This is the stretch of road I remember best. We drove it all the time, the straight shot from the roads off Ellenberger Park and then here, where it curves and bends and follows the forest on the right (beyond which I imagine a reservoir of water, an entire lake that snaps up the reflections of the night and stores them somewhere murky and silver and still) and the lamplights shine just enough to keep the road illuminated, but keep it dark enough that it feels a little magical, a little bold. I have driven here at night a thousand times: coming home from Friday night dances and football games, from Aunt Dolly’s house or Aunt Jing’s after dinners on Sunday night, with the radio turned up so that I can sing the words of teenage music into the sleepy night. Tonight the sky is an inky black, and the moon a puffy pale yellow that looks like it has been silkscreened on the sky. My body feels it, tastes it, recalls the teenage me. It comes back to me and I shiver, holding the steering wheel tight.
I cried when I saw Aunt Jing this evening. She was there waiting, on the driveway when I pulled up, and her white hair, her crinkled eyes, the way she looked like my mother and then didn’t, the way she could be all of us — she could be me, my aunts, my mother if my mother were still alive. Perhaps it is how we smile. How our eyes shine. How the moonlight gets caught in flecks in the cool corners of our gaze, and flutters when we blink. How all of those years that passed, they didn’t really go anywhere. They are still here, stacked in these houses on Emerson Avenue, waiting to be unpacked, waiting to move into all of those driveways and fill the walls with photographs of us. Aunt Jing hugs me in my tears and doesn’t question any of it at all. We stand in silence on the driveway in the middle of this muggy summer evening, and I cry into her shoulder. She squeezes me (what is left of me). We are broken everyday and then built up again, layer upon layer — road after road after road.
Leaving is so hard, not for the going away, but for what is left behind.
Today I’m listening to: Hi Lili Hi Lo by Paul Desmond.
I’m leaving for Rome tonight. Ten days in America already gone. I can’t believe it is over so soon!