Leaving by the Window
My father's stories were always told to me in cars: first the Packard, then the Plymouth, then the Studebaker Lark. The cars, like the stories, started out large, extravagant with detail, then narrowed over the years until they were small in scale and scope. We would go for long rides up and down Virginia, sometimes hundreds of miles, beginning the years my mother died. The motion of the car seemed to hurry his thoughts and he said things at that speed when the country was just a blur beyond the window that he could never say in the stillness of the house.
The news of my mother's death was told to me in a vehicle that would soon become more familiar to me than my own room.
The principal himself came to get me out of class and I knew right away that was a bad sign. He didn't say anything, just took me to the glass doors in front of the school and said, "Your father's here."
His white Studebaker station wagon seemed so small squeezed in between two yellow buses. He leaned over and pushed the door open. I didn't want to get in, would rather have turned around and gone back to Room 203 and listened to Mrs. Baines talk about the Mayans, how they made some sense out of the stars and came up with a calendar they could count on, how they had created a kind of safety and order in their lives when everything around them grew wild.