The Escapist’s Paradise

Sophia Mirabal

There was nowhere to go in this “God-awful” town, Diane claimed, for it had already been conquered (by herself, of course) and she was in the interest of finding another village to plunder. “I am an empress,” she would tell you, and she’d make sure you knew it too, with her esteem and her late mother’s clothing. The way she carried herself, tall and proud, suggested her indifference. Above us, she believed was her place, though she remained, evidently, in the same pit as the rest of us, the same corner of the Iowa-Missouri border. But no matter her powerful desire for the extraordinary, her accent and manner and person were irrefutably ours, as in the same, disordered, Midwestern appearance. 

We would tell her this, when she strode into the square or ate at Tom’s disheveled diner, haughty and dragging behind her a cloak of fur. This was only one of her mother’s possessions, which decorated her bedroom and figure. 

“She is much too young to wear such things.” expressed many who saw her pearls, heavy eyeliner, and silk scarves. You would agree, as she was a ripe fourteen, and the tenderness of her age revealed itself in her unnatural posture and peculiar habits. Her fingernails were always painted a vibrant crimson, but the polish smudged and stained the surrounding skin. 

“It was faster that way,” she explained, cross-legged on the pool table of the local pub. When she spoke of her plans to abandon our lifeless conduct, she frowned, and in all honesty I felt compelled to lift her royal train from the muddy floors and follow her out the door. Hollywood’s stars and LIFE catalogs were her beloved, to which she would compare herself to. She took any chance to speak of her “big nose” and “limp hair,” and would conceal whatever seemingly unfavorable qualities of hers with a variety of methods and products. Her defining feature troubled her the most, a stark dot of a mole just between her eyebrows. Deeming it “out of fashion,” she would bury it beneath powder. 

“It isn’t even in its proper place,” she says, so she may redraw it by her upper lip and appear more “French”. 

“I need an adventure.” she would say. And, you could argue she had adventured enough, roaming free about the town without restriction (without supervision). But that was the defining difference between adventure and independence, she would claim. For she had the latter, an abundance of it, but she had not, in her words, “known anything new her whole life.” 

And so it was no surprise when news of her departure had arrived, in the form of shameless gossip (one way to pass the time) from a desperate woman in the post office. The story circulated, and within a matter of days the entire population of Hill City (which was not an impressive number, mind you) had heard of the circumstances. Equally expected was her father’s disinterest, for Diane was the turbulent child of an alcoholic loafer, who’s drinking habits (and therefore, disregard) has steepened exponentially since the death of his wife. He had not noticed she had left until the fridge grew empty and the laundry accumulated. 

A week had passed before a much more startling scrap of news made its way to Hill City, this time delivered by a stout, hard-nosed police officer. He mentioned the description of a girl, odd and extravagant, dressed from head to toe in fine coats and jewelry, wanted for crime. You might take a wild guess at who was the culprit. Still, when he explained that she had robbed, at gunpoint, a poor salesman of his car at a gas station just four miles west, we said nothing. We knew it was her, her and her father’s revolver. But we remained silent, played dumb, shook our heads, scratched our scalps, and shrugged our shoulders. Eventually, the officer, defeated, left. 

“Perhaps she finds what she is looking for out there,” said Wanda, a hairdresser, later that evening, and the pub crowd opposite her nodded in agreement. You would think she meant fame, fortune, and a lifetime of self-discovery.