HOPE IS A HIGHWAY • by Sarah Rachel Egelman

Even with my terrible eyesight, from the top of this hill I can easily spy the freeway that runs through town. The cars and trucks, like hyper-focused insects, running in parallel, zip into my view and out again. The freeway is a ribbon from the flatness of the mesa up through the mountain canyons, and then away from here.

My house sits low and mean and more often than not I forget my key and have to climb in through the living room window. This makes me feel strong and tough, which is nice. The walk home from school is treacherous. I am flashed by gross old men on a regular basis and a few months ago a cocker spaniel followed me home and bit my leg just as I stepped onto the porch. Still, things could be worse.

Besides climbing in my living room window, here are my favorite things:

  1. Scary books
  2. Ramen noodles
  3. Cats

Tonight I will put myself to bed. The whole after-school-day stretches out before me. First I make a snack (bread and butter with sugar), then I do some homework (but not too much), next I watch television (a highlight). The front curtains are sheer and the window is big and the lights coming from cars truly sweep across the mostly dark room just as described in books. That is both comforting and terrifying so it is nice to have the eight furry pounds of Malka on lap, purring. I leave the lights low when I make dinner to make myself a bit more invisible. Dinner is ramen and I eat the delicious crumbs from the packet as the noodles soften and stretch in the boiling water.

The house is so quiet as I lay in bed with my book that my ears are positively buzzing with the silence and when I turn out the light the darkness is like an extra blanket that I can snuggle down into. But, if I listen closely, I think I can hear the hum of the freeway. I picture the cars and trucks and the people inside them moving through my town and away, away from here. My body is heavy from another day living on this planet, and all that I saw, and all that I heard, and I carry it with me into my dreams. I don’t remember them in the morning, and I don’t hear my mother’s key in the door; sleep is a sweet place. I always assume my dreams are wonderful.

My next-door neighbor grows beautiful flowers in pots in her front yard. People say that spring flowers are hopeful messengers but I respectfully disagree. The weeds are much more hopeful than flowers and they make me think of the words my teachers and school counselors like to throw out at us like parade candy: resilient, strong, determined.

I never, ever hear my mother’s key in the door. Not at 9 pm, not at midnight, and definitely not at 2:27 am. Her work is hard and she deserves her own time in the world.

Here is what I love:

  1. Breakfast for dinner when my mother makes pancakes and allows unlimited maple syrup
  2. Special Friday nights watching scary movies with my mother when she makes us popcorn
  3. Knowing that she and I are together on this planet through the seasons and tumbling through space

Once, when I was small, my mother and I went for a walk for no reason. It was probably the best day of my life. She told me that people pull or poison dandelions but that the leaves were actually good in salads and that they were free flowers, pretty and yellow. The sun was as warm on the dandelion faces, following us all the way through the neighborhood, radiating down from space. The concrete and cinderblock were hot to the touch. My mother’s shadow was long and close to mine. Sometimes we bumped into each other even as we walked forward next to each other. We don’t need to always be together to love each other, she told me.

We are two young women on this planet earth, moving separately but together through our days as we always have. I am growing up and she still has so much she wants to do, she tells me. I can be alone sometimes, can’t I? I can boil the water and feed the cat. That is not too much to ask. And, anyway, tomorrow we will have breakfast for dinner.

Tonight I will put myself to bed. Of course, I am not alone in the house; Malka is here with me, a fierce feline warrior. I am always safe with her. And when my mother arrives home after work, after whatever adventures she finds after that, we will be even safer, the three of us here together. I think of her out there now, on this planet, just like me. I imagine her on the highway and I am happy for her, I am. I am here, not really alone, and she is the sun that I turn my dandelion face to as I fall into a hopeful, patient sleep.

Sarah Rachel Egelman is an educator and writer living in New Mexico.

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