One day I noticed that my mother’s hair was straight and that she had bangs. With her hair so different, she didn’t look like my mom.
“When was the last time you had your hair cut?” I asked, sounding more insensitive than I intended. “Or done?”
“Years ago,” she said ruefully.
I realized that I was supposed to understand more than she said, and that is how I learned that she was ill. She did not even feel like having her hair taken care of or that she should spend time or money on it.
“Let’s go across the street,” I said, getting up to look for my dad.
“That place [salon] is long gone,” my mother reminded me.
When had so much changed? I kept looking for my dad so we would both know that we had to take her to a salon in town on Saturday. She would not have let her hair go unless the situation were really bad, and if she wasn’t in denial, I was. Had my dad not noticed, or had he simply not told me?
Next, I was outside looking at the trailer with someone and trying to explain the scene of devastation around it, as the woods and everything else had been razed for development. I could find nothing that was familiar.
“The trailer was sold to that woman,” I said, pointing to a second trailer to the southeast, parked too close to ours. I wondered at the proximity.
I was trying to explain what had been there before when our trailer pulled out. “Where is he going?” I asked rhetorically. I was thinking, “How can he drive with all that stuff in there?” as I pictured everything on the shelves crashing, and then pictured it not crashing by magic. I didn’t question how the trailer itself had become self-motored.
My dad returned five or ten minutes later, although somehow I missed him backing the trailer into the spot. “Where did you go?” I asked him. “Park Ridge,” he said. “On I55.” He could not have gone so far and returned in five or ten minutes, and I remained mystified by his journey, whether he’d completed it, and how it came to be in Illinois.
I had been looking at two gouged trenches behind the trailer, one deep, gray, and ugly like a scar, the other shallow and dark brown like a garden furrow. I tried to explain to my companion that one or the other — I couldn’t be sure which — marked the spot where our lilacs had grown, the lilacs that in reality had just started to flower when my dad moved away in 1987. The devastation and strangeness around me were depressing, but the sight of that scarred earth where so much greenery had thrived was killing me.
My indecision over which trench prevented my companion from knowing how upset I was. Or so I thought.