When You Come Home From Nashville
I get lost three times en route to the Oakland Airport, ten minutes from home. I have waited for you through a year of your travels. The infrequent social media posts; the even rarer calls. I arrive late. My daughter, you are so small in your sundress and Doc Martens. You wear a kerchief like a girl in a fable.
In baggage claim, we hug and you say you are waiting for your guitar to come out. I breathe you in. The suitcases are gone from the grinding silver track. I point out the little office where people go to ask about baggage that has not appeared in the black rectangle; has not begun an oval trajectory. You get your guitar. I ask about the flight and whether you want to get lunch before I return to work. You smell of patchouli. You have changed on a cellular level and on that level, I can no longer claim you as my child, as is my instinct. I feel a sensation like falling backward.
We go for Chinese food. Since I saw you last, you have slept in the car and in a tent and in national parks. In groups and with your boyfriend and his dog, neither of whom we know. You have climbed Pike’s Peak and seen an eclipse and texted that one day you will get an image of it tattooed on your skin. I don’t ask about the citation for vagrancy in Asheville. I don’t ask if you’ve stayed on your medication. I don’t ask whether he treats you well, or how long you will stay.
Instead, I ask you if you want anything at the Health Food store across the parking lot. In fact, I need a few moments to step away. I need to catch up to where we are in this Chinese restaurant that was always your favorite growing up.
You are my child but no longer mine or a child. I want to give you something you need. I want you to accept it and then have this small new connection. I no longer have to choose between bus fare and food, as I did when I was pregnant with you.
I say I will be right back. You touch your palms delicately to the sides of your teacup. You say you will wait.
Patricia Q. Bidar hails from San Pedro, California, with family roots in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. She is an alum of the U.C. Davis Graduate Writing Program and also holds a BA in Filmmaking. Patricia’s work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfiction. When she is not writing fiction, Patricia reads, enjoys nature, and ghostwrites for nonprofit organizations. She lives with her DJ husband and unusual dog in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her at https://patriciaqbidar.com or on Twitter (@patriciabidar).
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