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Crashing the gate

by Brian Clarey

Crashing the gate

Blowing this taco stand

I’ve run away from home. Why? None of your damn business, that’s why. Suffice it to say that, like Bill Murray’s character in the film What About Bob?, I’m taking a vacation from my problems. I’m baby-stepping. I’m doing the work. And let me tell you, my friend, my problems are as big and nasty as a shaved-down yeti. I’m thinking it will take two days. Maybe three. It’s gonna take at least eight cigars, six hours of sad songs, more or less, and approximately a gallon of scotch. I’m at the bar, naturally, because that’s where a man like me goes when he wants to forget — at least, that’s what I used to do. For the last 10 years or so I’ve been actively trying to accumulate memories — children, milestones, accomplishments, those sweet, sweet moments that live indelibly in my memory. I haven’t wanted to forget like this in a while. Probably never. And right now, if I could, I’d wipe at least three months away like a sneeze on a mirror. But memory doesn’t work like that, and so I’ve made myself scarce. I have run away from home once before. It was in 1977, back when I was a kid on Long Island. I remember it well. A Sunday it was, shortly after a disastrous session at St. Joe’s church on Franklin Avenue. I didn’t like church then. I don’t like church now. But on that particular Sunday I was behaving worse than usual, sending my father into the kind of red rage that only an overwrought, hungover father can muster. On this particular Sunday, he wasn’t having any of it. And neither was I. I remember I was serving out a sentence in my room, pacing like I always have when in a state of high agitation. I heard them all downstairs, my parents and sisters. Laughing. Eating. Watching television. Carrying on like there wasn’t a prisoner upstairs wearing a tread in the green shag carpet. Screw it, I thought. I’m outta here. I wrote a simple note on a dry-erase board that hung on my bedroom wall, one with a picture of the cartoon character Ziggy on it, shrugging his shoulders like a chump, bitching about Mondays or some such thing. “I can no longer live under such tyranny and mistrust,” I scrawled on the board, which was pretty astute for a 6-year-old kid. Then I crept down the stairs and slipped out the door. It occurs to me now, here at the bar, that in my current situation perhaps I am the tyrant. I am the one harboring mistrust. I know this: I have my reasons. And, as is often the case, genetics equals destiny. It was cold — March in New York — and icy patches of melting snow obscured greening lawns in an oddly bovine pattern. I walked the curved streets of my neighborhood, registered laps on pork-chop shaped blocks with my hands stuffed in my pockets, chuffing out steamy breaths and trying to keep warm. In my haste to escape I had forgotten to bring a jacket, and when I could no longer feel my fingers I made for the only place I knew to go: my friend Steve’s house. His mother let me in; we sat at his kitchen table and had homemade snacks — his mother was a compulsive baker, and also my own mother’s best friend. Within 10 minutes of my arrival, the jig was up. This time I have a better plan. Gone is where I’ll stay, for a couple days at least — or so I’m thinking. Oblivion is what I’ll embrace — not the sloppy, booze-soaked kind but the cathartic, leavening kind where floating in the ether is a choice and not a function of inebriation. Escape is what I’ll seek, just like I did on that cold March day in 1977. That will show them. Or will it? Back in 1977, I had been gone from my parents home for what I thought was hours. But when they came to pick me up they explained to me it had just been about 45 minutes. And they were laughing! Laughing at my sense of drama, my adolescent outrage, my ridiculous vocabulary. Even today, when the story is retold at Christmas or Thanksgiving, it is narrated as a comedy and not a tragedy. I thought my gesture of indignant protest would bring my parents to their knees and change the course of my family forever. It did not. And I guess it’s possible that my current exodus will be misread as well, viewed not as the last meaningful act of a discontented and wronged man, but as an innocuous reaction to an ugly truth that will remain the truth no matter how much scotch gets poured. Either way, it feels good to be gone.

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