I went to DisneyLand once
My son was 8
I loved the lights, the colors and the parades even more than he did
He's gone now.
I spend my days crisscrossing this great state of ours, California
California is the end of the end, it's where you go when you can't travel anymore
The ocean stops you
You can swim or drown
But you must stop
Unless you can't stop, then you must drive
I've been to every PriceBuster in California, you name it, I've seen it.
I just packed my suitcase one day, left "you bitch" written in dust on Lisle's computer and walked out of my job
I also left the apartment I used to share with my son and his father
his father was long gone
We'd gotten divorced 3 years ago when he moved in with his acupuncturist
I didn't even know he had back problems, forget his own personal needle doctor
I hope she sticks you in places you can't dream of, I remember screaming at him in the lawyers' office
He had just explained all the money I thought was ours, that I'd worked for and contributed half of, had gone without my knowledge into his girlfriends acupuncture business
Which went bust, or popped or something
I just remember driving home and picturing dozens of needles dancing, holding themselves in a line to the sound of the Life is a Circle song
No, I just left
My apartment door opened, and I took my suitcase and credit cards
And hit the road
I wanted to see every PriceBuster there was
All the names and addresses were listed on the brochure the attendant handed to me with my service membership.
I used to walk around the stores with my son on the weekends
I really didn't know what else to do, so that's what we did
I had no money now, and the park was for later
My son loved the shops
Target, Wal-Mart you name it
We'd walk around, he'd leaf through the kids books, I'd read the mysteries
We'd look at all the stuff to buy, all of the stuff on the shelves
Bicycles and toasters and video equipment in one section and clothes and stockings and shoes in another and finally towards the back
The food warehouse section
Every kind of food you could imagine
They'd give out samples and we'd fill up on them before I made our little purchases Then we'd go to the park, look at the ducks, walk around till it was dusk and go home And that was my life .
I didn't realize how lucky I was
He was trying out for the track team, a kid has to do something and my son was tall and lanky and very uncoordinated so maybe he must have thought he could run
I didn't know anything about it
Even if I'd known I wouldn't have stopped him
I enjoyed walked around the school track, listening to the birds, hearing a plane fly over head, seeing the grass, the trees
Going round and round and round it made me feel I had a purpose
I was like the rest of America
I was real
Maybe my son wanted the same
He was only 13
So I don't know
I didn't know he had a crazy kind of heart problem
No one ever mentioned it
Not his doctor, not the school nurse, no one
There was so much I didn't know.
He just plopped on the ground and boom that was it
As quick as going to sleep or sitting on the sofa or turning a lock in the door
It was done.
I started to wander the Pricebusters a little later
Just to remember him, to feel him, to know he was still alive somewhere in my memory
Just going up and down the aisles of a big discount store you see all kinds of people Rich ones looking for bargains
Poor ones counting pennies
Teenagers, old folks, kids
Every kind of person there is.
I remember being surprised at how many of the kids reminded me of my son, in looks, hair, eyes, attitude
There he was at 2, at 8, at 13
I'd smile to myself and watch the child quietly from a distance
Sometimes the kid would see me staring and I'd smile at him
Sometimes he'd smile back
Walking past the film aisle where all the photograph packages are left out for pickup, I started browsing the names
In most stores you have to go to the counter to get your pictures but not here, not in PriceBuster or Costco
Here you picked up your photos out in the open, like on an assembly line
On impulse one night when I was waiting to go home, but prolonging it until the last possible moment, I picked up one of the packages and walked out with it
When I got home I took all the pictures out and admired them
The people living inside them looked so happy
I stared at them for hours, smiling with them.
The next day I went back and got some more
I went back for one whole week
Each time, I came back with more happy people, more happy times
They colored my whole house with joy
They just did.
Once I brought a picture in to my job
The one I shared with Lisle
A family reunion it must have been, granddad, grandma, and aunt and uncle
The whole shebang
I scotch taped it to my computer console
That's when Lisle flung out at me
Who's that you have there
Do you know these people
Yes, I said, I do
And she smiled and rolled her eyes and left.
That's when I made up my mind, then and there, to take a road trip
I left my goodbye message for Lisle and hit the road.
At each PriceBuster I go to, I have a little routine
I walk to the food section and get some samples, maybe a cheese cube, a bit of sausage and a cookie, whatever delicacies they have out that day
I go to the sport equipment section and admire all the latest stuff they have there
It looks so gleamy, so nice and hot
Such bright colors on the tennis rackets, not like when I first started playing, back in the dark ages, as my son would have said
Then I hit the books, that always takes a couple of hours
The recipes in the cookbooks all look so tempting, I can remember drooling over them and saying to my son, you want to try that, you want to try this
Then I'd go home and try to recreate the recipe in my memory
It never worked
The picture of the food always looked so much better than what I could turn out.
Then it gets dark, the last call goes out over the store loudspeaker
make your last purchases people and cash out now, store closes in 15 minutes
Why is it always 15 minutes we get, not 20 or 10
Then I get my pictures and leave
Back to the Super8 motel
Back to more photographs.
Driving around California like I do you realize what a big state it is
Mountains, clouds, hills, freeways, ocean, cities, country, we have it all
It takes 12 to 16 hours to get from San Diego to Yuma
Can you believe it
Now I'm on my way to Arizona
PriceBuster is opening up a chain in the state
I can't wait to cross the Mojave Desert and get to Phoenix
My pictures are all locked up in the trunk, safe and happy
Waiting for their friends to join them
I can't wait to see Sedona
There's good energy there
Or so I've heard.
The poetry of Isabelle Ghaneh, also a freelance writer, has appeared in The Ridgefield Press, The Fairfield Review, Pedestal Magazine, Surface Art Magazine, Pennine Ink and The Copperfield Review. Her non-fiction has been published by Art Times, The Blue Review, and The Llewellyn Journal, and silverthought.com.
Copyright 2005, Isabelle Ghaneh. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.