Around the dinner table was a quietness interrupted only by the sound of chewing. This is usually a compliment to the chef. However, tonight’s absence of noise triggered something in Alice. She gently put her napkin on the table and excused herself from the table. No one seemed to notice. She left her half eaten dinner plate and her family silently enjoying their meatloaf and potatoes. She grabbed her coat, the keys, some cash and calmly walked out the door.
Before she was out of the driveway, her eyes were open wider than they had been in years–perhaps ever. She could feel a wild and explosive lump forming in her throat as she put the keys in the ignition. It was the primal scream escaping her mouth that brought her husband to the window. Ben looked just in time to see his wife accelerate away from their home.
Ben stumbled to his phone. As soon as he heard the vibration against the counter behind him, he knew she had left her phone. He realized he had no way of knowing why she left or where she was going.
Alice decided where she was headed at every stop sign she came upon. She lacked the need or desire to sleep and just kept driving. She stopped only to feed her tank and replenish her supply of cigarettes. Her body craved the nicotine more now than when she quit four years ago.
After almost two full days of driving, Alice’s eyes were falling. She wanted to just keep going but caved and stopped for the night. Upon entering the motel room, Alice immediately turned on the TV. She needed sound to fill the space. She hummed to herself as she kicked off her shoes, peeled off her jeans, grabbed the bottle of wine she picked up at the liquor store across the street.
Alice took a long drink from the bottle then fell on to the bed. She chose to think about the amount of germs she had come in contact with since entering this room, rather than the devastation she created two thousand miles away. Within the hour, the effect of the wine collided with exhaustion and Alice’s eyes finally fell closed.
It was the sobering sun light that roused Alice’s thumping head from the deflated pillow. Before she was able to absorb the space in time she was in, she began to cry. The TV had timed off and Alice was left with nothing but her conscious echoing in her head. The echo began competing with sounds of her sobbing.
Feeling trapped in her own head, Alice decided to distract herself with a cup of coffee at a diner around the corner. She walked inside and chose a booth next to a window. She faced the unknown world around her and suddenly felt herself uncomfortably still. Visions of her children started to appear and she fought back tears. She knew the tears were confirmation that she loved them, but more an admission that because of them she couldn’t go back.
She was tracing the top of her mug with her finger, like a needle stuck in a groove on a vinyl record, when a man with greasy features approached her booth. He said he hoped she was enjoying her morning and asked if she had any friends that wanted to wait tables. With out hesitation, Alice told the man she could do it. She denied any reason as to why she couldn’t start right away. The man appeared relieved and went to fetch a uniform in the back he said was about her size.
Alice pulled her knees to her chest and balanced her mug on her knees. She knew she was capable of waking in the morning and pleasantly serving breakfast and coffee to strangers. She knew she was capable of intoxicating herself enough at night to get to sleep. What terrified her was how was she going to pull off being Alice in the quiet moments in between mornings and night.
Alice startled when the greasy man appeared back in front of her. He tossed a uniform on the table. Alice stood up and draped the old-school brown and blue, diner-style dress over the front of her. It was the perfect size.
Grease man apologized for the previous employee’s decision to stitch her name to the blue patch on the uniform. He requested she leave it be, as he had no intentions of buying a new uniform if she tore it. He continued to ramble about minimum wage, sharing tips and the hours he planned to schedule her to work. The information being spewed was irrelevant to Alice.
That blue patch, adorned with the name Connie, was all she could see. In that moment, Alice knew she would stay true to this distorted journey. Looking at the borrowed identity built in to that uniform, Alice knew she was never going home.