Written by: Sherry Michelle
The highway was backed up for miles. Paramedics, firefighters, and cop cars lined the streets leading away from my hometown. No one was being allowed to enter or exit the highway from what I could see. Mom had always told me to check the traffic before leaving the house in case of any incidentals. But for some reason today I didn’t check the traffic, nor did I remember where I was going or why. My mind was a total blank. I picked up my phone to call my mom. I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t answer.
My mother, a noble and well-respected college professor always had time for her students and work, but when it came to family, except for her boyfriend, her time was limited. I thought that life would be better once mom got her degree and started doing something that she loved. Contrary to my belief, it was just the opposite. Throughout her educational years, and my neglect, she had always assured me that once she graduated, we would live a happier and better life. Honestly, I preferred the life we had before the degrees and financial stability. Back then, mom and I were inseparable. She was my best friend, and I thought I was hers. It was one thing to accept the change in our relationship due to her demanding job, but to be put on the back burner for a man she had just met, well, I was livid.
As I sat in traffic, I recalled how angry I was when I found out that my mom was getting married. Mistakenly, I had overheard her conversation with her boyfriend.
“I haven’t had the time to talk to her, but I will tonight. Don’t worry. Once the fire cools, she’ll be happy about our engagement.” My mom reassured her new fiancé.
Her words pierced my soul. How dare her! I had no idea that her relationship had grown so serious. At that very moment, I hated her. She had no time for me, but she had time to get engaged.
Gasping, “Zondra is that you?” She asked through the cracked door.
I must’ve made a noise. Afraid to answer, I stood frozen. There was so much rage bubbling up inside of me.
“Zondra,” she called out again walking towards the doorway. “Honey, why are you standing out here? Didn’t you hear me calling you?”
Tears in my eyes, she knew I had overheard her conversation.
“Oh, sweetie, I didn’t want you to find out this way. Please, come inside. We need to talk.”
Like a wounded puppy, I followed my mom inside of the massive classroom. I sat down at one of the wooden desk in front of her. For a moment, I envied her students. I visualized the numerous conversations they must’ve had with her, and the amount of time they’ve gotten to spend with her. Jealousy set in. My mom’s students were more relevant than I was.
Her accomplishments adorned the pale-colored walls. There were numerous pictures of her with her students from years prior that outlined the frame of the chalkboard. Only a few sat on her desk. Desperately, I searched for a picture of me. I was about to give up on finding one when I noticed in the far corner of her desk, next to her coffee mug, one of my favorite pictures of us. It was taken a few years back. We had just moved. I was about 12 or 13 years old and we went out to dinner to celebrate my mother’s milestone. The waitress saw the camera on the table and offered to take a picture of us. Mom never looked so happy. Nestled close, mom gave me a kiss to the cheek and the waitress caught it on camera. The picture was perfect in real time.
“Zondra,” my thoughts were interrupted. “I know what you heard, and I know how you must feel,” mom began.
“Do you? You think you know how I feel, but you have no idea,” I assured her.
“I know marriage is a huge step, but my love for Matthew doesn’t take away the love I have for you.” She pacified me.
Laughing hysterically, I interrupted her, “Your love for me?” I questioned. “You haven’t spent time any real time with me since…since that picture.” I pointed to her desk. “You are utterly clueless as to how I feel, and how I’ve been made to feel the past nine years. I really hope you and your new husband Matthew, have a great life together because I won’t be a part of it.”
With those words, I rose from where I sat and stormed out of her classroom. In the distance, I could hear my mom calling after me, but I refused to turn around.
Screeching out of the parking lot, I threw my phone onto the passenger seat and opened the glove compartment in search of the pack of cigarettes I had hidden deep inside. Swerving to stay in my lane, I finally located the pack of Marlboro Lights already opened from a prior use. Normally, I wouldn’t smoke in my car out of fear that my mom would find out, but today was an exception. Upon the first inhale, I thought back to my mom’s conversation. Who does that? Who gets engaged without even discussing the relationship with their child? I didn’t know anything about this guy. Disgusted at the thought, this was another prime example of how my mother disregarded me as her daughter.
Streams of tears fell from my eyes causing a blur of my vision. The road was sleek from the rainfall earlier, which made it difficult for me to steer in my current state of mind. The better part of me insisted that I stopped driving until I calmed down, but too engorged with anger, I couldn’t stop myself; instead, I drove faster and more reckless. Vibrations from my cell phone startled me. My erratic driving had caused it to fall underneath the dashboard. Knowing better than to take my eyes from the road, I reached down anyway. Completely oblivious to the semi-tractor truck next to me, I swerved into his lane.
Obnoxious blowing horns snapped me out of my daze. A clear path had been made that allowed for cars to pass without interrupting the accident scene. As I drove by the white blood-stained sheet, I thought about my mother and all the stupid arguments we’ve had over the years. Unfortunately, by way of someone else’s misfortune, I had come to the realization that life was a precious gift. Tomorrow wasn’t promised. I needed to reconcile with my mother.
Pulling into our driveway, I rushed into the house. “Mom…mom,” I called out to her. My voice echoed off the walls of the abandoned house. There was no answer. She hadn’t reached home yet. Upstairs, falling face down onto my bed, today’s incident repeatedly played in my mind. Moments later, the sound of dangling keys jarred me onto my feet. My mom was home. Relieved, I ran towards the stairs. “Mom, something horrible happened today,” I cried, running to be held by her.
“Zondra,” she equally called out to me, “honey, please answer me.”
As I reached the top of the stairs, the doorbell rang. Mom hesitated to answer. “Who is it?” She asked through closed doors.
“Mrs. Clementine, I’m Officer Garrett with the NYPD. May I come in?”
Apprehensive, my mom slowly opened the door.
“Good evening, Mrs. Clementine,” he removed his hat, “I’m Officer Garrett and this is Officer Jones (gesturing to his partner). May we come in?”
Confused, my mom stepped aside to allow passage, “Yes, please, come in. And it’s Ms. Clementine…I never married.”
“Apologies, Ms. Clementine.” The officer’s confirmed the correct salutation. Taking a seat on the long cream plush sofa, Officer Garrett continued, “I wish our being here was for anything other than our true purpose, but there’s been a horrible accident involving your daughter, Zondra.”
Almost collapsing, my mom took a seat on the nearby recliner. “An accident,” she reiterated.
“Yes, there was a four-car pileup just outside the city involving a tractor-trailer and…and…” he stumbled on his words, “Zondra, unfortunately, did not survive the accident.” (Silence)
Dazed, my mom stood to her feet and started walking towards the kitchen. “You officers thirsty?” she asked right before losing consciousness. With a loud thud, my mother’s dead weighted body hit the wooden floor.
“Mom,” I yelled from the top of the stairs.
Without haste, I ran down to her as fast as I could. “Mom…I’m here. I’m right here.” I sobbed uncontrollably.
She couldn’t see me. She couldn’t hear me. I no longer existed. The day of my demise was like any other. I woke up, brushed my teeth, and ate my breakfast. Never once did I expect to die.
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