by Jonathan Cardew

We pull up to the motel in the middle of the night. Mom has a black eye. She looks like a comedy villain with an eye patch. We have two bags packed. One with all our clothes and toiletries, and one she says I can never open.

In the room, we unpack. Underwear is missing. Mom lets out a shriek, something between a cry and a laugh. “How did you forget to pack the underwear?” I ask her, but she walks into the bathroom and doesn’t come out for two hours.

I turn on the TV. Wrestling.

At 4 am, Mom exits the bathroom. She flushes the toilet, even though it’s been hours.

“You should get some sleep,” she says.

“I’m not tired,” I say.

“You gotta be,” she says, sitting down on the crappy motel couch.

That night, I make it rain by thinking about how sad I feel; emotions are water-based, sometimes wet and hot, sometimes solid like ice.

I watch Mom stare out the window. The droplets are enormous.

In the morning, Mom is chirpy. The sun is blazing in the edges and corners of the curtains. She’s already been out, a box of donuts sitting on the table, her cheeks flushed from the morning heat.

“We may not have underwear, but we have donuts,” she says, triumphantly.

I devour a Long John.

We watch reruns of The Office and finish the donuts.

“How long are we going to stay at this motel?” I ask her across the bed.

Mom picks up the Motel Starlight notepad, draws a question mark in thick sharpie pen.

It is the biggest question mark I’ve ever seen.


Image by Olga Kobruseva via Pexels