I find another boyfriend at Goddard, younger than me but he wants to ditch school and take me and Caitlin to California, he loves the idea of a ready-made family. I like the idea too.
I am determined to leave Peter, our marriage is over. “Please, I love you, things will get better,” Peter begs when he finds out I am going away, he is full of penitence and charisma. I lock the door and refuse to talk to him, and he discovers he cannot be persuasive and knock at the same time. Caitlin sits on my lap and I listen to Peter’s voice from the corridor alternate between lilting and icy, silence my only recourse because if I give him a chance to change my mind, if I open the door, he will sit next to me, take my hand, and next thing I will be skin to skin with this man who has the soul of a colander.
My boyfriend and I buy a 1967 VW bus, a hippie dream. He spends next year’s tuition money and I sell all my New York furniture to a second hand store and pack Peter’s jazz record collection into the bus along with a fifty pound bag of brown rice for the trip. Because it is autumn and likely to get chilly soon, we will take the southern route across the country.
We camp out every night in parks to save money. Everything goes smoothly until we get to Bowling Green, Kentucky where the bus breaks down. We manage to inch through town until we get to the local VW dealership parking lot where we live for a week until my boyfriend calls his parents for money, and we get it fixed. But this is why I hate the Salvation Army. I go to them, Caitlin in my arms, looking for help. “We’re stranded,” I say. “Could you lend us some money for food and gas?” The Salvation Army man looks at me coldly. “Sorry,” he says, “but it is not our policy to help Jewish hippie bitches from New York who are traveling with much younger long-haired men they’re not married to, unless of course they are willing to renounce their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.” He doesn’t really say that. But he thinks it.
He just says, “Sorry, we can’t help.”