Growing up I was never religious, but now I find myself wishing I could believe in 'something'. Maybe it’s too late for me. Maybe that 'something' is dead.

It's a blistering dry, scorching sun afternoon in August. The time seems to stretch as long as the open roads on this highway.  The emptiness of the deserted landscapes Im surrounded by reflect all my grievances back at me. I try to tune it out.

Since I got this bruised up Pontiac a couple weeks ago, I’ve been listening to this religious talkshow on the radio.  The guest is an old man, and judging by his accent I’m guessing he is Chinese. 

"Regard each and every being as if they were your mother.“  he says. His voice is all whimsical and sage like and I'd bet my life he has a long white beard like a sorcerer. While part of me wants to laugh at him, deep inside I feel tears welling up.

If only those words had been said to me a couple months before. But. then again, it may not have mattered, since I hadn't regarded my mother so highly anyway.

Driving along these empty roads, my mind begisn to fill in those long stretches of Nevada dessert with its own scenery. Little snippets from the years past unfold before me. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my earliest memories with my parents.

My dad, before he left, I remember taking me to the movies. I remember he left me in the theatre while he went to the concession stand so I could “save the seats.” I remember being afraid he’d never come back. I was only five at the time. We were seeing some campy cowboy movie called ‘open road’ or something cheesy like that. Ever since, my memories of my dad all amalgamated with that movie. The last memory I have of my dad is like the last cornball scene from that movie. It’s him, a Marlboro light between his teeth, riding off into the sunset. Instead of a horse though, my dad was on a red Harley. 

My mom wasn’t pleased when I told her I dreamt of getting a bike. Nor, when she found my pack of Marlboro lights with my laundry, or when she found out I'd been skipping class to go see cowboy flicks. or go to the pool hall (I'd learned that my father was also quite the pool shark).

Nothing to do with my father pleased her. I pestered her with questions about my father every single day. No matter how much I knew it bothered her, I insisted upon asking. She told me he was dead. I knew she was lying 

My mother had blonde hair. My father was a redhead. Somehow I had brown hair. Don’t ask me. I’m not a fucking biologist.  

My mom was always a pretty woman. Alcohol has since reduced my mind to a rattling old film projector, but I can still  see my mother’s angelic beauty as clear as ever in my mind. I remember going to the grocery store with her and feeling sick when I noticed all the lecherous old men staring. Their moustached mouths hung open like hounds. They pretended to smile courteously but their bulging eyes honing towards her breasts beterayed them for the dogs they were. As I started getting older, all those ogling old perverts bothered me to a blind rage. If I ever had a friend say anything or so much as look at my mother, I’d near beat them into a coma.  

Mom was good about it, though. As much as she may have liked to, she never saw any men after my father. She must've figured how it would’ve crushed me. Maybe she was afraid I’d end up murdering the guy. It wouldn’t have taken much for her part, though. She could’ve shortened her skirts a little and maybe worn a tighter blouse. Maybe some lipstick. At the very least it maybe would’ve helped pay the bills a little easier. We were poor. All the money she saved was for my birthday and Christmas gifts. 

As her son, I wanted to make it easy on her, but I didn't. I was a lousy kid. I skipped class. I got into fights. I stole crap and then got handcuffed. I brought loose girls around the house like it was a goddamn brothel. I remember one time, mom asking me, “How is that Karen Walt?” When I asked her who Karen Walt was she whipped her hand hard across my face.  It was the only time she ever laid a finger on me. 

“Women are not your playthings, Henry.” 

From then on, I tried being sneakier bringing them around, but I swear, nothing ever got past mom, she knew everything. 

But what really did it was when I was 16 I dropped out from high school and became a mechanic. When I told her this, it destroyed her. She had saved up all those years with the dream to send me to college.   My father was also a mechanic. He also dropped out from high school. 

Things were never quite the same after I broke the news to her about dropping out. It was kind of like when I’d disappointed her as a child. She didn’t lash out and try and discipline me. In fact it was much the opposite. She simply shut down. She’d sometimes go silent for days, or after the time I called my teacher a nasty old hag— for weeks.  Eventually, though, things returned to some kind of normalcy. Not this time. I could see the change in her eyes. They were cold and empty and devoid of all the love I'd only come to realize cherish much too late.  

What finally broke her? It's not like being a mechanic was bad, anyway. Nah, that wasn't it. To put it simply, I became my father. 

I didn’t really care much about her distance and her disapproval. We had many quiet nights at the dinner table, and we maintained a certain cordiality of muttered pleasantries, but it was obvious we had both given up on each other.  She still got me a cake and a gift on my birthday, but it was never really the same. 

By the time I finally got the motorcycle Id always dreamt of—a red Harley, the spitting image of the one my father once had , my mother pretended not to even care. Of course, she did, though. But by then, it was only more salt on the already massive wound. The damage had been done. 

I moved out to my own apartment. I’d see her on thanksgiving or a birthday and bring whatever girl i was seeing at the time. Seeing the gradual lines of aging on her face did pull on my heart strings a little, but not enough to give her a phone call or pay her a visit. 

Still, even with my job, my apartment, my drinking buddies, something felt amiss. It was something I’d felt since I was a kid. A hole in my stomach which had been getting deeper and more dread inducing each day of my adult life. One night laying in bed, listening to the snoring of the chick beside me, suddenly  I needed to move. I needed to find out. I needed to ride that red bike of mine down that open road I'd seen my father take all those years ago.

I kicked the chick out early the next morning and I packed an extra shirt, some clean underwear, and a package of peanuts into a bag. I grabbed my sunglasses and black riding boots and darted out the door, didn’t even bother to lock it. 

It was still early in the morning. Not a lot of cars were out. I hopped on my bike and was riding the breeze for quite some time until I got slowed down.  It was on a dusty street leading up to the highway. The closer I got, the more eager I was to rip the engine and just fly in the direction of my dreams. But, the stupid driver in front  of me was just lurching forward. I tried to go up closer behind the car and signal for them to speed the hell up, but they didn't.  Finally, I cut to the opposing lane of the pathway, not even bothering to realize the car driving in my direction. Instantly, I swerved and bailed off the bike. The car driving towards me made a sharp turn off the road and flew headlong into a tree.  I recognized the car instantly. That’s how my mother died one morning on her way to work.

Now, as i drive on this open road, I’m not searching anymore. That thing that I once hoped to find at the end of this road doesn’t exist.  Some people spend their entire lives driving just to figure that out.  Others, like me, in pursuit of that thing, end up killing what they already had. 

May 30, 2020 01:58

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Michael Loss
23:32 Jun 03, 2020

Beautiful and tragic, a wonderful combination! Good job.


Matt Render
05:48 Jun 05, 2020

Thank you for the kind words


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Pragya Rathore
19:00 Jun 01, 2020

I love your descriptions Matt!! Great story. Please review me too..


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