FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


Running on Empty
By Julia Borcherts

She was fine, it turned out, as she always was despite me. But Greg, who wasn't happy about being woken up, started yelling.

"I'm afraid to leave town half the time because I never know what'll happen to my kid if I'm not there to watch you," he shouted, stomping in his boxer shorts to the bathroom for a glass of water.

I cuddled Bebop into my chest and kissed her sore head. "You think I'm a bad mother?"

"Look, even your own mother thinks you could use some help."

I jumped off the bed. "You talked to my MOTHER behind my back?"

"She only wants to help," he said quietly, running his hands through his flat-top.

"YOU don't help me," I yelled.

"I'm trying to make money," he said. "And I never wanted kids. And you're the mother. It's your responsibility, not mine."

That did it.

"You know what? I want a divorce," I said. I stomped into Bebop's room to put her in her crib, and it broke my heart when I realized that she was safer alone in her own bed than she was with me.

Greg slept on the couch that night, and when I got home from work the next day, his clothes were gone. He called a few days later to give me his new phone number, but by then, I'd gone out and gotten a second job. He said that he missed Bebop but that he couldn't take her with him, since he was always leaving town for work. I didn't answer my phone for a week, afraid that if I picked up, it would be my mom or Greg. I was trying to prove that I didn't need anyone's help. But I realized that night -- two weeks into our separation-- on my way to the Laundromat, even before I ran out of gas but around the time I discovered I'd forgotten Bebop's bottle, that I was failing.

Part Three

The wind was still blowing sideways at 30 mph and I could feel, through the back of my coat and the scarf I'd wrapped around my face, that the temperature had plunged below zero, but the snow, at least, was starting to let up. I made it to the pay phone without incident and managed to call 911. Then, I swallowed my pride and made a quick second phone call to my estranged husband. Fortunately, he answered on the second ring.

"I can't talk because I just discovered a murder and the killer might still be here, but I need you to pick me and Bebop up at the Clark gas station at Auburn and Kilburn right now," I told him.

I heard an exasperated sigh. "Christ, Julia, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

I wanted to slam down the phone but I didn't have anyone else to call. My mother? I didn't want to speak to her till I was on top of the world and could rub her nose in it, and tonight was definitely not that night.

"Can you please just come?" I pleaded. "The car's out of gas and the police are on the way but I don't want to walk home with the baby in this blizzard."

My kid had commenced to howling. I didn't want to go back into the gas station -- after all, there was a dead man on the floor and who knew if the killer was hiding in the bathroom? But Bebop needed something to eat, and as we walked back up to the building to wait for the police, I saw through the plate glass window that there were a couple of vending machines I hadn't noticed before, along the side wall across from the counter -- one for cups of pop and coffee; the other for snacks. Bebop didn't have too many teeth yet, so, true to my white trash roots, I bought her a Hostess Twinkie for dinner, which at least seemed less likely to choke her than a candy bar or chips.

She was contentedly gumming her Twinkie when a dozen squad cars careened into the parking lot, sirens blaring, lights flashing -- the first set of cops leaping out and running into the gas station without even slamming their doors.

The detective arrived at the same time as my husband, who snatched Bebop out of my arms, his heavyset frame quivering with aggravation. I snatched her back, handed him my keys and asked him to go get her car seat so that the police I was getting to know wouldn't feel compelled to arrest us for illegally transporting the kid on my lap.

The snow had stopped completely, but the temperature had plunged to 30 below by the time the detective finished asking me questions and Greg returned. Shivering, we strapped Bebop into the back seat and she fell asleep as soon as he started the car, which is when I started crying. It was 1:00 a.m. and I was going to have to get up in four hours to get to work. I was also going to have to wear a dirty, frozen uniform to my second job as a waitress, because the laundry baskets were in the trunk of my car and the Laundromats had closed while I was busy running out of gas.

"Do you think," I sniffled, as we pulled out of the parking lot behind a patrol car that was cruising slowly down the street, "that we could come home with you instead?"

"You've had a rough night," he sympathized, his dark eyes softening as he put his arm across the back of the long bench seat.

"Maybe if you were around a little more, we could have worked this out," I suggested, unbuckling my seat belt to scoot closer to him.

He retracted his arm. "You should have thought of this before you told me to leave."

"Maybe I made a mistake," I offered, and took his hand.

He pulled off onto a residential street and we sat and watched a few squad cars circle around the block while Bebop snored in the back seat, snuffling through what sounded like a dream.

Finally, he let go of my hand and leaned back against his window, shaking his head.

"This sounds like an attempt at regeneration," he said. "And if we learned one thing from zombie movies and Stephen King novels, it's that regeneration is not a good thing."

I know I shouldn't have done what I did next, but I was desperate. I leaned over to put my arms around him, thinking that maybe if we started kissing, I could talk him into taking us home with him, at least until I could figure out what else to do. But he saw it coming and pushed me away with both hands.

"Don't," he said, but he said it with some sadness. "It's too late for that."

And I realized then that he was through with me. But I was going home to an empty house on a freezing January night with a serial killer on the loose. And goddamn it, I was only twenty-three years old. If I was going to get through this and not fuck up completely, I needed help. I turned to my soon-to-be-ex-husband.

"I want my mom," I said.

He nodded his head and shifted the car into gear. And as the snow fell quietly around us, he drove me to her house.

PAGE 1 2 3

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2007