At least 2 years before I spoke to her again, I drove past my mother’s house. There had been a man I needed distance from for a day or two—a man I nearly married and eventually did not. My almost-husband is what I call him now. I mean it to be endearing. I mean it to be accurate. So, the ending of that story was beginning and, though I knew that I would return to it, would follow it through, I sought another narrative. I drove from Long Beach to Martinez. I want to say, “I went home,” as people do when they return to the sight of their birth, to the presence of their mothers, but I have a compulsion towards accuracy, though I feel also that it can only be approximated. I drove slowly, scenically up the coast, each mile rolling back an increment of time, but regardless of my meandering I could not achieve infancy. I arrived only at 22 and drove past the house. Ten years was not enough. I called my uncle. We met at the park. He was depressed. He was more tired and fatter than I remembered him. I winced. He had been so handsome once. I left him and looked for the bar where my mother had gone with girlfriends on Saturday nights, where she had met men for cocktails and youthful flirtations. I parked in the square and walked around the small downtown. Seeing it as it was now, remembering what it had been when I roamed it as a child, missing the gift store that had fascinated me as a little girl. They specialized in transparent balloons that encapsulated stuffed animals, usually seasonally appropriate Christmas bears and Easter rabbits. It was vacant, as many store fronts were, but the town’s single Chinese restaurant still had its fish swimming for luck in a murky aquarium. I ordered the potstickers—my favorite when we visited my mother in the summer or during every other holiday—and went back to my search for the bar. I thought I could find it by sight. I thought I would recognize it, but it seemed to be gone. I still wanted a gin and tonic, so I picked a bar with windows and ordered. I asked after the bar I had been searching for. “This is it”, the bartender told me. It was not what I remembered. I wondered how I could have gotten the image so wrong. “It burned down last year, we just re-opened. W e really fixed the place up.” I sipped my drink. I took out a book. Soon a steel-worker asked me back to a boat, not far, out on the marina. He touched my knee. His hands were the roughest I had ever felt. I demured and went to pick up my food. I ate until I was sick. Outside my door a man was whispering loudly in Hindi.
My father is dead. My mother is not. I emptied his bank account today and am readying to disperse the small amount to all of his daughters, and yet she is where I have been the last few days.