Notebook: International Harvester Memory

International Harvester Truck photo by Christopher Ziemnowicz

International Harvester B-120 Flatbed Truck, Red, photo (cropped) by Christopher Ziemnowicz, via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: Cars and trucks are vehicles of memory as well as transportation. When you look back at your life, what cars do you remember? This is a fruitful topic of conversation with our elderly loved ones, as well as a tool for our own thoughts. I wrote this little piece in an online writing class I’m taking at GrubStreet, the creative writing center in Boston. — MAB

I am riding in a red International Harvester truck in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, on the way to some scenic location that Norman thinks we should visit. I am twelve years old. I am angry.

It is full sun coming through the window, sun on my arm, sun bouncing up and down through the glass window, off Norman’s face and my mother’s face and my sister Katherine’s braids.

My mother sits between me and Katherine and Norman. The truck is painted the kind of bright red that you see in Spanish paintings of bullfighting, which is a red flag in my eyes. I taste salt on my lips because I am evaporating in the sun. I can’t see Katherine but I feel she is not as angry as I am.

“I’m going to throw up,” I say. I open the door and fall down off the step of the truck and slam the door behind me, out there in the sun in Mexico. I start walking back to our house at Estero Beach. I will walk all the way home so Norman can’t tell me what to do the way he does.

I’m walking.

Norman’s driving past me. He steers his truck right in front of me, cutting me off.

I see the barbed wire fence along the side of the road. If I climbed it, I could escape to the sea. There would be sand, air, sun, salt.

“Come back, Mary Ann,” my mother says. “Come back.”

Looking back, riding, what emerges is this precise memory. Sorry heat. Dry sweat. Salt.

PS: For another post inspired by family memories, see “Dear Judy, When My Mother Read the Part of Job’s Wife.” — MAB