sometimes i forget i haven’t lived here all my life. but then i remember things. like the time i was five years old and thirsty at the side of a road. i was grasping my teddy bear by the ear. and it was tearing off.
every hazy, dream-like detail is in shades of brown and brick-red and yellow. the narrow, cracking road was running through a reddish desert, spotted with dry shrubs. the lack of civilization in the surrounding hills was a barren canvas to the hundreds of families in hundreds of stopped cars—lined up like dashes along the snaking road in both directions, as far as the eye could see.
it was hard to take deep breaths. most of the cars were empty and people walked about wearily. we were waiting for something. (we’d been waiting forever.) even with all our car doors open, you could hardly see my mother resting inside the car. she was curtained by thick dust hanging on the rolled-up windows.
my father was leaning against the hood—his brow furrowed and talking to a man i don’t know. (we were almost at the border…there was a civil war…they were afraid for the children…they left most of their things at the house and it looked like we might be returning home any minute…we weren’t going back…)
my oldest brother was kicking rocks. his hands were in his pockets, his curly hair around his eyes, and the bottoms of his blue pants were dirty. my other brother’s arm was still in a sling from his fall through the church roof. he's standing quietly and watching my kneeling sister. she’s grabbing handfuls of soft, red dirt from the side of the road, funneling her palms, and pouring the fine particles into a small, clear bottle. she was softly saying that she intended to take part of the country with her. she was 13 years old. she brushed her slender fingers against each other. and we waited. and waited.