“Easy—get a ticket to anywhere and get out of town before they realize I’m gone.“
I’m just saying, Miguel was certifiably a pain in the ass. I’ve never known anyone else in my life who could worry so much about so many things at the same time without having a stroke.
If he wasn’t so nice, and such a treat to look at, too…
But he was, so I figured I’d keep him.
“Did they see you leave?”
“Of course not! They’d be right behind me if they did!”
“Do we have enough money? What if–“
“We have plenty,” I assured him. We had been saving for months. Part time jobs, allowances, birthdays and babysitting–it all got socked away. We were always broke, and our folks laughed it off and paid for our clothes and food.
“What if it’s not money we need? What if–“
“Miguel, just hush!” I snapped. He pushed the doors of the station open, and then we stood there, jaws agape.
There were people, but it seemed eerily empty compared to any other time I’d been there. People were wisely keeping their distance from each other; that was gratifying to see. Not everyone was as crazy as our parents were being, apparently.
Everyone was wearing a mask, too.
Good. We wouldn’t stand out in the crowd. Suddenly, I felt a little… hopeful.
“Where will we go?” Miguel asked, his black eyes suddenly sparkling. He felt it, too. We had a chance!
We decided to get out of the city when Miguel’s father and mine both chose to ignore everyone’s advise and started working for a day labor group with no mask mandate. “It can’t be that bad,” my father said. “If it was, the President would say so.”
Bye-bye. I’m not planning to die any time soon, and certainly not because my parents believed the government would take care of us. As if!
“What if they won’t sell us tickets? Do we need to be eighteen?”
I didn’t know the answer to that, but no one asked for an ID when we got to the kiosk, so Miguel breathed easier. I did, too. I had an ID for work and school, but I sure wasn’t eighteen yet. Neither of us were.
We purchased tickets– first Colorado, then on to New Mexico. We wanted to land ourselves in the middle of some one-stoplight small town we’d never heard of before. Hide. Live.
Before we boarded, Miguel whispered, “What if they search our bags?”
“What if they do?” I countered. “Do you thing we’ll be in trouble for packing Ramen Noodles?”
“What if there’s no food allowed?”
“This train serves food, so I don’t think it’s a thing. Besides, we’re not going to eat them now!”
We had disassembled our cell phones and scattered the parts throughout the city the day before. We could get burners later, when we had jobs.
We had emailed goodbyes from the public library and promised to check in soon.
Running away is scary. But we wanted to be safe. We wanted to live. And that couldn’t happen if we stayed with people who wouldn’t even listen to good advise.
We didn’t feel entirely free until the train left the station. We were cash only and cell phone free. They’d never find us.
Miguel looked at me, then out the window at the receding cityscape. “What if–?”
I sighed. “What if what, Miguel?”
Certifiable pain in the ass worry wart. I wasn’t ready for what he said next: “What if we’re happy?”
I smiled. I made sure he could see it in my eyes, because the mask was not coming off anytime soon. “Yeah, Miguel. What if we are?”
His eyes smiled back.
We’re outta here!