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  • FONG LEE

Return to I-94



ASIA SONG PULLED UP TO A GAS STATION on I-94 west. She went straight to the restroom. She washed her hands. Washed her fatigued eyes. Exhausted from the eight-hour drive from Lansing, Michigan, she rested her palms on the edge of the sink and let her head hang heavy. She has four more hours until family in Saint Paul, Minnesota, can greet her. She contemplated her reasons for driving across the country by herself, at the age of 38. Three years of marriage. Two daughters later. A 33-year-old husband. And a 21-year-old second wife. Damn polygamy culture.

Her tired eyes were awakened by the vibrant colors dancing on the wall to her left.

A couple of years had passed since her last road trip on this very freeway. She did not recall the walls looking this beautiful back then. Perhaps it always had been beautiful. She failed to remember. Travelers decorated the wall with Sharpies that stood loosely inside three ceramic cups resting on a plank chest-high along the adjacent wall. The Sharpies and ceramic cups conjured the image of incense stands on bowls of uncooked rice at her shaman grandmother’s altar. It reminded her of her animistic belief that nothing is without meaning.

She knew then the purpose of the Sharpies. She wondered how many were out of ink. How many still worked. She wondered about the people who had touched each Sharpie. She wondered how many had been taken by children for the road, especially artistic little girls.

She cupped her hands under the running lukewarm water. She washed her face once more. She inched closer to the mural. She remembered the saying One’s penmanship tells the personality of oneself. She scanned the wall with fierce eyes, searching the personality and story behind each of the names, words, phrases, and sketches. Her hands moved toward her cosmetic-free cheeks and wiped away tears after seeing I my mommy.

She was selfish for leaving her daughters. Even though she had promised them she would be back for them as soon as the divorce was completed, she could not help but let more tears seep through already-swollen eyes. She grabbed the red Sharpie—not her favorite color but thought it to be bold—and in long hand she wrote Asia Song was here. Summer of 1997.

She paid for gas. She walked out with a couple of packs of beef jerky. A six pack of water. She pulled out of the gas station with her window down and sped away, west, toward Saint Paul. She looked up at the rearview mirror.

At the fading gas station. At her sorrowful eyes and listened to the wind.

She knew to be grateful.



Story: FONG LEE is a member of the Stillwater Writers Collective. He enjoys poetry, essays, and creating visual art. When he is not drawing or writing, he volunteers as a tutor.

Art: A Diuturnal Wisp. © Elizabeth Jolly.



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