September 2009

I return to Charlotte from Mexico on August 31st sunburned and burnt out. With nothing left to give my firm I struggle with the severity of the consequences that will arise from running away from almost eighty thousand dollars of debt.

“You’re being ridiculous, Kay! You can’t just up and move to a city when you have no idea how you are going to pay your credit cards off. What if you can’t make the payments? You think that’s OK? To be part of the massive problem infecting the American economy? More defaults, higher rates for those that paid their bills on time. Do you realize almost all of my rates have been jacked up to twenty-five percent because of other people defaulting? I pay my fucking bills on time. You can’t just walk away from your responsibilities like that. Do you want to destroy your credit forever?”

My past warning to my best and least responsible friend is laughable and a resigned humpf of a laugh escapes my chest as I think back to how much everything has changed in the last year. And now it is she on the other end of the line, reminding me about the responsibilities I am throwing to the wind. The next seven years flip slowly through my head. I will not buy a house. I will not buy a car. I will not move into a fancy apartment building or get any job that requires a credit check. But I don’t care. And it liberates me. That flip book isn’t my life, it is someone else’s, and the more I think about all of the things I am supposed to want, the less I want them. Suddenly the three thousand dollar bag on my arm and the seven hundred dollar shoes on my feet that I once coveted and adored metamorphose into the dull, greyed steel of infallible chains. I am going mad with a desire for freedom. Nothing can possibly stop the inevitable string of events that one sunset somehow set into motion. This massive decision that has only frustrated and petrified me in the past suddenly makes me dizzy with excitement. I could be free. But what will I do? I don’t want a mortgage or a car payment. I don’t want to sit behind another corporate desk for the rest of my life, and every molecule in my being knows this. As with every action and reaction in life, there are reactants, catalysts, and conditions required to yield the final product. After four years in a city I ended up living in by an inexplicably fucked up string of unpredictable events, I now find myself leaving in the same fashion. The dominoes of the universe that will inevitably tumble, that I cannot, or will not fight. It no longer feels like a choice, but a fate to which I have submitted. And with each day that passes I search only for the excuse, for the catalyst, for the way out. I am coming into work an hour or two late almost each day. I do as little work as possible. I am hungover every day. Wine and bourbon seep from my pores into the tautly conservative air of the War Room. But they will not fire me. Nothing I do will ever lead them to risk the lawsuit with which I could possibly destroy them. An illicit affair with a superior. Threatened bonuses, a notebook full of sexually harassing comments. They don’t pay me enough to make laying me off worthwhile. I’m cheaper to keep on than to risk as a liability.

I am scared. Or, maybe, I should be. I am not. All I know is that everything I thought was right for the last four years has been wrong. Perhaps the dreamed stereotype of a well-manicured lawn, and a nice car, and a few properly educated kids will bring happiness to most. Perhaps my lust is an anomaly in a sea of people that fit a bill I was never meant to pay. Regardless, as it is yet again, I don’t know what I want, but I know without a doubt what I don’t. It is crazy, I am crazy, so they tell me. But not a second of these four years has been wasted if it took all four of them to cement in me the knowledge that none of this is anything I want for myself. The large majority of people, including my friends, especially my family, think this is the most wildly irresponsible decision I have made in an absurdly long string of wildly irresponsible decisions. Despite this, and surprisingly, most of them understand. This is not for me.

The moment it happens, despite every wild unwoven thread of my poorly sewn plan, I know there isn’t any other way. I don’t have time to bide reason or responsibility. Responsibility will cost me a decade. And so, with seventy-five thousand dollars in unpayable debts, I cash in the last five thousand dollars of someone else’s money I will ever be able to, and flee from the Cackalack like the fugitive I am.

There are many choices in life you can’t unchoose, but few to which are given the grace of a second thought, the respect of a shred of a regret. This is the all the former, and none of the latter. I am finally free.