It was a clear October night. My sisters and I piled into the old red Chevy with our stepfather Dan, and headed outside of town for the hospital where my mother was in the mental ward. None of us spoke; we hardly ever spoke in those years. Dan kept his eyes on the road, chain-smoking Dorals. I stared through the glass, street lights passing over my hooded eyes. As we neared the outskirt, the sky suddenly opened out into space. I thought of nothing. I didn’t think of my mother. I didn’t think of the speed of change. I stared up into the stars where I didn’t have to feel anything. It’s okay to be lost when you’re reminded how small you are, how little your voice is.
We swung into the nearly empty parking lot and walked to a group of picnic tables under a street light where we were told to wait. It was chilly but still. My sisters and I stood apart from each other in the silence until we heard Dan emerging, escorting our robed and sobbing mother. She looked terrified and helpless, and she kept looking to Dan to see what to do, not once looking at us. We said hi and kept our distance from her and each other, and I turned, pretending nonchalance as I stared up into the sky. I thought about God, about how the earth was really just this round ball He had in a box and for our nights, He put a lid on the box and punched holes in it for stars. In my mind, God was a giant old man forcing us to love each other in a darkness we couldn’t see through.