I was 18 years old when I was t-boned by a large diesel truck during rush hour. The very thing I had fantasized for years materialized into a reality – I sobbed on the side of the road while strangers gawked.
The next day, my mother strapped me into her car.
She asked me, “tell me exactly how it happened.”
I sat in a crumpled heap in the passenger seat as she drove us the exact route in which I was hit the day before. I was so angry she would do that to me – my jaw clenched and body bracing when I crossed those five lanes of traffic, taking that left turn. When we made it safely across, all the oxygen left my body in a deep sigh of relief.
I seethed at her when she turned her head to meet my eyes, she said, “let’s go again.”
And we took that turn half a dozen more times – each time my lung capacity expanded more and more.
When she was done, she parked the car in our driveway and said to me, “I’m not going to let you live life in fear of the things when you can address them head on instead.”
With a wrecked car, the last financial cushion to my name, I moved to D.C two weeks later.
Fast forward to eight years later, I’d find myself driving down the city’s quiet highways, out past midnight, the same way.
The air carried a crispness the same way it did when my love once shared it in the same car. I found myself driving that route from hers to mine, the dark night stretching ahead the way it always does. Each time we would part ways under street fluorescent lights, I would listen to the same song on my way home, already soothing a loss yet to come.
The world had halted to a deep hum the same way I retreated inward those eight years ago and now I was witnessing myself begrudgingly repeating our steps, attempting to make the pain feel less present.
And with every highway exit, I relived how her lips felt against mine. On that one big pothole halfway home, I’d remember the way she’d look at me from across the room. As the lights became brighter, indicating I was close to home, a finish line in sight – I’d remember her words “you’ll always be special to me” ripple through my mind.
When I arrived, I slid into park as my breath left my body like smoke from a collapsed house.
By joining hands with the misery visiting my home I was able to tell her,
“I see you but you can no longer stay.”
Mariah is a photojournalist turned interdisciplinary photographer based in Washington DC. Her work focuses primarily on the dynamics within the intersectionality of race, gender, and womxn’s bodies. You can find more of her work on Instagram at @mariahmirandaphoto.