Her pen hung over the paper, suspended mid-air. She watched it, waiting for something to happen. Nothing. She grabbed the brown beer bottle and drank what little was left. She returned to the pen, making it dance swirls above the paper. But still, no words came.
The first line had been easy. “Dear Mom.” After that, she didn’t know how to begin. With a warm salutation? With a formal opening? Or to cut right to the chase – “I need you.”
It hadn’t been so difficult the first time.
“Dear Mom: I’m sorry to tell you this in an email. I’m sorry I left without saying good-bye. Don’t worry – I’m fine. I’m more than fine, I’m happy! Ecstatic! Ranger and I are married. We got married three nights ago, in Las Vegas. We drove there all the way from Charlotte, can you believe it? And now we’re headed out, looking for a small town that’s affordable where we can get a job and start a life. The land here is beautiful, Mom, and I can’t believe I’m seeing it with my soul mate. We drove all day yesterday, hair in the wind. Is this how you felt when you married Dad? I know you don’t approve of Ranger, but I hope you’ll give him a chance. He has a beautiful spirit. And now he’s your son-in-law. Write back, and when we find a place, you can come visit! Love, Jessie.”
She never heard a response, not to the email or to the letter she sent when they found their tiny rancher house in Bruni, Nevada. She had given her mother her address, and begged her to visit them. Her mother never wrote, and ignored her phone calls. After a year, Jessie gave up. Frustrated and angry at being rejected, she resolved to cut her mother out of her life in the same way her mother had eliminated her.
Life in Bruni was exhilarating, at first. She and Ranger had cooed over their tiny, charming house, and dreamt about landscaping and baby’s rooms. They joked that the possibilities were as wide as the horizons. Ranger got a job in the office of a small mining firm, and she waited tables in a family-run Italian restaurant down the street. The owner, a mostly-Irish woman named Shirley, welcomed Jessie with open arms. Jessie loved taking her tips and meager paycheck home, to her own house, and curling up on the couch in the arms of her own husband, resting her head on his firm shoulder. She watched Ranger come out of his shell, finding his own two feet in the absence of his father.
Visiting Ranger’s house in Charlotte had been unbearable. He was 23, living at home because his parents had forbidden him from going to college and relied upon him to help pay the rent. His father vacillated between states of drunkenness and rigid propriety, and berated Ranger at every opportunity. Jessie didn’t blame him for wanting to get away, to drive as far as possible. And she couldn’t let him go alone. It would have been like letting her own heart leap from her body and drive away. Painful and impossible. So they left, driving his old convertible towards his freedom, their unknown.
She told him that their love was like drinking hot chocolate – warm, sweet, and more comforting than anything. She knew it was silly, but she couldn't find better words. He laughed and tickled her.
“Ok, pudding,” he teased.
Then, Ranger got a new boss at his office. Jessie had visited the office once – it was a tiny place, just a few rooms in a three-story cement office building on the outskirts of Bruni. Ranger managed the sales contracts, and that Sunday he’d made love to Jessie on his cramped desk. The place felt like a fishbowl to her, and she wondered how he didn’t feel claustrophobic.
Continued at Part 2.