not yet conquered all fear. I was terribly afraid of dogs, of my father, of myself and what I might be capable of doing in my adolescent pain and rage. I ran not only for myself, but like a werewolf, I ran away from the people I thought I would hurt if they caught me at the wrong time.
I set out around 3:00 a.m., in a night of noise, and the baying of dogs seemed to follow through the darkness. Hell's furies could not have terrified me more. It was several miles to town, and I had only the vaguest idea how to get there. I had taken the back route, over dirt roads, to avoid my father if he noticed me gone during the night, but I deeply regretted the decision as the baying of the dogs seemed nearer and nearer, and the darkness seemed almost complete, closing in on me like a physical thing.
I ran, fear making the sweat from my exertions stink and cling to me. My only thought was that I must reach town before the dog pack found me. I was lost, though, in the deep darkness so like a nightmare. I only knew the direction I had to run, and the notion that I had gotten turned around and lost even my sense of direction was too chilling to contemplate.
Finally I found the main road, and the light of the sign of a Circle K was as welcome to me as the sight of land to a person in a lifeboat. I went in and asked how to get to the town, and the clerk told me I was nearly there and how to finish the journey.
My father picked me up at the Greyhound station the next morning. I cursed myself for being so obvious, and began to plot my next escape, barely noticing the angry dressing down my father directed at me.
I was running to be homeless. Nothing could stop me. The pimps, prostitutes, thieves, drug dealers, cops, social workers, preachers, and various other villains didn't scare me. They were waiting, but they didn't scare me. Only the baying of family pets, joined by the pets on the surrounding properties frightened me. Only the dark and lost feeling I had brought real fear.