Carry On Tuesday: Walking away

This is a weird one, from Carry on Tuesday and – prompt “And that is how I remember them”

And that is how I remember them, standing by the highway, he fussing over the tire, pretending he knew what was going on, she posing, as she liked to do, Mama’s little drama queen.

If it strikes you as odd that I can talk about them like that, the daughter I bore out of my own body, the man whose bed I shared for all the years after her birth, then remember: that moment, standing there on the desert highway, is the last time I saw either of them. I took a snapshot and told them I would walk to the nearest gas station and call for help.

To my credit, if you’re willing to credit anything to a woman who walks away from such things, I did call for help. Then I kept walking.

I hadn’t meant to. I’d meant to do exactly what I’d said when I’d headed out: call, then head back to the car and, maybe, salvage our vacation.

Call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, if you want – not the tire, these things happen, but his helpless uselessness staring at it, her prim and proper put-out expression, so much like her father. There was no helping, of course. I could have fixed the tire. I could have … well, I don’t know what I could have done for her. I’ve never known how she came out that spoilt, despite all my admittedly-amateur attempts as child-rearing. She was always his little princess; I could do nothing about her. But I could have fixed the tire.

It was his snappish defense of his inadequate male pride that did it. I called the tow truck, bought a bottle of water and a straw hat from the gas station, and took out as much money as the credit card and ATM would let me advance. I dropped my purse in the bathroom garbage can and headed south.

Statistics tell me thousands, maybe millions of people vanish every year. I don’t know if it’s true; I’ve never talked about it with anyone, not in so many words, and no-one has ever told me, flat out, that they had walked away from their life. But I know that our little town gets more than its share of paperless drifters, sunburnt and close-lipped, just like I was. I do for them what was done for me, help them find a job, help them move along, and don’t ask any more questions than I have to.

I never ask if they look back, if they wonder how their families are doing without them; I wouldn’t want to be asked about it myself. It might make me wonder how he felt, if he ever knew I’d abandoned him with another man’s bastard, or how she felt, if she knew her tantrums had finally driven her mother away. It might make me wonder if they missed me at all, or if I was truly the cuckoo in the nest, and not her.

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