I'll always remember the day when I came back to Vermont and signed the lease for my apartment. I told my husband some lie about where I was going for the weekend. I may even have told him that I was going to see Sarah, which I later spun into a full story about renting a place from her. I imagine he's assigned a different story now to what I did then.
I arrived in my old hometown--not really my hometown, there is no such thing when you're an untethered vagrant--and even though the December weekend was cold and gray, I felt as free as a summer day.
I set up the air mattress I'd brought in the middle of the front bedroom at the top of the stairs. I left things on my new kitchen counter to claim the space: a half-eaten jar of peanuts and a paper coffee cup I'd drained. My keys on a ring. The vacant apartment felt weightless to me. No kids, no furniture, no heavy echoes.
The next day I walked around town and looked at the mountain range that the valley nestled against. It was just as I'd remembered. Things like mountains don't change. I took a photograph of myself sitting on a marble bench on the town green. In it, the wind whipped my hair across my face.
My lover surprised me with a telephone call. I sat on the top carpeted step and told him about the epiphanies I was having and described the luxury of following curious trails of thought.
"But I don't understand why, now?" I said.
"Pet," he replied, "maybe you were too busy just trying to survive before."
After we hung up, I realized he was right. I'd been tiptoeing and holding my breath for seven years. I did not know for sure what lay ahead of me. I wasn't certain how to engineer the details of my escape or when I'd be able to move into the apartment full-time. But I knew, at least, I'd be safe and able to breathe.