I am staring, numb, sorry, into the face of a country retiring the welcome mat outside of its door. My bones are cracking under privilege, my voice a hand me down from people who have not needed to know this kind of fear. My shadow just trying to figure out if it's allowed to follow me home. And I am reminiscing on the first time I ran away from home.
I was five. It was mid July around 7 pm, that mysterious time of night when every corner of the world is suddenly resting. Sound muffled, cars in the distance running only by dimmed headlights, the sun trying to stay awake so it can light everyones way home. It seems the only sound is the footsteps of shadows trying to catch up with you before the night comes.
It was right after dinner, in the pink house on the end of the couldesac that poured light from its windows like a storybook. From the outside it looked like a house, but it wore its doors like open signs, flashed its porch lamps like smoke signals. Told everyone they were home now.
I remember it like reflex, I stood up from the dinner table, squeaky voice bigger than my vocabulary, I said “I am running away.” The smirk of my lips, the stomp of my foot, tiny arms crossed in front of my chest. I stood like a 4 foot tall skyscraper. My parents grins trying not to sneak out from behind their forced stern faces.
And then I fled to my room, a world away from home.
I listened from upstairs to the muffled clanging of dishes being washed, the familiar hushed voices of my parents, the memorized click of my ceiling fan above me. I wasn’t far enough. This is the day I decided. I’m going to run further away. What about the backyard, I thought. Still not far enough. Then bravery hit me in the back of the head and I held up my spine like it was made of steel, to the end of the street it is.
I opened my little purple suitcase like I was opening the chapter of my new life. I grabbed every belonging I had to my name and threw them into the mouth of my new beginning. I examined the contents carefully before zipping it shut - 2 stuffed animals, 1 blanket, 1 very important rock collection, and a notepad with a pencil.
Backwards denim baseball cap pulled crooked over my messy white blonde hair, my freckles clinging to my Irish skin like privilege, dirty sneakers halfway tied, I dragged my purple suitcase behind me down the carpeted stairs and out our front door. I took one last look at my old life and began my journey.
Shuffling my feet across the asphalt, I walked like a tourist down the road, a foreigner in my own neighborhood.
I got to the end of the street, I laid my suitcase next to the curb. Exhausted from my journey, I sat down on top of it. I rested my chin against my knees and scanned my surroundings, taking in my new life.
Then the sun started to go down, and the thrill of my new journey quickly transformed to terror. So I picked up my suitcase and sprinted like I was running from monsters back to the little pink house with the storybook glow, and my dad was sitting on the front porch, with a welcome home smile.
And now, all these years later, in a world that is at a loss for words- I cannot imagine the monsters all of these people feel like they are running from, the terror that they wound up finding in the place of what they thought was going to be their new life. And I am just wishing, with all of me, that they had a little pink house to run to.
At 5 years old, I didn't know my white blonde hair was my passport. That carrying a suitcase was the only thing that made me a tourist. That my bloodline was the reason for my courage, my heritage the correct answer to a one sided question. I didn't know the luxury I had of returning, no matter how many times I left.