Remember that afternoon you asked me to be your accomplice, your getaway driver, your ticket to freedom? Side by side in the front of your rusted Chevrolet—I, at the wheel and you, your parchment-thin eyelids closed in a state of ecstasy as the breeze caressed the downy fuzz upon your naked scalp. The musk of wet hayfields and decay permeated the space between us as we raced against time and the silver train bearing down the tracks. You wanted to see a man about a lawnmower, although we both knew what needed to be fixed was far beyond repair.
The story behind the story:
In his early fifties, my uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. One afternoon he called to ask if I’d accompany him to his doctor’s appointment. He feared my aunt would lose her job because she’d already taken so many days off on his behalf.
After the appointment, he said he wanted to see a man about a part for his lawnmower. He explained the lawnmower needed to be in good working order for his sons in case something happened to him sooner than later. What he didn’t tell me was the repair shop was almost an hour away.
My uncle insisted on having the car windows wide open as we silently drove past farmsteads and fields mounded with hay. Every once in a while I’d look over at him with his eyes closed, a huge grin spread across his face. I’ll never forget how completely at peace he appeared.
A few months later my uncle passed away. To this day, I still don’t know why he chose me to be his accomplice, especially since he incessantly teased me about being the quiet one of the bunch. Why didn’t he choose one of his sons or my parents? Also, why did we travel to a repair shop so far away when there were several others closer to home? I’d like to think he knew I was comfortable enough to sit with him in companionable silence, to simply enjoy the beauty of the present moment. Writing this piece has been an attempt to keep that memory, that lesson, alive.
Kristin Tenor is a writer and editor who finds inspiration in life’s quiet details and believes in their power to illuminate the extraordinary. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various literary journals including X-R-A-Y, Bending Genres, Emerge Literary Journal, Flash Frog, Unbroken Journal, among others. She and her husband call Wisconsin home.
“How to Leave Without Saying Goodbye” was first published in River Teeth‘s Beautiful Things series.
Header Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash