In the summer when you were a teenager, you’d climb out your bedroom window.
It went like this: Someone, almost always a boy, would come to the window, tap, tap, tap. You’d sit up from the bed, where you waited fully clothed under your blue-and-green floral Laura Ashley bedspread, and arrange the pillows into a five-foot-six lump that vaguely resembled a sleeping person, her body and face covered by blankets.
Using your arms, which were strong from gymnastics, you’d boost yourself up to the windowsill, bringing one foot, then the other, to meet it. A few feet below, an air-conditioning box awaited you. You’d slide down to it, butt against windowsill, and from there it was a quick jump to the grass, glossy and wet from the sprinkler, followed by a jog of 100 or so feet to the curb. You prayed your gossipy, religious neighbors wouldn’t see you as you hustled yourself to the idling car.
The minutes, sometimes hours, you spent waiting for the arrival of whichever boy you momentarily liked, your heart pinballing around in your ribcage, were terrifying, exhilarating. You felt like you might vomit, but the rush you got from defying your mother and her overly strict rules (you lived in an Evangelical town and were not Evangelical; she was proving a point) was so bracing that the fear was worth it. You didn’t yet know the dark paths your rebellious ways would take you down, and you wouldn’t for years. Right then, in gray, staid, boring, fundamentalist suburban Illinois, where the judgment of your neighbors, teachers, and friends, always rumbled like a looming thunderstorm, you just loved feeling wild and free.
You shared a room with your sister, who was only 13 months younger than you were, and from her you demanded stillness, silence, unstinting loyalty. She was as anxious as you were that your mom would wake up and catch you mid-flight. You lived in a tiny ranch house, your bedroom just down the hallway from your mother’s — so close that you could hear her dry little cough, the telltale sign that she was stirring from the oceanic depths of sleep. If she merely cleared her throat, your heart would belly-flop. This was in the days before cellphones, so you couldn’t text or call to abort the mission. Once you committed, you were going…