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I was fourteen the first time I left home. I crawled through my bedroom window, landing with a heavy thud onto the frozen strawberry patch my mother had given up on last season, creeped along the side of my house, past the livingroom window, where I could hear the sounds of Jerry Seinfeld from the television.

To prove my seriousness, I took almost everything I owned with me. Even my Christmas stocking. It was almost too much to carry... through the alley, down three streets, heading toward the park behind the police station. I had to stop a few times to readjust my things so the mismatched straps of my bags wouldn't cut into my hands. My black garbage bag gave me the look of Santa Claus in combat boots. The antiClaus.

By the time I reached the park, I began to regret packing that snow globe. For some reason, in the warmth of my bedroom, it seemed impossible to leave behind.

I would get this right the next time. I was not going to kid myself. I knew there would be a next time. Still, I forced a giggle and a small twirl on the sidewalk when I felt I was far enough from home to officially be free, even if it was only temporary.

Early November in Detroit has that just-about-to-snow smell. The kind of scent that latches on to your hair and makes you smell like a first grader fresh from recess, or a puppy. Detroit November is wet breath and aching ears. The grass is laced with ice.

A few steps through the park, and the icy-wet found its way into my bones. The colder I got, the slower I got... I lost confidence. Where the hell was I going?

I stopped at the baseball dugout, to hide in the makeshift shelter. The police station was just across the field. I figured, if I couldn't see them, they couldn't see me.

Just on the edge of the park are two dead-end streets. This is prime suburban location here, and the houses are proud, with neatly landscaped lawns and gingham curtains.

It seems everyone but my parents owned their piece of this place; their security defined by square footage.

The biggest, prettiest house-that-says-home is nestled at the end of the second block. This is Rachel's house. She is one my closest friends.

She was born to make success look easy. In a world of haves and have-nots, Rachel's a have. She's on the honor roll. She wears nice shoes. She eats breakfast every morning.

Since I know her, I realize that in some ways her life is just as impossible as my own. But it doesn't stop me from wanting to dive in head first; to know the smell of good shampoo, to sleep on matching sheets with a high thread count. Eyptian cotton. I don't know what that means, but I hear it's good.

But I know my place.

I nestle my bags of trinkets and garbage around me, bring my knees to my chest and study her house. All the lights are on. She is probably in her bedroom doing her homework, or shaving her pretty brown legs with that special shaving gel made for girls.

When she was voted Homecoming Queen, the senior class rushed the floor of the gym in an affectionate group trample. I was seven months pregnant, sitting in the front row of the bleachers. I tripped and fell on my way to congratulate her.

I guess it's always been a little bit like that. I even trip at other people's finish lines.

I settle back into my dugout. I could keep walking to somewhere, but my feet are frozen. These bags are heavy. This bench is warm.

I'm still waiting to grow out of this.

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