Dinner, dessert, and hours of conversation have ended. My old high school friend has dropped me back my hotel and gone home, with promises of a further reunion. My sister and I embraced in the parking lot, parting just until tomorrow but with the warmth of maybe-never that we give each other every time. I’ve taken my shoes from my swollen feet and locked the door against the highway noise.
Now the ringing in my ears serves as my only companion save the copy of Travels with Charley that Chuck Dixon gave me for my birthday. I hear the partiers haling one another outside. Doors slam and engines rev, and then the distant drone of the interstate swallows the departing revelers, dulling the slight shrill of intoxication and daring, edgy laughter.
In the morning I will drive to Ferguson, and then my son will arrive. We’ll sit again at a table in the Brewery, with my cousin Theresa and my sister. His girlfriend will like us, I hope; and not judge him because of my shortcomings. I will keep my sentences brief, my smile modulated. I will try to park better than I usually do. I’ve planned the day with measure, a small dose of the somewhat odd mother that I’ve always hoped my son would not regret. Small gifts, the best that I can give him: a spot of normalcy in a sea of weirdness. An embrace, and a hasty departure, before the surface cracks and what I truly am shines through.
It’s the evening of the twenty-four day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining. From Room 108 in the Red Roof Inn in St. Charles, Missouri, with the lock thrown against the night, I send you greetings. Life continues.