My mom was washing dishes; I could hear the water from the sink and the tune that she always hummed to herself whenever she was alone. I took my shoes off and put them on the rack by the front door and walked into the kitchen.
dad?" I said.
"He went out with some of his friends from work."
"Have you ate yet?, she said.
"There's some leftovers in the fridge. I only made enough for myself since I wasn't sure if you were going to come home or not so there's not much, sorry."
"That's okay. Don't worry about it"
"Were you with Annie? She hasn't come over in a while."
"No. I wasn't."
I ate as she finished with the dishes. When they were set away, she sat down at the table and we had small talk - the garbageman coming to pick up the trash and the recycle bins that were storlen from our neighbor whose home had foreclosed, a dress that she saw at Mervyn's before they closed down, my work at the high school, Mrs. Jones who was pregnant and expecting soon.
"I'm going to San
Francisco to become a writer," I said to her, abruptly and
without any context: right after "I think Mrs. Jones will be a
great mother..." Pause for a second. She sat silent. I must have
sounded naive and stupid. But I had said it.
She looked down into her cup and walked over to the kitchen nook, set the cup down in front of the water boiler and put both hands on the tiles. She titled her head to the side, enough for her gray hair to tumble down. He eyes told she had expected it. We don't small talk often. "Have you told your father?"
"I haven't. It's why I came home actually." I said.
"Do you want any more coffee?"
"I don't know what to tell you Junior. He's not going to be very happy."
"It wouldn't be the first time."
My mom poured herself a second cup. Usually, she would only have one after dinner. She said it calmed her nerves. I joked that she was using the wrong drug. Her skin had grown so pale since I left for college but it was not aged, not like the yellowing whites of the people that roamed the aisles of Wal-Mart in the middle of the afternoon.
"You know that you broke you father's
heart when you told him that you were going to be a high school
teacher instead. When it comes to you, things are hard for him. But I
know you Do you have any people in California?"
"I have a few friends I'm going to stay with."
"Should I talk to your father for you?"
"I want to tell him myself."
The light on the boiler went off and she poured it into the cups and brought them to the tables. She stood for a bit, as if deciding from which angle she should reach her chair, but wrapped her arms around the backs of my shoulder. When was the last time that we had embraced like this. High school graduation. Prom night. The first time I left for college. She let go and walked up the stairs into her bedroom. I stayed in the kitchen and waited. She never touched the cup she poured for herself.
Annie and I laid in bed. I spent the night helping her with her film. Friday night was Final Cut Pro night. We planned to submit it to the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival upcoming next month, in June.
Films and movies were things that we both shared. Our relationship revolved around them. And the creative processes that stitched everything together. I wrote the created the images and people in my mind and she took them out of me and turned them into things that people could see with their eyes.
We spent our nights editing in front of the glow of the computer. And if it wasn't that, we would drive around the city hoping for new ideas and quick bites, make out in the back of hotel parking lots when we got that coveted whiff of inspiration and emotional synergy. The last time it happened was a week ago. Someone left their wallet on a bar seat at Denny's. From that concoction came the idea of journalist who finds the passport and planner of a dead stranger he meets in Morocco. Instead of continuing with his story, he assumes the dead man's identity and planner.
We climaxed three times that night.
It was almost summer and her dorm was quiet. Except for the
students with late finals, most of the people had left UAB and gone
home. It was an Alabaman summer and the humidity hung like west coast
fog. "Aren't you hot?" I said, "you're wearing a
"But I feel like I'm hugging a
"I'm not wearing anything underneath it. Are you hot?"
"I was just wanted to know."
"I'm tired though," she said.
"And hungry. I mean, I'm not actually hungry, but just feel like I am."
She held me tighter. Sometime during the night she woke up. I was dreaming of being at work with all the kids yelling, calling my name, the principal leaning against the door frame, arms crossed disapprovingly as I tried to get everyone to "refocus". I was glad she woke up. "Are you asleep?" she said.
"No. Something wrong?"
"I can't sleep."
"You'll be fine hun."
"But what about you? I don't know why you have to go."
Music came in from outside. Someone had turned on their stereo across the commons. Most likely, a frat party. I recognized the song, Beastie Boys "No Sleep Till Brooklyn". I got up without answering her and closed the window. Alabaman summer be damned and got back into bed.
"Remember when we were trying to film 'Ashes of Time' and there were the months when you just couldn't get anything going. You'd come over to my house in the middle of the night, we'd drive all the way to Decatur and Mobile, or when we use to hike and camp along the Cahaba River and Ruffner Mountains and you told me once, 'I think I'm getting sick of of being here and this project.' It's how I've always felt here. We never finished the movie before moving onto next one."
"But you and both agreed that it
wasn't worth the time. It wasn't going anywhere."
"I know. But what if we kept going and did get through it.," I said.
Some footsteps cam down the hall. Some giggling and sound of hips hitting the wall on the way to their rooms.
"It's not about that anyway," she said, "It's not even about me."
Annie and I had been high school sweethearts. I worked at Jamba Juice in between classes to buy her a promise ring from Swarovski's. We use to talk about getting married someday when we could afford it after college the both of us finished school.
She pulled her sweater off. I could feel her pearl skin and the shape of breast as it compressed against my back. "You always say that I know you better than you know yourself. But right now, I don't know anything about you. You're already so far away."
Annie, my mom and I stood in front of the departure terminal at concourse C. My dad had dropped us off, but chose to wait inside the car in the parking lot. I carried a lot of regret with me for all the things I never said, got the chance to say, had the courage to say to him.
My boarding time would be arriving soon. I still had to make it through the customs.
"Do you have everything?" my
"Yeah. We went over this already." I said.
"I'm your mother."
"I know. I know."
She kissed me on both sides of my cheek.
I turned towards Annie. She was quiet
I looked at her face for a long time and then held her it between my palms like holding an egg while walking through a forest of dense shrubs, trees and low hanging branches.
"I'm going to the bathroom" my mom said.
"San Francisco's not that far. I'm not
going to be gone forever," I said
"I know...," Annie said.
On the plane's take off, I looked out the window as all of Alabama greenery, it's plains, rivers, mountains. Birmingham rolled by swiftly underneath the clouds until everything became blue. When the time came and the plane stabilized, I unclipped the safety belt and closed my eyes. I felt so selfish and heavy with guilt, but never so high and weightless.