I counted my tips for the night before reporting them and then got ready to leave. I hated waitressing, but it was something I needed to do to make some money before I found a permanent job or went back to school. Whichever came first. As I walked out of the restaurant and to my car I thought about the job and college search. Just a few months ago I wasn’t concerned about finding a job or going back to school. I didn’t need to be.
I pulled into the driveway and walked through the front door of my parents’ house. I was embarrassed about living there, to say the least. I was almost 22 and living at home. That in itself isn’t terribly embarrassing. The fact that I hadn’t been living with them for three years and now I was back was embarrassing.
I saw headlights sweep across the wall in front of me and turned to see my brother Nick’s car pulling into the driveway. It wasn’t embarrassing for him to be living at home, he was only 18. Lucky bastard.
“Hey, how was work?” I asked him as I made my way into the kitchen.
“I hate people,” he responded.
He was a waiter at a different restaurant. It must be nice to only have to be in that profession for a summer job, unlike me, who was forced to do it because I didn’t have my life figured out anymore. I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a two liter of Ginger Ale. I jerked my head towards my bedroom and he smiled at me. I walked into my room to change while Nick did the same.
A few minutes later he knocked on the door and I let him in. He greeted my dog Bauer, who was curled up on the futon that acted as my current bed as I pulled the bottle of Jim Beam out of my closet. Hiding alcohol when you were of legal age was another embarrassing part of living at home. While my dad was fine with it, my mom was the most anti-alcohol person I knew. It still didn’t stop me from stashing some in my room and sharing it with my underage brother.
“I just don’t understand why people go out to dinner when they’re in such shitty moods,” Nick groaned as he took the first sip of the whiskey ginger I poured him.
“People are assholes. Get used to it,” I told him.
He smiled and laughed. I turned on the television and began to flip through the channels. I stopped when I saw a replay of the Yankees game from earlier in the night. Nick groaned again.
“Are we seriously going to watch this?” Nick was a Mets fan. I don’t know where I went wrong.
"Of course we are, and you're going to like it." He mumbled something about them being an embarrassment to the sport. I didn't pay attention.
We sat and talked while getting drunk and watching TV. I was glad I was so close to my little brother. More often than not our nights drinking after bad days at work lasted until 4 or 5 in the morning, just before my parents woke up for work, when we were just too drunk to stay conscious.
We got talking about how depressing my life had been in the last four months. Three months ago I had a boyfriend and a life. I’d met Mason my freshman year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Some guy came up to me at the dining hall and invited me to a party. I agreed, eager to make friends and was shocked when I’d shown up to the Bulldogs hockey team’s rookie party. I’d rolled my eyes as soon as I’d figured it out and put down the drink someone had handed me so I could leave. I loved hockey, but I didn’t love being fresh meat for the hockey team.
Just as I reached the door I felt someone’s hand grab my arm. I turned to see an attractive brunette standing in front of me. He begged me not to leave, and something about him made me agree to stay. I spent the rest of the night talking with Mason and he never once made me feel like fresh meat. Probably because he was a freshman as well. A few weeks of hanging out later and Mason and I were official. Things between us were perfect.
At the end of his sophomore year he left school to go pro. I was upset at first, until he asked me to go with him. I was only 19, almost 20, and I knew my parents would kill me if I left school. I also knew Mason was the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I was afraid if I didn’t go I’d lose him. He promised to take care of me, so at 19 I left school much to the disappointment of my parents. They’d expected more from the daughter who had graduated 11th in her class of 230. I’d only been .003 points from cracking the top 10 but I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough about physics during senior year to get there.
I followed Mason to Manitoba where he spent only part of the season. I was young and in a new country. The lifestyle was one I didn’t know if I’d ever get completely used to. Manitoba might have been the most miserable place on earth. I’d always wanted out of the cold and snow and somehow I ended up someplace worse than upstate NY.
Part of the way into the season Mason was called up to Vancouver. I hopped on a plane for free thanks to the clause in his contract that specified that the team would fly me out. I sat alongside his parents as I grinned at seeing “Raymond” splashed across the back of a Canucks jersey.
I always felt a little out of place sitting at the games with the rest of the wives and girlfriends of the players. Maybe it was because I didn’t like having to dress up to go to a hockey game. Maybe it was because I actually liked to watch the game instead of drink wine and gossip. Maybe it was because I was so much younger than most of them, and even the ones that were my age were engaged or married. No one takes you seriously when you’re just a girlfriend.
I’d gotten a waitressing job under the table in Manitoba that I’d had to quit with no notice because of the call up. I then managed to find another one in Vancouver that would also pay me under the table. Even though I had my own money, Mason never let me pay for anything. I guess he enjoyed spending his money on me.
“I’m in the NHL now. You shouldn’t even be working,” he’d say to me. Yeah, so I can sit on my ass going stir crazy with nothing to do. Fat chance.
While he was the same guy he’d always been with me, he enjoyed throwing his name and money around when it came to others. I always hated that about him. But thanks to him taking care of me and not having to pay taxes, I amassed quite a bit of money in my bank account. I always liked to claim that made me independent, but in the back of my mind I knew I was dependent on Mason for everything.
We’d often talk about our future. Even though I was young I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. We would talk about settling down, getting married, and having kids. Despite the fact that he always said that was what he wanted, he never seemed to get any closer to proposing. I tried not to worry about it, telling myself I was still really young, but I couldn’t help but notice everyone else around us was settling down when we weren’t. This past February I’d had it and asked Mason if he was ever going to buy a ring. He’d looked shocked with how blatantly I’d asked him and it took him a while to answer.
“Misty, I don’t want to marry you.” Well, happy Valentine’s Day to you too.
Just like that it was over. He hadn’t said he wasn’t ready, and he hadn’t said he didn’t want to get married. He had told me that he didn’t want to marry me. I’d wasted two and a half years on a guy who didn’t even want to marry me. Despite his begging I packed up my stuff and moved back home. I wasn’t sure why he tried to keep me there if he was just going to end the relationship at some point down the road, and I never asked him. Mason and I hadn’t spoken since.
“I need to get out of here,” I confessed to Nick. He smiled and nodded.
“Don’t we all.” I shook my head at him.
“You don’t understand. I have plenty of money. I should go somewhere for the summer. Just me and Bauer,” I told him. He laughed at me, thinking it was the alcohol talking.
“And where would you go?” he asked.
I didn’t answer him. I pulled out a map of North America that I had in my room, leftover from high school. I began ripping it into pieces. I made the pieces small enough so that there weren’t too many places on any individual piece. It took a while, but I had a plan. When I was done I threw the pieces into a hat, all while Nick watched me with wide eyes.
I shook the hat, closed my eyes and pulled out a piece. Then I stuck a pencil I’d chosen as a pointer on the piece before opening my eyes. I checked out the piece of map I’d pulled out and tried to figure out where the dot I’d made was located. I grabbed my laptop and brought up a map of the closest city. I scrolled to the east and found where I estimated the dot was.
“This is where I’m going,” I said pointing to the map on the computer screen.
Nick shook his head at me, clearly not believing that I was ever going to do this. I quit work the next day and then broke the news to my parents. They were speechless and clearly disappointed in me for the second time in their lives. Who just packed up and moved to a place with no friends, family, or job? I told them it was just for the summer to get away and find myself, but they didn’t understand.
I found a cute little cottage to rent online and sent in my deposit. On Memorial Day weekend I packed up my car, put Bauer in his bed in the backseat and began my trip. The weather was nice and I had a smile on my face as I drove with the windows down and music playing. I was heading to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.