I stood up and saw that Mom was not waking up. I picked up the desert clothes I’d laid down and went over to my bag. Mom’s suitcases were next to mine. They looked lumpy now, like they’d eating something that their bodies couldn’t hold. I didn’t believe that all she brought were her clothes.
“You bout ready to start walking again?” she said.
“Yeah,” I said, stretching the sleep out of me.
“Why . . . why are your bags all lumpy?”
“What? What lumps? They can’t have lumps,” she said getting up.
“Look.” I placed my hand on top of the biggest one, running it over the lumps smoothly.
“Oh, that’s just,” her eyes darted,” those are just hangers.”
“You’re lying to me.” I began to open it.”
“Don’t-“she said but it was too late.
Pulling the zipper back felt like it took forever, like the first time a girl unzips your fly. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at. It looked like pieces of wood and metal and plaster. I didn’t understand.
“What the hell?” I looked at her.
“It’s not what you think. I’m not crazy,” she said very animatedly, “That stuff. . . I need that stuff,”
“You need a piece of a wall? Some splintered wood?”
“Yes,” she said. She put her hand on her hips and stood with all of her weight on one leg while the other leg tapped the dirt below us once. “Don’t you recognize it?”
I recognized the color of the paint. It was from our house, our living room wall. The wood was from the patio doorframe. And the metal was, if I remember correctly, one half of our toaster. There were other things in this bag too, like a kitchen knife and I piece of the bathroom rug and they all looked out of place. It was a cesspool of things you’d find in a museum describing a 21st century household.
I frantically grabbed the next suitcase and pulled its zipper down hoping to find something other than a basket case of items from our house: Some water maybe? Instead, more parts of the house. This time there was a part of the ceiling fan from the study and some cat food in a sack, which turned out to be a small pillowcase from the couch. I didn’t know what to make of all of this. My brow had been frozen narrow as I surveyed the plethora of items before me and wondered how rationality escaped my mom before she took our house apart and I kicked myself for missing it when we left. I don’t know how I missed a hole in the wall but I did. It was hard to imagine the house my father would walk into when he got back from work. Like a machine gun walked through on the way to a robbery destroying it all.
“I can’t really . . .” I said.
“Look, put that stuff back in the suitcases. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense to you, they’re all important to me. She said.
“This is ridiculous. I’m not going to carry around pieces of our fucking house through a desert. And I don’t care why they’re here anymore. I’m just not doing it.”
“I’m not leaving without them.”
We were quiet for a minute while the desert wind said something.
“You’re a real bitch, you know that?”
She slapped me hard. I felt the blood vessels in my cheek cringe. I felt my father’s gut squirm as he opened the front door without a key. She took the doorknob.
“Pick my suitcases up and let’s go,” she demanded.
“Do it now.”
“No.” I said.
She bent over and started to put the suitcases back together. I stood there watching her struggle to fit the piece of the ceiling fan back into her cute little suitcase before I decided that this is where I get off. This is where I leave. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore; I’m too old to be treated like another piece of the house. It wasn’t a home, it never was, and the split was too much for all of us to hold together. I grabbed my duffel bag and started to cross the highway to the other side.
Mom stood up straight and watched me walking hastily across the road. I knew she was looking at me and I kept on moving.
“Wait! Where are you going?” she said.
I kept walking. She kept yelling.
“Look, come back here! Please!”
I heard her voice getting closer as I turned around and saw her running towards me flailing her arms like I was flying overhead. I couldn’t imagine stopping now and for the first time in a long time I started running. I felt my whole body turn into one big muscle as the churning of my feet and arms in unison propelled me forward. I could hear her voice in between the wind passing my ears and I could hear the distance between us growing. I wouldn’t let this stop and I knew this was the only option, this had to happen, and I had to get away. Whether we were in a gas station down the road or in Las Vegas or at my High School Graduation, wherever it is, I had to leave. And everything I thought I knew before I started running slowly stored itself in the recesses of my mind as I embraced the world in front of me, starring at the road sign I passed. CHICAGO 1500 MILES.
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