“Do you want to just drive home?” my mom asked me with a glaze of lunacy in her eye.
It takes twenty hours to drive from Miami to Manhattan and I would spend every minute of road signs and rest stops next to my mother.
The turbulence we bounced through on the way down to Miami flooded my mom’s flying tolerance and so there we were in a white rental car, not unlike the size of a small boat, motoring up I-95. With the hoards of South Beach shopping behind us, the faded concrete path guided us towards our first stop, Georgia.
When I wore felt onesies to bed, I’d stand on the bottom step of the stairwell and look up at my mom. It was an infinite height I couldn’t possibly ever reach in my lifetime, I thought. Movie stars weren’t of significance and Disney Princesses couldn’t compare as I stared up at the grandiosity of her. She was who I longed to become.
Co-pilot in our boat-car, our shoulders meet, we stare out on the same level. Maybe I was becoming her and maybe I didn’t want to anymore. Maybe I want to at least be able to fly back from where I flew in from.
The longest I’d been alone with my mom without an optional out was way back when I was in the womb. Though even with optional outs, we’d never had mother-daughter fights where I’d slay her with words like “bitch” and “hate.” I promised her that when I turned thirteen I wouldn’t be embarrassed of her and meant it. And I appointed her sole vault of my darkest secrets at sixteen. There’s nothing wrong with my mom, I just want to be somebody else. But after eight hours on the road, I began to think turning into my mom had no optional out.
Silently we picked at dark chocolate covered almonds, both sneaking another handful so that the other wouldn’t know to smack the grip of goodies out of the others hand like had been mutually ordered for the sake of those ten pounds Miami inspired us to drop. As the last runt almond rolled around in a field of plastic packaging, we arrived in Georgia.
Still hungry, we headed to the restaurant that was the sun of the road stop chain hotel solar system. The neon blaze of “BBQ” had attracted travelers out of their rooms like mosquitoes to a blue light. The joint was buzzing, we were starving for a bite, and there seemed to be room open at the bar. I slunk back like the thirteen year old I promised I’d never turn into as my mom approached to check if two seats were vacant.
A thing you should know is that my mom cries a lot. My mom is really sensitive. My mom cried when she dropped me off at camp. My mom cries during sixty-second commercial breaks. My mom cried when she read the note I wrote my dad for his birthday.
Claiming a chair with her purse the way America claimed the moon with the flag, a man spun around and hijacked the territory. The man hissed a few words that split through her the way “bitch” or “hate” would. It was his chair. Not hers. And if she did not recoil from his area, he’d accentuate his hiss with some spit. Absorbing the sting for a minute longer than comfortable, she sharpened her glare to growl, “I thought people in Georgia were supposed to be kind!” Then she stormed off to wait for a table in the safe, calm reception area.
I wish she would just pull the curse words she stores in her arsenal for when the dogs piss on the rug on assholes like this. “I would have called him a real bad word. I would have stood my ground. I would have been stronger,” I thought, silent, cozied into the wooden bench of the safe, calm reception area itching my tear ducts.
Over a glass of white wine and a plate of fried cheese, we’re stirred by an asshole and the way we handled said asshole. We cannot enjoy this cheese or this wine, a usual delicacy of basic bliss. My mom opens her mouth to flush her concerns but before words, tears peer out below her thick-framed glasses. Tears create spaces between words. Cheese creates spaces between tears as it’s shoved in to cork sobs. I crack. I don’t know why, but I do know why, you know why? People can be such jerks and it’s really just not very nice and I’d probably need to walk away to flush out tears too instead of cursing someone out just the way my mom did. In a road stop BBQ restaurant in Southern Georgia, just off of I-95, my mom and I are crying with food in our mouth over some asshole wearing a baseball cap in a dark bar. In that moment, I’m her mirror image.
I’m sensitive. I cry. I cried in the cabin bathroom stall after my family left me for the summer. I cry during movie trailers. I cried when I read the letter my mom wrote me for my birthday. And I’m happy we chose to drive back to New York instead of flying because that turbulence on the way down really scared me too.
The next morning, before the sun tagged the moon to switch sides, we drove off to Savannah. Shoulders meeting, staring into the forthcoming scenery at the same level, we agreed to not purchase anymore chocolate covered almonds and that the new Bruno Mars song was really sad but also really great to sing along to. And so we crooned in the same off-beat, out of tune way as states flashed into familiar territory. I’m morphing into my mom and the only bad thing about it is that I’m going to need a lot of tissues.
You can read more from Brittany Bennett on her blog.
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