On the Strength of This Expectation

You stop for samples; blood oranges, Valencia, red navels, dancy tangerines, ruby red grapefruits.  The stop is halfway out of your city, the small, dreary beach town you escape often to go to Orlando.  Your mom never buys the bags, four pounds of oranges for three dollars.

Your mom drives and you listen to a CD. It spins on your lap inside the cobalt blue player; N’SYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Eminem, and the one you don’t tell people you still listen to- Britney Spears.  Your mom drives and the landscape changes fast from identical beige houses to miles and miles of highway that stretch like a scrunchie out across central Florida.  You are a kid though, and nothing is going to happen to you, or maybe everything. 

Your brother stopped coming with you on trips like this.  He wouldn’t be caught dead with his arms around Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.  You’re still young enough to hug a character, to smile ear to ear when Pluto kisses you with his big nose.  You curtsey for Minnie, you pose and your mom takes a picture on your digital camera, and you have to wait until you’re back in the hotel room to upload them to your laptop, the one that will last you until college when it overheats and dies and you learn the importance of “backing up.” 

You watch fireworks with your mom from the balcony of your hotel room, both of you too tired to have stayed in the park, the buzz of Magic Kingdom music still ringing in your ears, and it makes it hard to sleep.  You try to tune it out with a little Everyone Loves Raymond on the TV.  

You left school early for this.  You were taken out of class and signed out in the office.  Everyone wondered where you went.  You felt special, you felt lucky, you felt happy to spend the weekend with your mom.   

It’s not until years later that you’ll realize how much this means, to both of you.  But when you’re on the way back home thinking again about some boy who will not matter, you imagine your life a thing you’re always leaving, coming back to.  You imagine a turning point, an edge.  You will not picture the edge, you will leave the edge.  It’s hard to explain, but it feels like driving home means something, maybe because you won’t always be able to do it, to drive back, to come back.