My mother, too. Woman lost. Woman on her own and living with
rage and haunted by her memories. I won’t say that we were too young
or that she was struggling with depression, because it’s more than that.
I realize now that I don’t know her. Not then. Not ever. She’s become
a mother in glimpses: her dark hair piled in a bun; her face smiling.
Her striking sad blue eyes. On sunny days, walking back from the store,
shifting grocery bags between her hands. Trying to cook and failing.
Singing Marx in the kitchen. And I feel sorry for her. I wonder what
she thought of us then. That we’d stolen from her? That we’d given? We
could be beasts—starving, angry, and wishing we were better than we
I regret that.
But maybe everyone should be allowed to cling to those things that
strengthen them—even if it hurts or makes them worse. At least, for a
moment, they can pretend to have fixed themselves.
Even now, when I pass a car in a parking lot or a church or walking
into the bank, I glance down at the tires and look for chromies. I don’t
even know why, or what I’d do with them. It’s a habit, a reflex, my eyes
always seeking that flutter of light from something small and fleeting.
Or maybe I’m waiting to kneel down on the road, knees bending in the
sunlight, to strip away all the chromie caps from all the black tires, so
I might breathe again that stagnant air—the same brutal smell it’s been
for twenty years.