The Slow-Cooked Sentence

The practice of leaving

Rachael Conlin Levy

I ran away, once. Got as far as Greenwood Market before indecision slowed me and I pulled into the parking lot. Out of habit I brought up a mental image of the fridge and opened it: We were out of milk, so I should go inside. Then I cursed myself for the dutifulness of thinking to replenish my family’s staples even as I ran away from it.

I put my head down on the steering wheel and listened to the soft rain shush against the windshield. Outside, the parking lot was dark but for the rain puddles that reflected neon, a stray shopping cart and now my car under a street lamp. Inside, shadows lapped at a water bottle while dingy yellow light lent unexplainable import to a crumpled paper airplane. The anger that drove me out the door and disrupted the night’s routine had evaporated, leaving me tired, so tired. I climbed into the back seat and settled onto the bench.

I can’t run away, not for good anyway, because I’m needed, valued, worth a life insurance policy, but I can run far if they’ll let the line run slack. Will you come back? they ask. Yes, but you need to let me go so I can come back. They hug me. The youngest cries because he doesn’t understand why he’s not going, why they’re all not going. My husband ignores the histrionics, so routine by now. I bent down for a final kiss, then pushed past them and opened the door. I hope you feel better, Mom.

I’m gone.

Two miles down the road, I shifted, pulled the seat buckle out of my side. Hah, I’m as successful at running away as I am at writing, I thought. Don’t beat yourself up, I replied. I bunched a blanket under my head. The damp flannel felt good, cool against my face. I pulled another blanket around me and sank into the silence. Condensation formed on the windows and rivulets of my breath ran down the glass. What did I feel? Relief? Freedom? Was this happiness?

A shopping cart jingled across the parking lot. Men’s voices grew clearer, then faded away. Were they going to the bus stop? I imagined drifting, just me in this minivan, and felt at once safe and vulnerable. Immediately, I sat up and scanned the doors to make certain they were locked. They were. I laid down again and imagined leaving for good, of being without husband, without children, without home. I thought of a newspaper article about a woman and her son and their car. That was it. Life was filled with basic questions of where they would park for the night, where was it safe to sleep, to pee. My cell phone rang. I imagined someone breaking into the car as I slept in the backseat. What would I do? Wait until the thief stopped driving and then lunge for the door and fall onto the street. My phone registered a text message from my husband, I knew this without looking. I sat up, wiped water off the window and peered out at two more cars in the lot. Someone was worrying about me and I had an escape plan.

That was enough for now.

Hours later I woke, registered things, the graying of the night sky, the stiffness in my neck, the soft beat of my heart, the steadiness of solitude. I was drifting on a slack line. What now? I asked. The responding silence was heavy with possibility. I choose the morning without milk.

8 responses to “The practice of leaving”

  1. Andrea says:

    Ooh, I know how you feel…sometimes it’s tempting to be like that woman in the Hours, with the cake, then just walking away. Of course it would never happen, but …

  2. kyndale says:

    You are loved Rachael! I miss you so much here but I know life is a journey. Hey, and I love your new blog. The art is awesome. Did you do that?

  3. anno says:

    Wonderful story — who hasn’t wanted to just walk away at least once or twice? I’ve been grateful myself for a long leash and the gentle tug reminding me of home.

    Love the new digs…

  4. Rachael says:

    Andrea, you’ve reminded me of “The Hours” and how I made a mental note to read it and then immediately forgot about it. Have you read the original Virginia Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway” that inspired it?

    Kyndale, The art is mine. The coding is all Marcel.

    Anno, seems as if I’m gnawing on that leash more often since the move to Seattle. Ugh. Moves suck, they fill me with loneliness and longing, which, maybe, is good for the writing.

    To all, please give a shout if there are things about the new blog that annoy, frustrate or (I hope) entertain. The creation has been a group effort, ditto with the maintenance, so please join in because too many cooks will NOT spoil this broth.

  5. shannon says:

    I love your new beginning. So clean, fresh, and tasty. I come with spoon in hand and a napkin under my chin.

  6. Kyna says:

    Great redesign, Rach! I love your bio, the “leftovers” heading, and the larger photos. I like how the steam goes across your text, but the swirl back around and under the photo was a little distracting to me when I read your poem (next post), although on this post where there’s more text and less space, it does a nice job of focusing on the title of the post, so it might not be an issue. I’m looking forward to reading more slow-cooked sentences!

  7. So well written. I was captivated.

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