The stereo’s on and the road extends into a wildly diverse landscape. We are driving through the desert, heading south. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun moves along with us. Since we left Los Angeles, I haven’t opened the window. Even though I am sitting in the car with cool air, I can image the flaming heat outside by looking at the desert on both sides of the road. The heat must feel like one is standing in front of a fiery dragon. Except for the endless sand, there is just a vast pan of emptiness. In the distance, the continuous mountains are covered by a rug of green and yellow trees hiding in the large cluster of clouds. The road seems to lead to nowhere.
I’ve finally gotten the chance to escape from the East, where is still snowing, and am enjoying a vacation in California with my mother. Instead of taking the one-hour flight, she has decided to drive the 300 miles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Although it’s a risky choice for a person who has never driven on highway in America, the four hours’ journey through the barren desert proved what Buddha said, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
While I am giving my attention to the view through the window, my mother suddenly asks me, “Have you realized it is the first time for us to travel together? I mean...only you and me.”
“Really?” It is true that it’s been awhile since the last time I travelled with my family, especially since my parents’ divorce. The pieces of memories about my father start to emerge in my mind, one after another. The moment he passed me the barbecue on the beach in Thailand seems to have happened yesterday. As nostalgia drifts in the air, neither my mother nor I speaks a word.
“Don’t you feel it’s great? Just you and me, on the road. I should come here to see you every year and we can go wherever you want. I miss you so much, baby…I haven’t heard from you the whole winter, but I understand you must be busy. You don’t know how happy I am to be here with you.” She talks to me, looking forward, and she sounds radiant. However, I can see the loneliness in her eyes behind the sunglasses. I keep my mouth half-opened but can’t say a word. I just hum in a small voice.
There are a few cars on the road. I see the little boy in the car next to us cuddle in the arm of a woman who looks like his mother. The radio is playing “West Coast” by Lana Del Rey:
“You say you’ll miss me and I always say I will miss you so much.
Something keeps me real quiet. I’m alive, I’m a lush.”
I remember that last summer I fought against my mother like a hedgehog. I was not willing to listen to any word from her because I thought I was mature enough to make my own choices, but it proved to be foolish. Now I can remember the grief on her face, which I ignored while I said words to hurt her feeling on purpose. I hadn’t asked for forgiveness, but Mother never blamed me.
“I am sorry, Mom. I really mean that. I am sorry for being so arrogant and inconsiderate last the summer. I just realized how foolish I was to waste time fighting with you when I was finally back home...I miss you, Mom. And I am happy I am here with you, too.” The words I thought were impossible to say aloud just come out without thinking. I am surprised as my mother is. After couple seconds, she giggles and put her right hand on my head and she calls me silly child. The moment when the warmth of the palm reaches my nerves, I can’t stop the tears brimming in my eyes. All the emotion bursts out from my body by the touch of palm. I must have been forgetting this feeling for such a long time. Yes, I must have forgotten the feeling of being a child, the need for crying out without concern, and asking for help.
When I am crying, I tell my mother about the pressure I felt from the schoolwork and other people. I tell her how bad things had been in the winter. I also tell her that the reason I never contacted her was that I would rather face all the problems, including loneliness, by myself, without letting her worry. She touches my hair gently to comfort my trembling body and remains quiet, listening to me, until I finally calm down. With my eyes blurred with tears, I see the sun dyeing the heavens in red, then orange, then dark blue. The sun is dipping behind the mountains, leaving the daylight lingering in the air. The gray road is blooming in the sunset. It seems to lead us to heaven. It seems endless. I wish it were endless. Go farther, farther, and never reach the end…
I have cried so long that tiredness attacks my eyes. As the last bit of sunlight disappears, I hear my mother say, “Little Silly, remember. No matter what, I am always proud of you. No matter what...” the voice fades away and I am drawn in a sweet dream...
When I wake up, I see a strong beam of light coming out of the top of the Luxor pyramid, shooting into the sky. We have finally reached Vegas.
Jiani He ‘15