After swapping things car to car in the parking lot post Patys breakfast, my Mom & I hugged goodbye. I made it halfway across the street before turning back, tears swelling in my eyes as the words left my mouth, “Mama, I’ve been trying to talk myself out’ta this, but I need to say it just so I know I said it…”
“What?” she asked with the same affection she has since I’ve existed, & instantly the past 25 years disappeared into the space-time continuum making me her silly, upset, small child & she my beautiful, empathetic grown-up about to set my whole world straight again.
“I brought my new passport to Alaska hoping I’d go home with him to Europe so the first stamp in it wouldn’t be Mexico. Last time I got a new passport was 10 years ago, the first stamp was to Mexico & the accident happened 2 days later,” my voice squeaked higher, not only because it was more than half gone, but because I felt 5 years old again. “I know it sounds stupid, but I’m scared!” Her eyes met mine with more concern than I had anticipated.
“Has it really been 10 years?” her brow wrinkled & I nodded. “Wow. I guess I’m 60 then?” she let out the quiet, comforting half laugh that meant it wasn’t as serious as she had first lead on to, & immediately it brought the smell of her Rachel Perry Cantaloupe Lip Balm to my snotty nose over that of the hot pavement, (even though that product hasn’t existed in many years).
I love this laugh, it’s one of the many things my Mom provides – probably without ever knowing it – to make this life soft enough to survive in. “Honey, it’s different now,” she paused. “You’ll be fine. We both have a lot to do before leaving, so let’s get goin’!” She leaned in to kiss me again & before I knew it we were parting ways for another unknown amount of time.
It wasn’t for another week when this came back around.
Each night I drove down a number of dirt roads home from The Ranch to the dogs in Spa Buena Vista… It was always late with this many people gathered together, because there was always something to do, someone to talk to, some chore to aid in. So I blasted the music in the open-air Jeep with sing-along songs to keep me focused on the dangers about – cows, other rare (but reckless) drivers, not to mention, just the road was a beast to be fought… And I always crossed myself as I passed the little graveyard, turning down the music so their spirits could hear me thank them for their contribution to humanity. The universe only knows what that was for each of them, but it doesn’t matter to me; I’m grateful anyway. My respect lies in the fact that we’re all connected & just like The Butterfly Effect, we will never know the extent of our own reach & therefore cannot judge anyone else’s either.
The Moon was waxing to be full the night of Summer Solstice – The Blood Moon – when I reached into my long, strappy purse, rummaging for my camera to snap a photo of this surreal moment of god’s earth intertwining with his heavens – if I couldn’t share the moment itself with someone, I was damn sure going to dive deeper into the feelings present to share it with others in words later. And just as they say, ask & you shall receive, because the feelings arrived quickly & in full force.
I took the photo, still smiling, when the strange sensation of what I like to call almost dejavu brushed into my consciousness. I hadn’t realized until that very moment, that amongst all the point & shoot cameras I’d bought & broken, or lost over the past 10 years in my travels, this one that I’d gotten on a flight between Singapore & Sydney for proceeds to benefit Project Red, happened to be the very same colour as my ex’s camera; the camera I had just put away into a different long, strappy purse before wrapping my arms back around his body, as we skidded to near death on a Mexican dirt road… The red camera was my last memory before the black, blank space of shock & amnesia set in. Both times, I took the photo with my left hand, saw the red shine as I put it back into my bag by feeling for the pocket – but 10 years ago, nothing came after that. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hot dirt, my eyelashes stuck together with dried blood.
It all came back to me more vividly than I had cared to relive except a couple times since it happened, but strangely this time I didn’t go off the deep end into tears or the rabbit hole of what-if’s that come with memories like these – no. This time I felt the events happening to me, but I also was a spectator who knew how the story ended. I knew I was going to be alright, that not only was I not dying that day, but it would become such a distant memory that it wouldn’t even impede upon my life’s choices in my future. This magical night was different because this time, I was driving.
Here I was under the cover of darkness, what I would normally associate with greater fear, but for more reasons than I could count, I was fearless on this night. The contrast in sunlight & the fact that I was physically driving myself were only the tip of the healing iceberg: it was a metaphor for all the other ways I was driving myself – & my life – here, through the night, a decade later… I wasn’t desperate to please a man this time, or worried about things out of my control anymore, or scared of what life could throw at me next, terrified of another surprise punch to the stomach... No. By now I knew better.
I embraced the reckoning knowing that I never would have flushed the rest of that lesson out of me, or been able to let go of all the residual scar tissue in my body & in my mind without sitting there in the depths of my memory, right with it. I was blessed that god put before me all the elements to succeed in doing this, in finally letting go – but I had to respect myself too, for being aware enough to sense it all, & to still walk into it.
Somehow, the last morning before my flight, the entire property was empty except for me. After packing up, I went down to the beach alone, squeezing to fit in just one last swim & sun bake… When it came time to go I laid my wet towel across the camp’s beach chairs & walking away I soaked in one good, last gaze around me. I’d done this last glimpse down the white sand & turquoise waters so many times, I’d done my makeup on the ride to the airport so many times, I’d felt the salt water crusting on my body as I travelled home, known the sting of saying goodbye to not just people but to places – all these things I've known so many times… And then I saw myself as I imagine my mother saw herself so many times throughout the years: on a beach, in a foreign country, all alone. And we both love it as much as the other.
But she was right again, long before I could figure it out – it is different now, because I’ve made it that way.