I sat on the side of the highway in my freshly cleaned Ford Focus. It had been dubbed The Little Red Rider, by some of my colleagues at the Forest Service. My beloved Australian shepherd sat up straight in the back seat, concerned for why we had stopped. An empty cooler and a dufflebag, a sleeping bag and tent, and a box of assorted wines occupied the trunk space. I was on my way to pick up my boyfriend for a much needed vacation. I hadn’t had one in at least six years, and had almost forgotten what they were.
The excitement of the trip turned to unease as cars blew past me on the highway. My heart was heavy when I took his call. And it sank even further when he said, “The washer’s broke.”
“So you’ve made up your mind, then?” I asked him. I wasn’t concerned about his washing machine. It was clear that he was looking for an excuse not to go. To be truthful, we had been fighting an awful lot. Our relationship was failing well before the trip came about. It was in part because I had been offered a job on the other side of the Stanislaus. The commute between us wasn’t terribly far, but given our recent outbreaks it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to maintain a long distance relationship. In a fit of anger the day before, I had given him an ultimatum, the first I’d ever given: come with me, or never see me again.
“Yeah,” he said. “Go without me.”
I hung up the phone without a word, and fell into a bit of a panic.
Upon reflection, really, maybe it was a good thing.
Several minutes passed, and the world kept whizzing by my window. Reddi whimpered from the back seat, aware of the strain I was under. Fear turned to sadness which was dissipated by anger, then fear again. I had a decision to make in this brief pause, and I knew I had to make it quickly before old habits sank in.
I weighed my options:
- Continue to my (ex)boyfriend’s house and beg him to come with me. I had never been on a road trip by myself before, and I really was afraid. He knew me well, and would certainly understand that. He often sought that sort of reaction from me—a fight, me angry and crying, affirmation that he was right about whatever, his victory. We would waste a day at his house crying over our failure as a couple, and we’d ultimately take an overnight trip to a place of his choosing. We’d prolong the inevitable.
- I could turn around and go back home where I’d cry over a gallon of ice cream while licking my wounds and watching Netflix. Call it a loss, and let year seven go by without a vacation. This was the typical reaction that I could count on. I have always given up too easily when my heart was shattered, and shattered it was. It’s a fragile piece.
- I could drive. I could go wherever I wanted, money and time permitting, and I could embrace my new freedom. I could do something else for a change. I could become something else.
In my heart I already knew what I wanted, and that’s why I didn’t have much time to think. The longer I took, the more likely I was to give up.
Reddi climbed over the console to the front seat. She looked at me with a broken toothed grin. She was always happy to be wherever I was. Her objective in life was to make me happy. Had I taken any longer I might have forgotten that, I tossed my phone in the back, put on my left blinker, and stepped on the gas. It was freedom, this time, for the win.