by Caitlin Fisher
Everything will be better after this. I figure if I just keep telling myself that, I’ll find a way to believe it. It had gotten me this far.
The cracked and fading vinyl that embodied the warm seat cushion beneath me snapped as I repositioned my sweaty legs. The sound of it served as a beacon for me to follow back to the stormy reality I was currently facing: motoring down the highway with a complete stranger in a truck that the very same stranger so cleverly called “Blue Bessie”. She breathed in gasoline and coughed out mileage, which is the only thing that I needed in a vehicle back at that gas station so many hours ago.
How many hours had it been now? My eyes roll over to the blinking bright green letters on the dash. The clock flashes the numbers ’12:00′ at me, while the reds and pinks in the almost-sunless sky tell me that it must be much later than that. My purple messenger bag containing my watch sits on the vinyl seat between the driver and me, and as I turn to grab the bag, our eyes meet for a moment. We maintain eye contact long enough for me to find out his eyes were big, brown, and full of sleep. My eyes fall like rocks before the look could be misconstrued. I have a mission to tend to, and I don’t need this random guy to tell me I can’t. The less we know about each other, the better the situation will be. I pull the bag toward me and dig my hand through the contents, blindly searching for my rubber watch. My hand brushes against a familiar cold cylinder, sending ice all the way up my arms to my spine. I could swear that I visibly shivered.
I find the cylinder shape in my bag once more and close my hand around the coldness. Mom. I can’t believe that it’s already been a week since I’d heard her voice. When I try to imagine it, it takes me back to our tiny blue-cabinet kitchen and the slow burn of the mint hot cocoa she would make for us every Friday, regardless of the season. It was just Mom and me back then, but now it was just me… And now this stranger with a blue truck that I decided didn’t look intimidating enough to murder me on the road. I caress the small urn containing her ashes with my thumb, remembering the promise that I had made her those long seven days ago, the whole reason I was out here today.
I wasn’t made to sit on a shelf, baby. Scatter me to the breeze. Let me dance in the waves at our favorite beach. But, don’t let me sit in a cabinet for the rest of my death. You know that I can’t sit still that long…especially without you there to keep me company.
She had smiled when she said it, trying to trick me into thinking the cancer wasn’t going to steal her from me two short hours later. I let go of the urn in my bag, the freezing texture of the shape reminding me too much of how her hands felt after she passed. I remind myself of how she looked in her life: golden haired, blushing, and laughing. That was the woman that I promised this mission to. My mother would make it into Lake Michigan before midnight.
* * *
“Hey, you’re not sleeping, are you?”
My body must have shot at least six inches into the air. I turn to where the voice came from, almost forgetting where I was. The big brown-eyed stranger was staring at me intently. Before I can make a sound, he smiles and says, “We made it.”
The truck wasn’t moving. My neck swivels to the windshield, where I see the deepest of the Great Lakes crashing before me in the dead of night. Before the stranger can say another word, I’m out of the truck with my bag in hand. I dash toward the lake, tears welling in my eyes as I take in my mother’s final resting place. As I run, I can hear my mother’s boisterous laughter falling among the waves.
I laugh along with her for the last time.
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I live in West Michigan with my fiancé, older brother, three cats, and two chinchillas. I’ve never known a better sunset than what I’ve seen over the Great Lakes.