Reharsing an escape

My imagination decided how fast the trees passed by. I evaded fictitious obstacles and winded through a road which curves only I knew.

I was under my father’s desk. A massive, dark brown piece of furniture in the centre of the study room, ornate with twisted columns so shiny and smooth it was hard to believe that are were made out of solid wood.

 I was 4 years old and I fitted perfectly inside the cubicle between the two lateral sets of drawers.

The saucepan lid that I turned around a non-existent axis made a perfect make-believe steering wheel. I felt safe. I was on the run. I felt safe despite being on the run. I, definitely, felt safe because I was on the run.

I could be the driver of my own wooden car for hours and enjoy landscapes only I could see. Sometimes, I used to take Bolacha with me – a red, plushy clown, half my size, dressed in a tartan overall. But mostly, I liked to drive alone.

This is my very first memory of wanting to escape.

I was 6.  On Friday afternoons, I was particularly happy. No more school and a whole weekend ahead of me. The idea of what a weekend could be and the expectations of doing something special like going for a walk somewhere new or eating ice-cream at my favourite parlour were enough to make me happy.

On Friday afternoons, I loved to throw empty plastic bags out of the kitchen window. If they were light enough, on windy days, they’d quickly set off from out of my sight. It was such a pleasure watching them inflate and fly away! I wondered where they’d go and who would see them apart from myself. I liked to imagine they’d go high enough to land somewhere else and twirl around distant trees.

I wished I was one of them to take off from the brown window sill of the kitchen window up into the blueness of the sky.

Obviously, this was before their odysseys inspired Herzog and Sigur Rós and emblematic short films anddefinitely long before plastic bags were considered highly pollutant. So, I was allowed to empty the drawer from all the transparent ones and free them into an exciting and unknown world.

I was 13. I was crossing the Portuguese border into Spain by car. Our final destination would be  3 days away, in distant Germany, where I had never been. On the front seat, next to the driver, my sister started to cry, like she always did as soon as she left the country. On the back seat, a thousand tons are lifted from my shoulders and the air feels lighter and the horizon broader and I couldn’t be happier. I had never been freer. The further and faster we’d go, the better it felt. From the back window I saw the sign that draws an imaginary line between the two countries vanish in the distance, and despite I then felt as light as a flying transparent plastic bag in the wind, I was already dreading the day I’d see it again.

But, in the meantime, I would have a couple of weeks to fulfil my dream of travelling abroad, beyond the small Spanish border towns where, sometimes, we used to shopping during the summer vacations.

I was absolutely positive that everything I would find along the way, between Lisbon and Frankfurt, would be so much nicer than the place I came from. All those places, whichever they were and whatever their name was, meant freedom to me.

Hardly did I know that, almost 30 years and many simulated homes later, it would be in Germany which, for the first time, I would stop wanting to escape.

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