At first I’m walking, and then my legs carry me as I run through the street, I run through the blur of cars beeping at what they believe is an irresponsible teenaged girl. I run past the confused faces, I run past the judgmental looks. I just run, and it feels great. I run until my body is begging me to stop, threatening me with cramps and sore feet. It would be a lie if I said I knew where I was, but at that moment where I was didn’t matter. I catch my breath and take a step back and observe. I’m completely surrounded by a white forest, snow painting each available empty space in the vast canvas. There’s no one in sight and I realize I finally have what I’ve been desiring for far too long, privacy. I keep walking into the forest, disregarding my subconscious warning me to be careful, concentrating on my steps, noticing how each and every one of them changes the environment I have chosen to invade. I focus on denying my furious mind the chance to be heard. I keep walking until all that can be seen are rows of silent soldiers, standing tall and protecting their homes from intruders like me. I pick a tree to sit on, deciding it will be my only companion for the evening. I test out the branches and before I know it I’m halfway up the tree, I climb until the ground below me seems like a fantasy and then make myself comfortable.
My suppressed thoughts surface once again, refusing to be ignored. The image of empty bottles of alcohol scattered across the recently mopped floor enter my mind. I can’t believe this. How selfish could one person be? The smell of alcohol on her breath lingers in my memory even though it lives blocks away. All I can see is the sickening sight of a middle aged women, falling apart, stitched together by the artificial benefits of the poison she drinks every day. It’s nauseating how someone so strong and independent could be turned upside-down so quickly by her own reckless actions. I know everyone has their own ways to cope with pain, but not everyone has the same options or consequences. She was supposed to be our base, she was supposed to be there when we needed her, she had the power to help us, but she looked the other way. She isolated herself when things got hard, and decided her pain was more important than ours. I had foolishly hoped she would manage, at least for this one day, to separate her mouth from her own venomous medicine in order to go to my dad’s funeral, needless to say, I was wrong. Today as we were making breakfast she decided to announce, through slurred words, that she would not be attending the funeral. My brothers, with their never expiring patience, attempted to convince her otherwise, but she said nothing, her mind escaping into itself, being dragged away by each mouthful she gulped down. At that moment I realized I could no longer sit in the same room as her, I could no longer identify myself with her as I once had. She was someone else, someone who I had no respect for, she was nothing but scraps of the person she had destroyed. My mom was the one person I never wanted to become. I got up and walked straight out the door, not once turning to look back as I picked up my pace and started running.
My thoughts are interrupted when snow begins to fall, softly at first and then all at once. It’s a beautiful distraction, covering and erasing the footsteps I had left below, leaving the environment looking untouched once again. The snow works as a time machine, taking me to a more positive place in my memory. It’s a snowy Monday morning, all the schools in my city have been closed due to the weather, and smiles are shared between us all as we hear the news. My dad calls in sick to work and we all simultaneously decide we need to make this a day to remember. We hear my little brother, Zack, running down the hallway before we could actually see him. He’s jumping with excitement holding up a few Walkie Talkies, clearly proud of the new treasure he discovered in the depths of his closet. My two older twin brothers, Mike and Andrew, seem to share his excitement running to get ahold of the toy.
“I know exactly what to do with those.” My dad announced.
A knowing grin taking over his features as he explains a game he used to play when he was younger. Basically, it was manhunt. My dad managed to convince us all, even mom, to play and separated us into two teams; the hunters and the hunted. My mom, Zack and I had to hide and Andrew, Mike and my dad had to find and catch us. Each team had a Walkie Talkie and we were supposed to give the other team vague hints about our whereabouts. We were dressed and ready to go in under 5 minutes and we headed out the door into the snow. I was expecting an overwhelming cold once I stepped outside, but it was different. It was the type of cold you see in a holiday movie, the type of cold that hugs you as soon as you walk outside and makes you think of cheesy memories including hot cocoa and warm fires that you’ve never actually experienced. My dad explained the rules one more time, and then it started. They closed their eyes and began to count as we ran through the snow, our footsteps loud and fast but somehow united.
This became like our own unique family tradition. Every time school was cancelled due to the snow, we already had our fixed schedules for the day. We played and then those who lost had to be the champions’ personal cooks and maids for the rest of the day. It was a challenge we all loved and gladly accepted. The next time we played was merely a few weeks after, we kept our same teams and then headed out. It had been a few minutes of back and forth talking and taunting through the Walkie Talkies before I could hear the footsteps of our rivals approaching and suddenly everyone was running, together and then alone. I looked back and saw my dad gaining on me, getting closer and closer by the second. I decided to not exhaust myself for no reason and I stopped running, letting him catch up to me. Instead of the smug grin I was expecting to see when he tagged me, I saw a disappointed expression spread across his face.
“What’s wrong dad?” I asked, clearly confused.
“I don’t want you to be the type of person who gives up like that, when you see a threat coming, don’t let it get you, if you have to run, then run, and don’t stop running until you’re safe.” He explained.
I nodded, not understanding what the big deal was, it was just a game, and it didn’t even matter. We continued on for the rest of the evening like normal, but his words stayed in my mind. I had never understood what he meant, until now. Tears escape from my eyes as I relive the memory, sadness and nostalgia taking over. Today I did run, I ran until my body was screaming for rest, but yet I never found the safety he had assured me of. The snow got heavier, and the cold infiltrated my body, working from the outside in, surrounding me with the freezing sensation I had recently grown to hate. I climbed down the tree and excused myself from the world I had run away to. The snow doubled as if rushing me to get home, making me pick up my pace. I started running again, not worrying about the smudged eyeliner staining my face, or the critical state of my messy hair. I ran back to the place I had been trying so hard to get away from, the snow covering the house like a new shade of paint. I opened the door and was immediately greeted with the strong smell of alcohol and the heavy eyes of my siblings as they observed me walking in after being gone for nearly 2 hours. I tried my best to wipe my tears as I walked past the woman I had once known that was now asleep on the couch. I ran into my room and locked the door shut, and before I knew it the tears were streaming down my face without my consent as I realized just exactly how tired I am of running and never feeling safe.