About the Author
My parents are somewhere in Mexico. I have no idea when they’ll return. They have taken with them some papaya seeds, a computer, and their dog. They are driving.
Something is bothering me about this trip of theirs. It’s not envy of their adventure or fear for their lives. I am quite clear on that. And it’s not that I wish they were here, but something I can’t quite put my finger on.
On the way to Mexico they stopped in briefly to say hello and goodbye, rather like flagging me as they passed. The strangest thing happened in the hour that they were here. My father went outside to check the tires of their truck and my mother, sitting at my kitchen table, declared that she’d divorce him yet. Her reasons are understandable. He was back in the house before she could say more. Then they left.
That my mother might divorce my father, or that their trip might turn out miserably is not what’s bothering me. In fact, her postcard from San Diego telling me not to worry, that she would never do it, made me vaguely ashamed. I had not worried about it at all.
There’s been no word of them since they crossed the border. That they have not written is not the problem, as we rarely write to each other these days anyway, but call when we have something to say.
Last night I dreamt about Mexico. Actually the dream was not about Mexico, but about something else. In the dream I was on a train, headed for San Diego, where my grandmother had lived, before she died, and the train didn’t stop, but kept right on going, to Mexico. I tried to tell the conductor that I wanted to get off, but the train was going too fast to stop. What this dream was really about, I’m not sure. Anyway, in the dream, stuck on the train, I walked back to my seat, where I found my mother, not as she looked the day she sat at my kitchen table, but how she looked 35 years ago. She was dressed in a suit and wore a little pillbox hat. In the seat in front of her was my brother, six years old, looking out the window and shooting at imaginary Indians. At her feet was a bag of green apples from our tree in Oregon, that she was taking to my grandmother in San Diego. Obviously she didn’t know that the train wasn’t stopping in San Diego, but was going to Mexico. And I guess she didn’t know that grandma is dead.
She was worried, with an anxious, strained expression on her face. As I sat down next to her, she pulled my head to her shoulder and began stroking my forehead.
“Don’t worry,” she murmured, “the doctor will be here soon. You just try to sleep now. Everything is going to be all right.”
She kissed my forehead and pulled a blanket over my legs. I felt safe and secure, but too warm.
The conductor came down the aisle and stopped next to us. “Don’t worry, Ma’am,” he said, “we’ll be stopping soon to let on a doctor. Is she any worse?”
“No,” my mother answered, “just the fever won’t break.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” said the conductor, tipped his hat, and backed off. That’s just what he did, walked backwards off.
“Wait,” she called after him, “do you have any ice?”
“I’ll look, Ma’am,” he said, and disappeared.
We never saw the conductor again. He was not going to look for any ice.
“They’re afraid you might give it to them,” my mother said. We were the only people in the car.
Then she sang a song of grandma. She sang a song to her lacy curtains, to her chipped china, to her insistence on good manners, to the little birds in her garden.
Perhaps I should tell her that this isn’t a dream, but memory. Tell her that this train has an unspecific destination. That we aren’t stopping at all. That the woman who will greet her in Mexico is contemplating divorce. At least I could tell her that I survived the polio.
She knows all this though. In fact, she was the one who told me about hysteria and fear. She told me about how the train 35 years ago didn’t stop to let on a doctor, but stopped to put us off, far from San Diego.
But my dream has nothing to do with Mexico or the songs we sing now. Perhaps our memories don’t either. My parents sing a song of transformation and flight. They don’t worry about money or how we’re doing back here. Their truck is their very own cocoon. Perhaps they are following a blue star as they drive on roads as thin as veins in the mountains of Mexico. Perhaps they notice cloud faces as they pass. Papaya seeds are superfluous, the computer ignored, and the dog barks to a new, unfamiliar rhythm. Perhaps they have received their present of wings.
Here it is, finally, what’s bothering me. With their wings they will depart, lifting off and never setting down, visiting me only with the tremulous touch of ghosts. With their wings, I am orphaned.
|© Laura Beausoleil, 2010|