Chapter 69

Mom gets in the car and unlocks the door for me. I get in and take a huge sigh of relief. I take in the smells and the textures. I don’t know where to begin explaining my adventure. The immigration raid? The flight? The jail? The search for my dad? The party? My father? The journey? The border? El Burrito Crazy? The jails again? Telling this story is going to take forever.

I turn for one last look at the diner before it gets tossed into my junkyard of memories. The dishwasher comes out and cleans a booth next to a window. He looks out and sees me.  I flash him a smile, he smiles back, and then he fades into the back of the restaurant from where he came. I bet the corner of the restaurant that officer is sitting in gets lousy service tonight.

Now, back to my world. I never thought I’d see the day where this old Ford Taurus would ever look so good. I can’t believe I’m feeling nostalgic about it. I’ve only been gone a few days.

The cloth seats feel like old friends, and the dashboard smells of Armor All, like always. We haven’t even left the parking lot and it feels like I’m already home. It’s finally over.

Mom looks at me, smiles, then starts the car. “Thanks Mom. You have no idea how good if feels to be home again.”

“You can tell me all about it tomorrow. Just get some rest; you look . . . beat.”

I probably won’t see much of her for a couple of days. I’m really tired, but that water and burger kinda revived me a bit, and besides, I really need her to know . . . but how?

When we get on the freeway, I get an idea. “Mom?”

“Yes honey?”

“I need to tell you something about Dad.”

“Look, I really don’t need to know—“

“It’s not like that. You see, you remember . . . You know how we always thought that Dad left us for another family in Mexico?” She bites her lower lip and fiddles with the leather wrapping on the steering wheel. “Well, when I got there I ran into Uncle Carlos.” She looks at me. “He said Dad left to go back to the United States to be with us and they haven’t heard from him since.” I let that sink in for a second. “They kinda thought he might have left them to be an American with us.” She returns her eyes to the road, and looks confused. “And then, when I was trying to get across the border, I saw some stuff—lots of stuff—and I have the feeling that Dad tried to get home . . . he just didn’t make it.”

My body falls slightly forward as we very noticeably slow down. I can almost feel how she’s taking this. A look of concern comes over her face, but still no questions. I’ll just leave her with that for a while. I’ve had a week to deal with all this and I don’t quite know how I feel about it.

“So he didn’t have another family down there after all?”

“Nope. He was on his way back to us and he just . . . vanished.”

“I heard some things that happened to some people. I guess I always kinda wondered—no, I knew—there was something wrong. Your father was just too genuinely excited about your birth to have just left us.”

“You never told me Dad got deported.” She looks at me and then continues driving, waiting for me to continue. “That’s something we now have in common.”

That looked like it revived some very old memories. Her eyes immediately send tears running down her cheeks.

“A lot of people die every year trying to get into this country. It’s not as easy as hopping a fence and dodging some border guards, although, that part ain’t easy either, let me tell you.”  Surprise registers in her eyes and she dries her face. I’ll tell her the whole story tomorrow.  “I learned a lot on this trip.”

“So tell me, what happened, are you okay?”

“I’m fine now. I’ll fill you in tomorrow when we have some time. It’s going to be a long story.”  She looks like she’s still digesting what I’ve told her so far. We sit for a little while, listening to the hum of the tires on the road and the wind whistling through the gaps between the windows and the roof of the car.

“Where are your clothes?“

How can I answer that without getting into the whole story? “I left my baggage in Mexico.”  She looks over at me. I try to keep a straight face, but we both laugh.

 

“I was in such a rush to come get you, I forgot to bring the clothes like you asked.”

I pull out my plastic baggie with the slips of paper with the names and phone numbers and addresses. Mom looks at a few of them as she drives, and then stares into space as if trying to see their faces.

“Don’t forget to drive Mom.”

She wipes her eyes, and in the headlights of oncoming cars, flashing like a strobe light through the posts holding up the center divider, something indescribable seems to be erasing from her face. I lean my head back and peek over at her. Peaceful. She looks peaceful, and something else. I can’t put my finger on it.

“All those years I straddled a sharp fence. Something went wrong, or I wasn’t good enough. Now, all my love for your father is coming back like . . . like . . . like going through that old box in the closet and looking at the old memories . . . how easily feelings get revived, when you want them to.”

Lighter. That’s the difference. Years of doubt have been lifted off her shoulders. Finally, I surrender to a deep, black sleep.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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