When I was three, my soul went missing.
Nothing could escape the heat that Fourth of July in 1969. Little feet would blister, and tears seemed to sizzle in the sand.
Outside, a sun-bleached shack sat in a naked yard. Inside, cheap perfume, burnt chicken, and two voices colliding filled the darkened living room.
My mother, a slim teenager with hair like a black waterfall, stood at the entryway door dodging a volley of shoes. Across the room, my stocky grandmother cursed and as she scrambled to reach for more, my mother made her escape.
“Mommy!” I hollered, leaping from a corner and stretching out my arms.
But it was too late.
I raced after her, my bare feet chuffing through gritty soil then slapping black asphalt.
There! Her green car idled at a stop sign. An eighteen-wheeler whooshed by, stirring the sweltering air. Just as my hand slapped the trunk, my beautiful mother’s black eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. I stumbled and watched in disbelief as she lurched and sped away along that lonely stretch of highway.
A crushing weight filled my chest, as salty tears stung my eyes and cracked lips.
Wave after wave of grief crested and crashed through my sobs.
Then a new tide rose inside.
Run! Faster! Run!
Wiping my nose and face with sweaty palms, I took off again after my mother.
If I could catch her, I could make her hold me. Make her comfort me.
Make her see me.