I watched from the driveway as my father placed my things onto the lawn. His shirt was blotted with sweat, his breathing heavy, but he never let the lit cigarette fall from the corner of his mouth. He wasn’t angry, and neither was I. This was something that needed to happen, something I welcomed. When he had cleared my room of my belongings, he turned and walked back inside, giving me a goodbye salute before he slammed the screen. I collected my things, stuffing them in the backseat and trunk, peering back at the kitchen window where I knew he was standing, before driving away.
It wasn’t the first time he had kicked me out, all other times the result of my own behavior. His list of house rules was long with little room for negotiation. He spent his evenings, after working a twelve-hour day, checking my work and looking for signs I had disobeyed–watering his lawn, fifteen minutes for each side; washing and hanging clothes on the clothesline; starting dinner and washing the dishes I used; dusting grandma’s china, replacing the items exactly as she had left them; feeding the cats, all seven of them, and the two German Shepherds in the back that hated everyone but him; but most of all he wanted to make sure I had not invited any of my friends over to the house, that no one had been in his rare coin collection, no one had sat in his chair, moved his fishing magazines, or consumed any of his Coors Lites. If he found anything amiss like water spots on silverware or teacups whose handles faced east and not west, he raged with his belt, and I raged back, earning myself an eviction. I usually went to my mother’s house until things calmed down or until she kicked me out too.
I wasn’t a bad kid, not at all. I just didn’t understand my parents; I didn’t know who they were or why life was like a tightrope for them, one false move a fall that took weeks to recover. With my belongings in my car, the one one my grandma gave to me, I drove–all four windows rolled down–not to my mother’s house, not to see a friend, somewhere far enough away that I might be able to see things differently, clearly.
The sun was still shinning in the middle of the sky, clouds sprinkled across an endless blue background. I had nothing but time to think about what my life had been, space to redefine what it could be, and wind to harness, fuel for a journey of transformation, a death and rebirth I knew would only lead me farther away from home, farther away from who I might have been had I stayed.