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What is the reason
you’re canceling his membership?
asked the AAA representative.
Because he’s dead,
I said, my voice flat
as the stiff plastic card
with my son’s name on it.
I’m so sorry,
said the woman.
Thank you, I said,
determined to stay composed.
But I found myself at a threshold
with one foot in the past
when my son had just learned
to drive and was proud
to be a safe driver,
and one foot in the present
reciting the numbers
of my credit card
to pay for the membership
that no longer includes him.
Around the fifth number,
grief was a lug wrench
lodged in my throat
and I could not speak
through my tears.
I’m sorry, I said.
Take your time, she said.
It took me three tries
to get through the digits.
The number had become his smile
as he polished the headlamps.
The number had become his pride
in driving me to the store.
It was his hands on the wheel,
his glee in the curves, his finger
tapping the dash in time
to a cheeky country song.
How is it a memory so beautiful
can crumple me like a fender
hit by a semi at the same time
it floods me with joy?
God, he was happy
when he was driving,
his foot on the accelerator,
and all that road waiting
to be explored.

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And coming closer, I catch a familiar scent

and lean my head in the open window,

breathe in, and I am sixteen again, and Peter

is sitting beside me and The Russians Love

their Children, Too is playing on the tape deck

and we’re singing along, the windows are down

and the night is warm and we’re finding a place

in the dark where we can park and practice ways

to fit our tall thin bodies into the tiny back seat.

And it’s summer. And I love him. And he loves me.

I’m downshifting and he has his hands up my shirt

and we’re laughing and we have no idea yet

just how much it will hurt when we learn

that love is not enough when it comes

to scripture and doctrine and who marries whom.

No, tonight, it’s just me and Peter and the generous

dark and Sting and the backseat just big enough

and the indifferent moon.

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