Perhaps she should stop at the outlet mall, on the way out of town. It wouldn’t put her too far behind. If she hurries. While driving, she pictures the list. A scrap of paper clipped inside her planner. Half the items still not crossed off. All the things she thought she would need for the conference.
A writer’s workshop in Vermont. She still can’t believe she has gotten in. She fretted over it, after being accepted. Would she be ready? But now, she thinks of posting a selfie on Facebook, in front of the famous inn with the tag, "Pinch Me." When she gets there. In four and a half hours, the map on her phone estimates. But that’s too boastful, she decides. Going is all that matters. She doesn’t need anyone to know.
The seemingly impossible feat was leaving. Her tires rolled away from the house, children waving from the porch. David, cheeks red, arm around Sally’s back. Lucy on her own, hair fluttering, giving a weak smile. The dog standing, too. Tail like a banner. Even the leaves seemed to say goodbye, as the car rushed past. Strange to be the one going away, this time.
On the highway, the car picks up speed. The needle of the speedometer rises from 70 towards 80. Is she fleeing? The momentary question thumps like a footfall outside the door at night. Of course not. But still. Maybe she shouldn’t stop. Some long-stretched arms might reach out, take her back. Like the rock in a slingshot, misfired.
She fiddles with the radio, but the desire keeps nagging at her. She could just run in to the outlets, get the one thing. She pictures where she would park. The side doors in front of Macy’s. She would slip across cold white tiles between boots and swimsuits. Around glass counters holding gold and pearls. Straight to sleepwear. She can almost picture a plush robe hanging on the rack. Surely, that’s where it would be.
But when the exit comes, she doesn’t take it. The force of motion in effect. She doesn’t want to be late. But she wonders if that one more thing might give her what she needs. To be ready. The void inside pulses. Like a wolf in her chest. Gnawing at her, telling her she is not enough.
Hours later, the ding of Google Maps announces her arrival. Parking across from the sprawling porches, the sun lowers over a postcard scene. She turns away from the inn. Hesitates to soak in the saturated colors of the field across the street.
Greenest grass, shocking yellow flowers. Are they goldenrod? So different from this distance, like mushrooms or mossy rocks, tall stems hidden from view. And the sky more like the sea. As if it contains millions of creatures beyond its blue surface. And for a moment, she imagines tossing the overstuffed suitcase into the field. Letting it break open. She would watch until every last thing disappears. Even the clothes on her back. Flying away. Like birds.