Escape

by Kyle Kepulis

And I run.

But this time I’m not imagining.

The sun is blinding me and I can‘t see where I’m going but I don’t want to see where I’m going anyway, and I run. I run. I keep on running.

I feel the breath in my lungs slicing like a chilled, cool knife, because I’ve run too far and I’m winded, but I have to keep going, I have to keep going, because I’m running and I have to keep on running.

Sstthhchh. Sstthhchh.

The leaves crunch under my feet, and the little dog barks at me as I pass and I bark back and the sun burns down and doesn’t stop, it’s watching me, it’s making sure I run and run and bark and keep going. I keep going.

And I hear the water surging underneath the wooden planks underneath my feet underneath my body underneath my head underneath the trees underneath the sky underneath the sun, and I must keep running.

Wwtthhww. Wwtthhww.

The planks creak as I cross the bridge, running, running, running. Almost there, almost there, almost there.

My side is aching, my forehead is wet with perspiration, my legs feel weak and strong at the same time. I can do this, I can keep running, I must keep running.

And I run.

The sun burns down on my back, and I see my house in sight. A few more blocks, and I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’m almost there, I keep running, running . . .

And I am there.

I stop. The breaths beat out of my chest one after the other. I suck in air, more air, even more air, filling my lungs before they collapse.

I feel blood coursing through my veins. I feel breathe in my chest. I feel pain in my legs and feet. I am alive. I need to be reminded. Like that line in that play we read for class, what’s that line? “Attention must be paid.” Yeah, yeah. But I don’t think it was meant in quite that way. I don’t think running came into it at all.

I go inside and kick off my shoes, and go upstairs and into the bathroom and rip off my shirt and shorts and step into the shower, and feel the hot, warm pellets of liquid surge down my skin.

I put my head directly under the showerhead, and I feel like I’m drowning in some horrific storm at sea.

And I swim.

But this time I’m imagining.

I’m Robinson Crusoe, or Gulliver, or Odysseus, and the ship I was sailing on suddenly collided with some rocks and I’ve been thrown overboard, and I try to scream, but only water fills my mouth, and there is no sound, only the sound of my heart pulsing against my eyelids, and now I’m at the surface, sucking in more air, and then I’m down again, below the water, where everything is dark and cold and nothingness, nothingness all around. Only me, me and nothing but me, no world, no sky, no air, no ship, no nothing, just me and water, and then there is no me.

And I drown.

But this time I’m imagining.

I pull my head out from under the showerhead, and my hair flings droplets of H2O splattering against the tiles all around. I clear my eyes, and at first everything is hazy and undiscernible, globby forms of color all distorted and out of place like a puzzle put together incorrectly, if such a thing is possible, which I think it is, but I’m not sure. Well I suppose it is if you cut the pieces into different shapes than what they originally were, and then put them in a different order, and then the picture would definitely be all screwed up, but I guess that’s not really the same thing after all. (I guess that wasn’t a very good metaphor, I’ll try for a better one next time.)

I turn the water off and pull back the curtain, and step onto the cold, unwelcoming tiles of the cold, unwelcoming floor, and embrace my towel, my face burrowing into its warmth, the smell of washer and dryer creeping into my nostrils, and I feel home, and I start to dry off my body, and the material feels good against my newly-soft skin, and I look at myself in the mirror, and see my own two eyes staring straight back at me, and then I wonder, and the I tie the towel around my waist, and walk to my room, and get some new, clean clothes, and put them on.

And then I hear mom calling from downstairs, and I go downstairs, and I see her, and I nod to acknowledge her existence, and then she asks if I can’t even say hello to my own mother, and so I say hello, but of course it doesn’t make her any happier, and I sit down to eat supper, and I’m enjoying it, well as much as anyone can enjoy my mom’s cooking, and then I hear her ask why I run all the time.

I tell her the same thing I’ve told her every other single time she’s asked, and that is because I like to run. But she doesn’t understand, and it doesn’t really answer her question so I try a different approach, “It’s because I have to.”

“Well, why do you have to, then?” she asks.

I tell her it’s so I can get away.

“Get away? Get away from what?” she says mockingly. “You shouldn’t be trying to get away. You’re not here enough as it is. Your head is always somewhere else.”

But by this time I’m not listening, which reinforces everything she’s just said, I suppose, but I don’t care, and by this time I’m already deciphering clues at the scene of the crime, and I am almost on the tail of the culprit.

I’m a detective like in this one book I just recently read, and I’m this guy who solves mysteries in London, except it’s not like Sherlock Holmes or anything: it’s contemporary London, but I guess he’s kind of like a modern Sherlock Holmes, because he always says stuff like “The game’s afoot,” and stuff like that, which is like what Sherlock Holmes said, although I don’t ever remember hearing him say, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” in the book, because there isn’t a character like Watson in it. I guess the author thought he couldn’t copy Doyle ideas too much or it might be considered plagiarism or something. Which I think is kind of goofy, because in essence every story is the same one, just written over and over again in different ways. So maybe that means there’s only ever one story in the whole entire world, which is kind of creepy when you think about it, but it kind of makes sense, too.

Anyways, so I’m this detective guy, and I’m trying to solve a mystery about this guy who was found dead in his garage. I look all over the place for clues, but there don’t appear to be any. Except in the dead man’s dining room.

And I investigate.

But this time I’m imagining.

I’m examining the food on the dead man’s plate in his dining room. His last meal. I decide that there must be something very important about it, so I send it off to Scotland Yard, or someplace like that, to be examined.

The tests come back positive for poison. I arrest the dead man’s cook, who obviously did him in, and stashed his body in the garage to take attention away from the dining room, but forgot to dispose of the evidence after the dirty deed was done, and I’, awarded some grand prize from Scotland Yard for my ingenious detective skills, when all I really did was snoop around some half-eaten food, but I guess people get awards for that too, and I become the most famous detective in all of England.

And my mother is yelling at me.

But this time I’m not imagining.

She has said something important, but I haven’t heard it, and I never hear the important things, but she is gone, and I am alone, and I don’t feel hungry anymore. Somehow I’ve flung all the food on my plate on to the table and floor, and I’m not sure how that happened. I pick up the food, and take my plate to the kitchen and rinse it in the sink, and head back upstairs to my bedroom, the sanctity of my bedroom, the holy place, my bedroom the sanctuary, and I fall upon my bed, and the stars outside my window fly into the room, and lead me to the world of dreams, and I am lost in the sky and floating among the clouds, and anything is possible again.

And I ride.

But this time I’m dreaming.

I’m riding a train, and I see the countryside whizzing by outside the windows across from me, and all of a sudden these other people pass by me down the aisle, and they’re blocking my view of the countryside and I can’t see, and I get really frustrated, and I just wish the people would be gone so I could be left in peace with the beauty of the countryside, but they’re always there and I can never get rid of them. At first I’m really angry, and I try punching and kicking a few of the people to get out of my way, but it does nothing, and they just stare at me blank-faced and unmoving. Then I start to grow afraid. I begin to think they want something of me, they’re expecting something of me, but what? What? I can’t figure it out, and I start to grow afraid that I’ll never figure it out, and then I start panicking and flinging myself against the walls of the train compartment, bashing the bulk of my weight into the windows, crashing my head against the glass until my head starts bleeding, anything so I can get away from the stares of those people, those people who won’t leave me alone.

And I wake up.

But this time I’m not imagining.

The sun glares outside my window, and it is telling me that it is morning, and it is telling me ‘It’s time to wake up, you lazy bum,” and I wrench myself free of the ensnarement of my sheets, and I stumble across the room and to my closet.

I get some clothes, and shower, and dress, and eat, and ignore my mother, and walk down the street, and bark at the dog in that one yard who always barks at me, and then I’m at school.

Chemistry class is always very boring, except for Blonde Girl who is my lab partner. She smells like cherry blossoms. I honestly wouldn’t know what cherry blossoms smelled like if my grandparents didn’t have cherry trees on their farm that blossomed every spring, and always exuded the freshest smell I’ve ever smelt. Blonde Girl always reminds me of cherry trees.

In Chemistry I’m sitting beside her at the lab table, and I can smell the cherries hovering around the room, and we’re going over the steps of some experiment, the teacher is writing something on the board, but I’m not listening. I’m not concentrating, I’m silently rebelling, I’m always silently rebelling, rebelling in the least obvious way that is possible, and I’m not here.

I’m already romancing that one woman in the movie I just saw that was set back in the really old historical time period when women wore these gargantuan, poofy dresses that stuck out like eight feet to each side of them, and the men wore these short pants and what looked like white tights, and everyone wore big powdery wigs. You know the time period I’m talking about. Yeah, those movies are always a hoot to watch.

They always try to talk in this refined way, but really what they’re saying isn’t all that refined at all, but I figure they know that as long as they make it sound that way, it sounds a whole lot better than just coming right out with what they want to say.

And I kiss.

But this time I’m imagining.

I’m imagining I’m this one debonair guy in the movie who was trying to woo that one woman I mentioned earlier, whose name was Rosamund or Antoinette or some other bad cheap-romance-novel type name. She looks kind of like Blonde Girl who’s my lab partner in Chemistry class, which she didn’t in the movie, but I’ve improved it in my mind, and I’m touching her face, the skin soft under my fingers, her eyes glistening and wet, and I feel her lips press against mine, and I’m lost in five dimensions that all meet into one, and the world seems to stop, and I can feel, hear, smell, see, and taste all at once, and it is perfection.

And I kiss.

But this time I’m not imagining.

I hear some words, and a slap, and then I feel the slap, and then I hear the teacher yelling at me to go to the principal’s office.

I go to the principal’s office and wait in the waiting room and wonder what just happened, when the principal opens the door to his office and tells me to come in and I go in.

He asks me if I know why I’m there, and I tell him no, because I really don’t, the last thing I remember is imagining, and after that I really don’t know.

He says some stuff that I don’t understand and I don’t listen to anyway, and then I’m given a slip and sent home. I walk down the lonely street, and look around at the houses in the midday light. Houses always look different at midday during the school week, because I never see them at midday during the school week, and it is a fresh new experience and one that aches of freedom.

And I run.

But this time I’m not imagining.

I run down the street, the pavement pounding underneath my tennis shoes, my backpack beating against my back rhythmically in some kind of tribal war dance, simulating my heartbeat.

Pbpbpbpbumbawdaw. Pbpbpbppumpabab. Pundotwah.

The cold breeze cuts through me and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and I feel complete, and the world is whizzing past me.

And I have to keep on running. I must keep on running. My heart beats steadfastly. Mu-st ke-ep ru-nn-ing. M-u-st k-e-ep r-u-nning. M-ust k-eep r-unn-ing.

Today there is no sun out, only clouds, gray clouds, endless gray clouds littering the skyline. I close my eyes and feel the air, the moistness of it, the unending fulfillment of it. My body absorbs it and uses it and dispenses it. I can smell rain on the horizon, and I can taste its coming, and I swallow the prediction down my throat with a satisfying gulp.

I open my eyes again, and I feel the steady rhythm of the ground, the unbreakable solidness of it.

Bbbbrrrrrmmmmnnnn. Bbbrrrooonnnmmm. Bbrruunndd.

I keep running, because I have to keep running, and the dog barks at me, and I roar at him like a lion or a bear, and I hear a whimper and whine and then silence, and I keep running, and I did it because I have to keep running, and nothing in the world can stop me from running, and I keep running because I have to keep running.

And then I see it, and everything stops.

Home. Doorstep. Front door. Open. Walk. Inside. Foyer. Hallway. Stairs. Bedroom. Silence. Good. Light. Streaming. Window. Birds. Solitude. Good. Pause.

Time.

Time.

Time.

Sunset. Bed. Awake. Undisturbed.

Phone. Ringing. Answer. Mother. What? No. Sorry. Serious? Yes. Apologize. Click.

Chaise?

A call goes up the stairs, I lie in my bed and try to ignore it, ignore the nonexistent sounds of another human being trying to communicate with me, and I lie staring at the ceiling, and counting all the cracks in the ceiling, and trying not to think of anything, nothing, no words, no dreams no movies, no books, no people, no anything. No anything but me. Nothing but me. And it doesn’t work, but I like to try anyway, and if I have to think about someone, why can’t I think about Blonde Girl of Rosamund or Antoinette, or whatever her name is: but that’s useless too because it just reminds me of everything that I can’t remember about today in school, and why I’m here in the first place trying to think of nothing but myself and then my mother enters the room.

She asks me questions I can’t answer, and gets angry when I can’t answer them because she thinks I’m withholding something from here, but I’m not, I’m really not, and then she threatens me with sending me away to the place I don’t want to go, the place where she threatened to send me before if anything else happened like I guess it did today but I can’t remember, only this time it’s not a threat it’s for real, and it sounds like she’s really going to do it this time.

And then I’m alone again, and there is nothing but me, nothing but Chaise and the dark and the shadows and the shadows of the tree branches outside my window, and the light of the moon, and the stars, and sleep, and it descends upon me, and I don’t want to dream, so I don’t, and I wake up the next morning, except the sun hasn’t risen because I know I will be leaving, and the sun can never rise when someone knows that they’ll be leaving, and nothing is good.

I feel my mother’s kiss on my cheek at the train station, and she tries to say goodbye, but never really does, because I don’t think she could ever really say goodbye to me, and leaves before my train even arrives, because she doesn’t want to have to see my face retreating in the dark on some train she’s not on, and that would terrorize her sleep at night and she’d feel guilt, and guilt isn’t good for a person, so she just leaves.

I think of Casablanca, and all those movies where they have a big dramatic farewell scene at the end, and the two lovers part forever, knowing they’ll never see each other again, but then I think it’s stupid that I’m thinking that because I’m obviously not saying goodbye to a lover, and saying goodbye to a mother is a very different thing.

My train isn’t here yet. I walk around the platform wondering what to do, wondering what is going to happen to me, but I know what is going to happen to me because I’ve already decided it long ago if it should ever come to this, and it has come to this, and I know it is the right thing to do.

I hear the rumbling of a train, the low grumbling, rumbling, stumbling of the train, the train that’s going to take me away forever.

Ccccrrrrrwwwwlllllmmmmmnnnnn. Kkkkccccrrrrreeeeeeennnnncccchhhhh.

Away forever, with all the people who block my view of the countryside and make it so I can’t see anything and I get frustrated and mad and I run.

I run across the wooden platform, and then I imagine all those daring train scenes in movies where the robbers jump from one section of the train to the next, on the roofs of course, attempting to get away from the policemen.

And I run.

But this time I’m imagining.

I’m a train robber, I’m a highwayman, I’m Indiana Jones. I jump over bottomless chasms, confident that I’ll find my footing on the other side, the rocky ledge, sure of safety, sure of freedom. I jump carriage to carriage, carriage to horse, car to car, train to horse, rooftop to rooftop. I’ve run too far, but I know I have to keep going. I have to keep going. I have to keep on running.

And I run.

And I jump.

Onto the track.

The headlight of the train spotlights my face.

And I bark.

But this time I’m not imagining.

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