Day 4: A song that makes you sad: Never Gonna Let You Go by Sergio Mendes
I remember the day we went to pick up my mom's ''new'' little red Camaro. She had pointed out several times on the street what kind of car she was getting but she always pointed out one that was shiny and new. "See that one right there? That's a Camaro. That's the kind of car mommy's getting. A red one.''
I was surprised at the used car dealership at how chipped the paint was, how the interior smelled like an old ashtray, how the visors hung badly, and how the stuffing was coming out probably through a cigarette burn in the dark upholstery that was stained with unidentifiable liquids. I touched the car while I peered inside the window and quickly withdrew my hand. It was summertime in Mesa, Arizona, the air was thick and dry and almost burned your lungs going in, and you could easily fry an egg on the hood of that car.
Mom was starting over. My dad, far away in Albuquerque, was no longer holding her back and neither were we: me age 7, the Huta kid age 4, and the Chulster age 8.
Mom had a new job working on the assembly line at Motorola. That and the dealing of weed to a few friends and relatives paid the bills and allowed her to spoil us just enough when we visited her. It paid for her new apartment.
That apartment. It was a tiny duplex on a corner near a car wash with a tree that was good for climbing and oleander bushes that filled with bees. Most of the neighbors had covered their windows in tin foil to reflect the sun out. There were no garages on our block, just carports filled with junk and yards with grass that was yellowed and dried and patched with dirt.
You would never guess by looking at the inside of her place that it was just on the border of the projects, that most of the neighbors on our street were on welfare. Inside the apartment was a twenty-something single woman's oasis of independence, a hideaway where she could reinvent herself in a world unhindered.
She had painstakingly decorated the place in her hip, youthful 80s way. Everything about it was a statement of creativity. Restaurant menus she had nicked and hung up carefully on the dining area wall every which way seemed the epitome of funky and fun. Her bedroom was a den of seduction where she had hung Chinese umbrellas upside down over her bed, covering the light and creating an aura. On top of her dresser she had her own swiveling earring rack filled with big cheap earrings, just like the ones in shops that I loved to spin round and round until I was told to stop. She had covered a lamp in a romantic black mesh which was surely meant to kindle something I knew that I didn't know much about. Her negligees hung from the expensive kind of silk padded hangers, not the wire ones that tangled themselves up on the closet floor impossibly at my dad's place in a mess of dirty laundry and shoes. Those negligees probably fit her nicely now with her new boobs. Her designer friends she met in her photography classes came over and as they listened to my mom's Sade album on the record player, in their cracked voices of holding in a drag from a joint held tightly by a roach clip, they would comment on how creative my mom was and how great her apartment was and how happy they were for her. She must have lay in bed alongside my dad and dreamt for months about how she would decorate her own place once she got away from him and his grandmother's hand-me-downs that filled their joyless home.
But back to the little red Camaro. That car, like the apartment, represented a break from the prison of family life or the prison of my dad, from the ugly long brown family car he had humbly accepted when his grandmother passed, since he was worse off than any of his eight siblings. This was supposed to be a happy day for her, a day of confirmation that everything was going better for her now.
We stood around restless while my mom closed the deal: Chulster, with her signature summer sun scowl and her orange popcycle stained lips, the Huta kid covered in a layer of sweat and grime, with her golden baby curls and pouty red lips, and me, with my stringy thin braids going down the sides of a face over-populated by wreckless freckles.
She paid for the car in cash, shook the dealer's hand, and her three little sweaty girls crammed themselves into the tiny hot Camaro that now had her name on the title. The hairs near our ears curled from the heat and our faces flushed and as she reached over the front seat to roll down the passenger side window, she warned us not to touch the metal trim on the windows because it would burn us. She awkwardly put the keys in the ignition, not used to exactly where it was. The engine started up and we were off. Mom could now tick off another item on her to-do list for making a new life.
The hot breeze gushing into the non-air conditioned car was welcomed with relief and she turned on the radio. ''I was as wrong as I could be, to let you get away from me, I'll regret that move, for as long as I'm living..."
''Mom?'' the Huta kid asked. She scooted her tiny body up to the edge of the hot red velour seat. ''Mommy?''
''Shhhh!'' the Chulster turned around from the front seat and hissed angrily. ''Mom's sad.''
''I'm never gonna let you go, I'm gonna hold you in my arms forever, gonna try to make up for the time I hurt you so…''
I could see the back side of my mom's profile and could tell her cheeks were wet. She switched lanes furiously while wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
''Mommy?'', the Huta insisted in a worried small voice. ''Mommy, ARE YOU CRYING, MOMMY?''
''But if there's some feeling left in you, some flicker of love that still shines through, let's talk about, let's talk about second chances…''
''Mommy is this the 'Never Gonna Let You Go' song?'' Huta urgently needed to know while tapping on my mom's shoulder.
''Yeah honey, it is.''
''Does it make you sad, Mommy?''
''Yeah honey, it does''.
''Is that why you're crying, Mommy?''
Huta looked around at the three of our tear streaked faces and confirmed, ''Me too. I'm sad too, Mommy.'' She looked down and her bright red lower lip protruded outward and then she proceeded to carefully examine the rest of us for clues on how to be sad from a song. ''Never gonna let you go...'', Huta belted out in her tiny voice, to sing along with the rest of us who were singing it softly under our breaths.
I was heartbroken because even at 7 years old I knew the song was a lie. She was letting go, of him and of us, she was only going to hold us in her arms while we were here visiting from Albuquerque, not forever, like the song said. There was no flicker of love that still shone through and there were no second chances and she didn't have any regrets like the guy singing did, otherwise we would all be together again with Dad. So why was she crying? Because she wished she felt like the guy and girl singing? Did she wish that for our sake she didn't need to face life as a huntress just one last time?
From time to time I'll be at a the mall or in the grocery store and I'll hear this song on the musac and there is no amount of time that can pass between my seven year old self and my adulthood to make me not feel as confused as my sisters and I did that day in my mom's little red Camaro.