My grandmother told me about Maria so-and-so who ran away with another man. I see this woman dashing through the hallways of my mind to her bedroom in the middle of the night. She heaves a heavy leather suitcase onto her bed. I hear the click, click of metal latches popping and a musty, moth-ball scent dampens the air as she spreads the suitcase open, wide as her future. She folds her favorite skirts and cardigans, throws in a few neckerchiefs, pearls for luck, and of course, her sexiest stockings. I imagine she stands in the doorway of her daughter’s bedroom, blows her one last kiss from red lips and a gloved hand and then waits by the window in the parlor. He pulls up in a 1941 Pontiac Torpedo, hits a horn that actually sounds like “honk, honk,” and she scurries down the porch steps— grin wide as an ocean—slides into the seat, snuggles up. He directs her to a folded map in the glovebox, says, where to, doll face? She cannot contain the chirping birds in her chest at this point and frees them until they dive into vicious giggles in her throat. At the first stop sign, the map commandeers the entire front half of the car— from her lap to the dashboard. There is no satellite guiding them, only roads colored red like the veins weaving through her legs. Bing Crosby sings Don’t Fence Me In on the radio as they cruise along avenues at a comfortable speed, no seatbelt required. In fact, the car lacks seatbelts altogether. There is nothing holding them in place now, no cell phoned voices to answer to. There will be no ugly custody battle, financial struggles, child therapy sessions, or anti-depressants. There will be only a lacquered wood steering wheel and a smell of chemistry lab wafting through chrome vents as he drives her to a new home.
Brenda Nicholas is an Associate Professor of English at Temple College in Texas. Her work has appeared in Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Evening Street Review, Conneticut River Review, Unbroken, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, Menacing Hedge, The Helix Magazine, and other literary journals. Her chapbook, Hari Om, Hurry Home is available at Finishing Line Press & Amazon. Her full-length manuscript was selected as a semifinalist in the 2020 Philip Levine Book Prize and is forthcoming at Kelsay Books. Website: https://www.brendanicholas.net