I feel most alive on the US-15 with my mother, my father, and my puppy.
The sunroof is down, the dog is half dangling, half scrabbling out of the window, the sky is clear and the clouds are scarce,
and the sun is pleasant today; not scorching like it has been all summer.
In summers past, I would melt into my grandma’s leather couches and they would use my sweat as glue
and swallow me up until I had to peel myself from their clutches.
My mother’s eyes are on the road.
She looks like she’s concentrating, like she’s really into it, but more is on her mind. I see the dark circles weighing her beautiful brown eyes down
and the pensive frown tugging the corners of her lips down until they look like twin rainbows.
The dog is whining because we’re going too fast, so we slow down.
It cries because we’re slow.
We speed up and it cries again,
so we stop at a gas station, and I take him for a walk.
He needed to pee. I remember this gas station, but the people in it are long gone. This gas station has a placard outside of its door: “$50,000 lottery ticket winner sold here!”
I look back at the car, the glistening new void white Sonata, and picture the myriad of losing lottery tickets inside the glove compartment.
The first time I played, as soon as I turned eighteen, in Niagara Falls at some old, decrepit 7-11, I won $50.
My mom hugged me and told me, "good job," and I handed
my ticket over. What would I do with it?
I didn’t know then what I know now;
that college textbooks are expensive.
We take the scenic route and hop on US-15,
My mother, my father, my dog, and I. The other cars revving loudly before zooming by put me back,
back at my high school’s graduation breakfast, when the cars and trucks gathered in the parking lot of the local Italian restaurant revved up and drowned out our cheers for finishing.
I gave my crush then a kiss on the cheek, and he kissed me back, because we liked each other but I couldn't admit it using my words.
The sun, O festive summer sun, jauntily bounced off the resplendent hoods of the cars, much like it did the one I sat in the back seat of that day, and the voice of my best friend called me and asked me, “Are we starting yet?”
“Are you excited about starting; starting college,” my father asks. His question confuses me; the boyish voice of my best friend still echoes in my ears. I shrug and look down at my lap.
I miss seeing the mountains choked by the verdant thickets
and the farms spreading out from world’s end to world’s end
and horses and cows plodding forward in worn down grass
gnawing their bland, tasteless cud.
We’re close to Maryland.
I saw a welcome sign a while back, but was busy stroking the dog’s stomach.
The way he stands on his tip toes to lick my face reminds me of the day when I first got him.
He, so small and so unassuming, so curious about the scent of the little pizza-faced girl staring down at him, rolled over on his back and whined.
“Pet me,” he demanded, “Pet me! Love only me. I’m your pet now.”
And I complied because he stared at me with brown eyes too human and large for his small head
and ears too satellite for his body signaled a planet straight up through the Milky Way. So I stroked him, and he licked me. We were in love.
We stop on the road one more time and get dad a beer.
I remember this store, too, and its workers never changed; it’s family owned.
The son met me once before when mom and I drove up to New York
and we talked about long family trips and video games while he let me take a free soda. He had to have been thirteen; I was ten.
Now, he gives me compliment after compliment, and his charming blue eyes and familiar tone almost sucker me into love
but I remembered a boy exactly like him just in time;
a boy with eyes like his and a grin crooked with perverted intent, and I backed away and made some excuse about my dad being super protective.
Huh. Super protective, from afar for eighteen years.
We’re in Maryland. That huge welcome sign greets us and my mind returns back in time;
To a midnight sky with stars embedded in every stitch of abyss.
As my mother and I drive
with no father and no dog
to our new home in Maryland, we listen to smooth R&B while mom tells me we're going to be living with a couple of friends.
Where did mom meet these friends?
How does she know a master typist, a volleyball star, a track champion, and a video game nerd? No matter; we got to stay in Maryland.
And as the car pulls up to the dormitory where I will stay, I realize that I constructed my life transiently;
Layers upon layers of road and mountain tunnels cleaved to my skin until I became a multifaceted, complex organism; a new form of intelligence far beyond the requirement.
The car looks bare compared to all the others; no bags or televisions are strapped to the top.
My parents step out, both mother and father driven to tears, a complete family for once to be ripped apart thrice
and I turn my back on the road, prepared to add another layer.