I saw it in the rearview mirror. Just a flash, a pop of reflected sunlight. But something made me stop and turn around.
It was about here, wasn’t it? Right by this fence line? No. Further down.
I turned off the radio and cranked down the window. The heavy heat barreled inside, a line of sweat beaded up under my bottom lip.
I parked the car and got out, dust settling on my shoes. I could taste it.
The mirror hung upside down from a rusty bit of barbed wire strangling a tree. A carved wooden handle with chipped red paint that flaked away as I touched it. The wire didn’t want to let go. But I persisted.
When I looked into the mirror, I saw no reflection.
I saw my mother, as she must have been before I was born. Long dark hair, big earrings. Smile big as day. She cradled and patted her belly, laughed and sang with her eyes almost closed.
I saw all of it next, a lifetime in a moment, lit with gold, each second melting into the next. Toddling baby, ABC’s, sleepovers, schoolmates, heartaches and bliss. Day jobs and daydreams, love and loss.
And then I saw a highway, a fence line, a tree. My fingers covered in flakes of red paint. The air purple and dim.
I saw a truck speed by and push my hair into my eyes. I saw a diner, a room rented for the night.
The scene jumped from then on, missing frames, sharp and angled. Linear but no longer smooth.
I saw people I didn’t know. I watched myself laugh and cry. I saw moments that weren’t mine yet, and felt them too.
A thick, dense emotion that I couldn’t even name saturated me inside and out. It was so big, too big for me then, I wasn’t ready to hold it. It wasn’t mine yet.
So, I closed my eyes and hung up the mirror, gave it back to the wire strangling the tree. I brushed the red paint from my fingers.
A truck sped by and my hair got in my eyes.
I drove to a diner just down the highway. A place I’d never been to but remembered somehow.
And I rented a room for the night.
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