The merciless Florida sun an angry orange disc overhead, the heat shimmers in waves from the dull gray roof of the old Airstream, pitted and scarred like the curving back of a dinosaur. The dented front door gapes open drunkenly from one rusty hinge, but I cannot see into the gloomy interior. A cracked and faded plastic swimming pool holds a few inches of scummy water and a pile of dented silver beer cans glimmering like diamonds in the blinding sunlight.
Tangled, mildewed heaps of clothing spill from a pile of rotting garbage bags. A giant teddy bear of the type won at the fair for the ring toss sprawls on its back, sun bleached and eyeless.
A tiny, molding woman’s shoe curls like a grub in the mud. I wonder about the woman who wore it, and how it ended up in this muddy lot outside an abandoned trailer. Mostly I wonder what I am doing here. The heat sears my lungs and I can feel sweat plastering the hair to my head and dripping from my face. The drone of mosquitoes fills my ears, and the clothes are stuck to my body. The ground is muddy from the afternoon downpour and threatens to suck the sneakers off my feet. A crude fire pit ringed by broken cinder blocks contains the half charred remains of a dining room chair, blackened legs jutting into the sky.
An emaciated woman materializes in the doorway of the trailer, flicking a lit cigarette butt out into the garbage strewn lot. It has been a long time, but I am close enough to see the sores on her face and the dead brown eyes. After blinking in the sunlight, she notices me in the yard and her face twists into an ugly rictus of a smile. Her eyes are as hard and flat as pennies.
“What do you want?” she snarls.
Tears fill my eyes, and hot stones of sorrow fill my throat. I want to tell her to come home, but I fear she is already home. I picture her huddling in this sweltering condemned trailer with no electric or plumbing, sucking on that foil boat. I tell myself I don’t want to know how she pays for her habit, but I’ve seen her loitering by the entrance of the trailer park and I know she takes men inside to the rat infested couch to fuck.
For a just a fleeting instant I have a scent memory of lavender and baby powder. I feel the softness of a plump bosom and a hand on my hair. I feel gentle lips on my forehead, and a quiet female voice singing in my ear, but I know it’s not real.
Standing in the muddy yard, I suddenly realize that my mom is never coming back.