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Evan Nichols ®2020


My mom and I drive the wide open fields outside of town. We can’t stop in at any restaurants because she might catch the deadly virus and die. We have to keep moving though we have nowhere in particular to go. Her little off-white dog sits in the back seat with his head on his paws.

Right on Road 99? Why not? We’ve got all day. Left on Road 45? Don’t mind if we do! We crane our necks for big red barns, recently groomed, infinite fields, the sudden appearance of an almond orchard. She points at huge clouds forming off over the mountains. “Wow, look at those!” She is particularly impressed by clouds.

We don’t talk much because she can’t find the words. She still has a few sentences she leans on during our drives. Cruising a road we’ve taken a hundred times, she’ll remark, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this way before.” Pointing out a hundred year old structure, she’ll theorize, “They must have just built that.” Every now and then, she pulls out, “We’re really out in the country!”

Mainly, we listen to music. I play a playlist of her favorites, the same list every time. Maria Muldaur sings, “Hasn’t it been a long hard climb? / Everything taking its own sweet time…” and she nods and the fields give way to foothills. We wind through green hills, orchards, past a ranch. She points at some sheep or a cow and I supply the word.

We turn towards the mountains and James Taylor croons, “In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina….” She sings along. She was born in Charleston and, I imagine this song is more apt than not.

Later we roll between endless fields and narrow irrigation canals and Don McLean sings, “This will be the day that I die” and my mom says, “I hope not.”

If I yawn, she asks, “Tired?” And then she offers to drive. “I still can, you know.” I thank her and say I’m fine.

We reach a fertile valley between robust farms and steep hills climbing up towards mountains and wine country beyond. Horses run free across sloping green. The sun is setting behind the mountains. I ask her if she’s tired of sitting in the car.

She says, “Actually, I’m happy to be out of the house.” She laughs.

And so we drive some more.

 

©Evan Nichols 2020


             Evan Nichols, BAWP 2000, teaches English and ESL at Merritt College in beautiful Oakland, California. His hobbies include shooting scornful looks just over his 15 year old son’s laptop and preparing emotionally for his daughter to “attend” UC Santa Cruz (Go Slugs!!!) in the fall. His sanity is maintained by hopping on his bicycle and rolling along in the beautiful fresh air in search of new “Slow Streets” in the East Bay and by writing with his Read! Write! Revolution! writing group.

2 Responses to “We Drive by Evan Nichols”

  1. Darrell g.h. Schramm Says:

    What a lovely, tender piece, Evan. Thank you.

  2. K Suyeyasu Says:

    not being able to stop because one might catch a deadly virus and die – the truth of this idea grabs me by the chest

    and that remark, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this way before,” while “Cruising a road we’ve taken a hundred times,” takes my breath away.

    feeling held by the love this piece expresses. Thank you

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