To say that she was fed up would be an understatement.
Four sons, two husbands, a Pontiac Grand Am that never much seemed to want to start with regularity or break down entirely, and now this … a living room full of dog shit. Whose dog we’d best not mention. It will only make her angry again.
At first, she’d cried. She’d lain herself down on the hickory floors, amidst backpacks, soccer balls, and the offensive excrement and banged her forehead on the perpetually sticky floor. She’d slammed the palms of her hand on the wood repeatedly, and beat them against the sheer aggravation of the universe. From deep within she released a low angry sound, half bellow half growl, with a twist of sniffle and whimper. They’d won.
The problem that afternoon was that they wouldn’t let her take her ball and go home. Regardless of how many times she’d told them that she couldn’t take any more there was always more they wanted her to give. This was her home, and not even her laundry room was sacred after that goddamned beagle moved in.
Her sons, 17, 16, and the twins at 13 stood there, watching – silent. What does one do with a middle aged woman in the throws of a temper tantrum? So they’d done nothing. Well, first Tommy (the youngest and most empathetic) nudged her with the toe of a dirty Adidas cleat and asked, “Are we going to soccer?” And then they’d ignored her, as they always did until they wanted something.
But this. Was. Too. Much.
Elizabeth Monroe was finished. Finished driving car pool. Finished making turkey sandwiches with mayo, extra Kraft cheese, and Grandma Sycamore’s seven grain bread. Finished absorbing the hostility of teenage temerity and adolescent angst. And, most of all, finished cleaning up after everyone else.
She stood up, snatched her purse off the kitchen counter, pushed cheap white-framed plastic sunglasses up over her forehead, and headed for the front door. With the doorknob in hand she almost paused for a second – almost. Years later the boys would fight in the good natured tone of brothers as to whether or not there’d been hesitation. But, Betty knew there hadn’t been. Her passport was already waiting in the car, as it had been for months, along with $465 in a duffle bag full of socks, underwear, and her favorite red pumps (which were the only sentimental item in her entire house worth taking).
She’d headed north along the 405 then taken the 10 to LAX, where she parked and left the keys in the ignition at the kiss and ride and pretended not to notice the stares and calls of airport personnel. Tom Petty’s Free Falling continued blasting through the opened window as she clomped her way toward the terminal, unsure where she’d end up, but committed to seeing her getaway plan through to completion (or at least as far as her hard-saved grocery cash would take her).
The American Airlines gate was waiting for her when she walked through the double doors, and she wasted no time queuing up with the other suburban SoCal refugees who surrounded her. She’d only ever been on an airplane once, on her honeymoon with the first George Monroe (back before, she’d had the laughable bad taste to marry a second man with that cursed, but convenient, name). They’d spent a long weekend in Las Vegas and she’d come home pregnant, miserable, and $200 poorer after George had a bad run at the craps table.
Six business men, an Asian family, and two short-skirted party girls stood between her and the realization of a lifetime’s fantasy, and she began to hate each of them. She wanted to take the sharp end of her sunglasses and stab them in the face no fewer than 14 times – fantasizing about public mass murder a habit she’d taken up during her new life on the lamb.
The gate agent, when Betty finally got to the front of the line, was confused and uncreative. “My computer doesn’t search by cheapest flight or distance ma’am. I can’t tell you how far away you can get for $300. Do you have any guesses on where you want to go?” He’d explained, blank-faced and mealy mouthed.
“Can I get to Mexico?”
“Pacific, Atlantic, or Central?” He’d asked, perking up now that he was catching on to the intention of the wild-haired, red-eyed lady with the messy brown hair.
“Pacific I guess.”
“It’s your day. The next flight to Cabo San Lucas leaves in 45 minutes. I can get you a seat on that flight for just over $300.”
She’d paid for her ticket, dodged his curious inquiries, moseyed through the inhumanity of airport security (in those days before the attacks when security was something an inexperienced traveler could mosey through), and settled into her seat just in time for taxi and take off. Two hours later, her exodus complete, she stopped at the airport payphone to call George II, who grumbled and whined and purchased her return ticket for late the next afternoon.
She never really left again. But, from that day forward, she always knew she could, and after an airport Marriott and a fajita dinner buffet she flew home with almost $75 left in her “Fuck You” envelope. And that was all she needed.