Never an impetuous person, I had no idea how to become one. I found myself adrift after I walked out of the house that Sunday. I was only almost-fifteen, so I didn’t have a drivers’ license, and wouldn’t have had the use of a car regardless. With no money, no identification, nothing but the shorts, floral top and Saltwater Sandals I was wearing, I dug my long-ago confiscated bike out of the garage and set out.
The bike was too small for me and a the tires were a little flat, but I was driven by rageful determination. I rode to the gas station, which back in those days had free air for tires, even for sort-of runaways on little-kid bikes.
I asked the gas station attendant how far it was to Ossining. He asked if I was going to visit someone in the prison and laughed. I had no idea that he was talking about the famous prison Sing Sing – my family just didn’t talk about that. I remember looking at him in the eye and telling him, no, I just escaped from prison. He seemed freaked out by that, and eyed me in a strange way.
I asked him again how far. He paused to do some mental math, and told me that it was about twenty miles. He warned me that it was an easy journey in a car, but it would be really tough on a bike, “especially an old piece of crap like yours.”
Just as I was thanking him for his help, my mother’s station wagon came screeching around the corner. I think I actually saw the two outboard tires lift off the ground a bit as she made the turn into the gas station driveway.
Put the bike in the back, and get in the car, Sally Draper, she hissed through gritted teeth. You’re in trouble.