You know what love looks like. Worry lines criss crossed by strands of grey-brown hair. The faded rose-print dress, worn and washed, and worn and washed, until it’s as tired as the wisp of the round-shouldered woman whose waist you can almost wrap your arms around twice. And this wisp of a woman in the rose-print dress, when you picture her and think about how hard she’s worked and how much she’s done without, hoping to give you a better life, your heart is torn to pieces.
A moment of clarity emerges, amid the haze of endless dust and toil and too many mouths to feed, when you realize that no matter how desperately your mother tries to fool herself, the rainbow she seeks does not exist. Not here, at least. You realize something else as well. At 15, you have reached the August of your youth, and that beneath an emerging grownup sense of duty to do what is right, also lurks the shoved-down-deep-into-your-pockets desire of wanting more than this place can ever give you. And you are burdened, for the first time in your tender life, with the millstone of guilt.
It won’t be long now before you hear the inevitable-your future calling to you in the whistle of a passing freight train. You’ll cloak yourself in a pair of your little brother’s overalls. Twist and pin your dark curls into a knot on the top of your head-hidden under his old mustard yellow newsboy cap. You’ll heave the responsibilities of adulthood onto your young shoulders. Hop aboard the blackness of an open boxcar. And you’ll be gone.