“Let’s go. It’s going to get pretty cold in a few hours, better make the best of the daylight.” I said.
“You’re right, you’re right. Help me up.”
I grabbed her hand and pulled back as she pulled forward.
Once we were on the road again I lifted my mp3 player from the duffle bag.
“This weather is pretty terrible,”
“Yeah,” I said.
“It’s so hot. You’d think we were on our way to hell.”
“I guess . . .”
“Uggh,” she belted like a muffled burp, “I wish that damn car didn’t break down. I should have had a check up before we left.”
I didn’t respond. I could tell what I said wasn’t going to register anymore.
“You know, if your father would have taken care of a thing or two, maybe change the oil on the car when I asked him or mow the lawn every once and awhile, we wouldn’t be shit out of luck in the middle of nowhere,” she mumbled. Her pace picked up and she adjusted the strap over her right shoulder. She knew I wasn’t listening and her hand rested against one of her suitcases. “The door was always messed up.”
I raised my headphones and we chugged along to the soundtrack.
When mom first came into my room after work and told me we were leaving I didn’t know what to do. She told me that my father wouldn’t be home for awhile and that he said it’d be a good idea for us to go somewhere together. This didn’t sound like him though, he was normally aggravated and growling through his beard at her or me for something minute we forgot or didn’t do that day. I normally got the brunt; he always told me I should do something with my life. Maybe this is what he meant? I don’t really know but I got up regardless and told her I was supposed to hang out with Kevin and Matt that night and leaving now seemed to short-notice. She didn’t hear me. Before I knew it she’d started through my closet grabbing at some of my shirts and pants and shoes and I told her to stop; I’d pack myself.
There was no negotiating with my parents and being the younger of two children my voice normally found itself in the corridors of the house of conversation. I was lucky to stop her before she got to the shoeboxes in the back of my closet or else there’d just be one more problem over my head. I packed some clothes and my toothbrush and deodorant and grabbed a couple other things but forgot to get the charger for my mp3 player. I didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until I was walking in front of my mom at dusk in the middle of the desert highway. The player clicked off.
When seven o’clock rolled around we still hadn’t been picked up by any passersby and I didn’t have anything to listen to. I didn’t expect to be picked up though; only two vehicles had passed by, a semi-truck and a tour bus. Both of them looked at us as they passed and I knew they liked where they were and stopping for a couple bums was a waste of time. They had an agenda and it made them feel better knowing they didn’t have to stop for us and that we were in worse shape than them. I bet whey they got into their next jam they’d think, “Well, at least I’m not those two.”
The sun was in that awkward stage where it was peaking over the horizon at the moon and I could taste the cold air lying down on top of the heat. I expected to see a ball of hay roll by or a couple cacti but they must have been hiding. Instead we had pavement and dirt to keep us company. I was in front of my mom about twenty steps when the urge to tell her we should call it quits for the day climbed my brain and out my mouth.
“We should make a fire!” I yelled back at her.
“We should make a fire!”
“Okay, stop walking so darn fast!”
I slowed down to let her catch up and we darted off to the right. I hadn’t taken much time learning anything when I was in boy scouts. I didn’t know how to build a fire, nor did I know how to get my parents to build a fire for me, and for that matter I didn’t know how to get my parents to fill a tiny racecar they made with weights so they could win a trophy for me.
She got a fire going pretty quickly out of the few pieces of wood we scavenged from the desert. It was hard to find them in the waning light but what we could find, besides a sign that read, “LAS VEGAS 25 MILES,” was enough to get a fire going. It seemed contradictory at the time, to complain about the heat during the day and then complain about not having a fire to keep us warm at night, but we did it anyways. That’s how it goes. I laid out a few of my clothes; the ones I brought just in case, and sat next to the fire. We didn’t have anything to eat besides cigarettes and our words.
Mom began shuffling through her purse for her lighter.
“What’s going to happen to us?” I said.
Talking through her unlit cigarette, “Nothing…really.”
“No, I mean, when are we going to make it to the next gas station or whatever?”
“Eh, sometime tomorrow hopefully. If your dad we here we’d still be moving along. We’d probably make it there by midnight.”
“Yeah…I’m glad for that.”
“Mmhmm,” she stomached in between a drag.
“Can I get one of those?”
“No. I’m down to only a couple, but I wouldn’t give you one anyways. It’d make me feel weird.”
“Fine. Wake me up when the hyenas have torn us apart.”
I fell back onto my heap of clothes and watched the dots in the sky fade as sleep said hello.
I woke up when it felt like it was early enough to. Mom was curled up around her suitcases next to the grave of the fire. I sat up and brushed the crust out of my eyes as I looked around. I felt like the desert for a minute, all alone and dry. It’s different, in the rain, because the rain is always landing on your hat, shoulders, houses, children, and gloves. The desert is never landing on you, it’s always under you. With no people around it felt like it could never rain.