“Mom!” the young man’s voice is impatient. It’s a moment before I realize he means me. He’s talking to me. I frown, trying to concentrate.
“Purple!” I say, my voice happy. I’m relieved for an easy question.
“Yesterday you said red.” He’s taller than me, a grown man with hair on his face and a tattoo on his bicep.
“Ok, red then,” I agree. Why ask me if you already knew the answer?
“But, like a vibrant red, or a barn red? Mom. For the bridge.”
The bridge. That little wooden arch between the house and the workshop, where the water runs after a rain. When it’s dry, there are deep grooves in the earth, but when it rains, briefly it’s a bright brook.
“Bright red,” I say. “Apple red.” I want to be able to see my little bridge out the window even in the mist, in the fog.
The young man shakes his head, wanders off through the hardware store. The man behind the counter asks me if I need help, eyebrows raised in question. I turn away from his concern, looking instead at a wall of shiny-bright screws and bolts.
“Barn red,” my son says, coming from two aisles over where there are cans of
stain and paint. “They don’t have apple red.”
“Cherry red?” I ask.
“No,” he says, but I can tell he didn’t look for cherry red. He takes the can to the counter, adds a roller and a box of screws.
He’s fixing the bridge over the low spot on the side of the yard. I remember now. He has replaced rotten boards and now he’s going to paint.
I study his profile as he drives. Which of my lovers does he most resemble? The farmer? No. The adjunct professor? He catches me staring.
“What?” he says. So impatient.
“Nothing,” I say, and look out the window on my side, thinking the beans are high already for this time of year. I remember going somewhere with my brother, many years ago, when we were small and rode in the backseat. I remember complaining that he was looking out my side of the car instead of out his own window. That had seemed such a violation, then. So I look out my own window now.
My memory is slidy. Slick. I grab a memory and it slides out like a greased watermelon.
“I did acid once,” I tell my son, turning to look at him. He’s the son of the electrician, I remember now. I laugh, thinking about the acid trip and how funny it is for me to tell my son about it. He knows almost nothing about me. We don’t see each other often.
I turn to look at him, to see if he’s laughing. I’m alone in the truck. He’s walking away from it, carrying a can of paint and a roller.
He thinks it’s just a bridge. A little arch of wood useful a few times a year, after a hard rain but no other time.
It’s a bridge back to a time when he was still my son, and I was still his mother.
I walk through grass that needs mowing to check his progress. The little bridge is a shamble of rotting wood and missing planks. I remember now. No one has touched the bridge for many years, not since my son left me, rolling down the hill, over and over, in a blue truck glittery with shattered glass.