I remember the night my mom left. Earlier that day, she had stayed home from working at the bar with Dad and had made a roast with vegetables and potatoes. I remember thinking, wow, this is actually kind of nice, having everyone home in the evening for dinner. We laughed and talked. Mom drank wine. Dad drank beer. Nate and I drank Kool-Aid. Afterwards, we all gathered on the couch to watch a movie.

I remember falling asleep, thinking, wishing we had more nights like this. That maybe now we would; that maybe something had happened to make my parents want to spend time with us on a weekday night, asking about homework and school, instead of everyone going their own directions, ships passing in the night.

I remember hearing her tip-toe into my room, she hadn’t yet put on her worn brown cowboy boots with the two inch heels. They had a stitched-in pattern of colorful swirls and flowers going up the sides.

I remember her rose and spice perfume lingering on her skin, and the cigarettes and wine on her breath as she leaned over me, my eyes still closed in the netherlands between sleep and wakefulness. Her warm hands brushed the hair away from my face and she kissed my forehead with her soft, pink lips. She lingered there for a moment, hovering right over me, and I didn’t even think to savor it. Before she moved away, I heard the faintest whisper, almost inaudible, and I would’ve thought they were nothing more than the remnants of a dream if not for how those four words she spoke reverberated through me, struck me down to the core like an iron rod.

I’ll never forget the power of those four words she spoke. To this day they’ve never left me.

            Don’t get stuck here.


            And then, she was gone.