The snow fell hard. It covered everything with it’s frosted beauty. Trepidation fell alongside it as I held Hattie’s hand on the short walk to the car. I thought about how snowflakes were alone and unique, like fingerprints, only these were rarer. Each snowflake was a minuscule hand sculpted seraph, antagonized and expelled from heaven. This was becoming apocryphal. She started the car, we were about to drive home in the storm despite my whiny protests. I had a bad feeling, then again I always had bad feelings.
When you ride in cars do you expect the doors to open up and then you fall to your death? No? Me either. I was only checking to see if you did that. In my mind the cars doors always opened on their own during trips of any distance. I could picture myself falling out, my arms flailing and my legs kicking in slow motion, and dying upon impact, whether it be asphalt or wall. I noticed my reflection in the window, looking down on me as I counted street lights in German. Ein, swei, drei, vier, funf… I didn’t know how to count in Gaelic. Underneath the bulb of every beaming light was vengeful snow, like icy hornets buzzing around an infiltrated nest.
We had a gigantic used 1984 Cadillac Coupe Deville, white and rusted, dinged and banged up. I remember feeling tense, my body constricted as I pressed my feet hard, pumping the imaginary brake pedal. My feet didn’t quite touch the floor. There was a Burger King cardboard crown under my sneakers. I mentally prepared myself for the oncoming impact. It was without a doubt we would crash, and if we didn’t crash on the ride home, well it would have been a fucking miracle.
Hattie cranked the radio and sang her heart out. The car was her outlet. It was her stage. She wanted to dance with somebody. She wanted to feel the heat with somebody. She wanted those things with someone who loved her. Whitney Houston was Hattie’s favorite. Under different circumstances I might love to be in the front row of her audience but not then. I couldn’t hold myself together as I rarely can. I nervously rubbed my index finger back and forth on the seam of the door’s red leather. It should have been a pimp’s ride, I swear. Dirty change and old candy melted together in the ashtray. We approached the intersection in front of St. Mel’s, though it was close to home, we weren’t parishniors.
Years later I would drink beer in the St. Mel’s parking lot, and get down with girls in their cars. A much better memory but the fond memories don’t come to mind as often as the negative ones.
I didn’t want to smile at Hattie or show any indication that this was a fun or a sanctioned ride home. I didn’t want her to think I was enjoying any of it because I wasn’t. Hattie applied her damp shoeless foot to the brake late, so much for the Bandolinos being her driving shoes. With the turn of the wheel, the Caddy skidded and fishtailed, the bald tires held onto nothing. Maternal instincts seemed to be in there somewhere after all. Hattie swung her right arm out, an open palm pressed against my iron on initials, keeping me in my seat, preventing me from hitting my face on the dash. We were in an accident once before, where I did, so this was an improvement. I don’t remember if I was wearing a seatbelt, considering the time frame, it wasn’t imperative. No car seats or front seat concerns. So I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and I hated being in the car with her. The car stopped after spinning for what felt like forever. I hated that I was afraid. I hated her for making me feel like a little coward. I hated her for loving the moment and laughing, as if it was a roller coaster ride at an amusement park. I found no amusement in that intersection.
“Are you okay, Honey?” She asked me with a big smile. She removed her hand from my chest.
Just a heads up, a little full disclosure, when anyone ever asks me if I am alright, I will always lie and say, yes. Just like my mother. The one about the apple and the distance from the tree.
I looked around and it was peaceful. Then my mother was gone, her car door ajar, unwelcome snow blew into the Caddy.
I was alone in the Cadillac. I climbed across the seat and got out into the blizzard. I spun around calling out to Hattie. ““Mom! Mom!”
All the houses along the street, although not identical, appeared ponderous and seemed to be placed symmetrically. They looked perfect to me in this recollection like superbly planted flowers in a garden. Cookie cutter homely perfection. I’d wager that the families that lived inside those splendid houses were perfect too. Happy, normal families. Inside those dwellings the mothers did motherly things and the fathers provided for the family, hunter gatherers, and the heads of the children were patted to reassure them, to affirm that there was indeed love. I know there is more to life than baking brownies and little league games, but these are still wonderful things to have, they have importance. Those houses were more than mere structures, they were actual homes. More than wood and brick and sheetrock with holes punched through it like my house, a house that in my case harbored dysfunction and systemic resentment. The facades of those houses may exude warmth, friendliness to some but to me it still felt uninviting, politely looking the other way, turning the other cheek, wanting no part of my mess. When I see a house like that I still want to be on the inside looking out, though I’m certain that would never happen. A house of my own could maybe happen but a home, a home was impossible.
The snow glowed radiantly like the fog of Antonio Bay, obscuring the definitions of various objects, making them ambiguous. A weathervane perched on a nearby roof, a spinning rooster, had lost its detail and was paralized in the direction facing south.
If Catherine had come that night it would have been so much worse. Though she wasn’t in attendance for this particular drunken debacle, it really made no difference, she would be subjected to so many unfortunate incidents. I’d be ashamed if Catherine could read my mind.
Outside in the snow, standing in the cold there was no one to turn to for help. I needed to find my mother but never was any help. If there was, I’d probably chicken out, and be too embarrassed to ask for it. The snow increased, bombarding me. I knew it was cold because I could remember seeing my own breath, but at the time I couldn’t feel the temperature because of the adrenaline. Maybe because by then I had already grown cold?
My breath floated up and away like ghosts into the storm, dissipating into nothingness. The anger that functioned within me was alive but not fully conscious, readying itself to wake. I experienced a pang of jealousy watching my dematerializing breath. I exhaled and it simply vanished, for as long as I remember that was something I always wished I could do. Simply vanish with ease into the chill of the night as if I never existed at all. I’m more like Hattie than I wanted to admit. That moment standing there was a memory perceived as complete and unending helplessness. Is there infinite loneliness? And if so have I unlocked it?
I didn’t know what to do with myself. I never do. I had no idea where she had gone. She was barefoot and drunk. Would I ever see her again? I didn’t actually say this then but this is what I would have said, “Mom. Come back. Mom, I will act like I enjoy your reckless behavior next time. I swear. I have your driving shoes. Come back. Please. Please. Don’t do anything stupid. If you come back I promise I’ll never pretend to hate you again.”