I shouldn’t be here. But I lied to my ex that I just needed a glass of water so he wouldn’t think twice about letting me come inside. It was Mother’s Day and he was taking his new girlfriend to brunch with her parents and he didn’t want to be late. I was visiting from out of town. I was on a road trip in fact. A solo road trip to a work-exchange on a farm. I had never done something like that and I thought it would be good for me to get some air. I didn’t intend on seeing Justin after all these years but he lived in this town just three hours on the way to my destination so I called him. “Will you be around on Mother’s Day? Maybe we can get a cup of coffee.” He almost died four years ago. He almost died right when I moved to L.A. I was too busy adjusting to my new job and neighborhood and lifestyle to know he was almost dying in some town I had never heard of in the middle of nowhere Midwest. I was too busy to know about anything back then. We dated for the years before and after my college graduation. Things started to fall apart when our 10-year age difference started to mean something other than physical attraction.
Here I was in his house now. When I parked on the street, I was parking about 400-feet from his favorite coffee shop in front of a house that had pink flamingos staked into some planters on the front porch. The flamingos looked intentionally out of place like the homeowners were trying to make a joke about kitsch. I instantly knew why Justin liked this place. I got why he liked this neighborhood. I only needed to see the flamingos.
After coffee, he insisted on walking me to my car and he said, “Well, this is actually my home.” I was parked right in front of his place the whole time we were at his favorite coffee shop. His place complete with pink flamingos. He’s the reason he likes this town. I asked him if I could run in and get some water before my 3-hour drive to the farm. He hesitated, but only, I like to think because he was in a hurry to pick up his girlfriend for Mother’s Day brunch, but then he got his keys out. We ran in silently and he pointed me toward the kitchen and ran into the bathroom. The surgeons took out his bladder 4-years ago when I was in Los Angeles and he had cancer. I started to wonder if it hurt when he peed or if it felt normal now after all the surgeries.
Then I saw it. That childhood photo of him I had always loved. I had especially loved the photo when we lived together and it was on our wall. The photo was so terrible, so quintessentially geeky with Justin’s big ears that his face hadn’t quite grown into. Keeping that photo framed on his wall now, as an adult was just as much of a statement as the flamingos were outside. I thought, “If I grab it now, if I just stuff it in my bag. He won’t notice it’s gone until later and I’ll be on the farm.” I turned on the faucet, but I didn’t get any water—I just let it run. Justin came out of his bathroom. We walked outside together as I carried his young face close to me.
About the Author: Cathy de la Cruz's writing can be found or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, xoJane, Seneca Review, Essay Daily, The Feminist Wire, the anthology This Day in the Life: Diaries from Women Across America and more. She just completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. She holds another MFA in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego. She’s not addicted to school, but rather to mining artistic possibilities for their potential to hold her ballooning visions, comedic prophecies, and celebrations of the rare, beautiful and possibly dead. www.cathydelacruz.com