Keeping the Car Running

Nonfiction by Aimee Cando

Descriptive image of a car on the shoulder of a roadway.

I was to be every bit as masterful behind the wheel and fearless under pressure as my mother. Once I was old enough to learn how to drive, she began telling me anecdotes about her wars on the road, all memorable because of the chaos they caused. Every dent on the exterior was a valiant battle scar, every breakdown at the side of the road a tale of victory. All this time, I knew she was toughening me up for a world I had yet to enter but would inevitably do so by virtue of being my mother’s daughter.

“Not like your Kuya Reggie,” she would say—condescend, flicking a lever to signal a turn and groove the wheel left, all within a swift motion of her wrist. “Walang lakas ng loob.” She prided herself over the fact that most of the men in her family never learned how to drive. Every reunion, she would shake her keys in their direction and ask if they were finally going to let her teach them, brave in front of my macho titos and their sons.

I envied her strength and confidence. Growing up, I found myself trying to adapt the same brash arrogance, taking pleasure in life’s difficulties if it meant I could wave it around like a prize in the end. But I never needed the anecdotes or the gloating; it was enough that my life had been spent as her favorite passenger. From the seat right next to her, I would watch my mother navigate the mess of Metro Manila’s roads as I lorded over the songs on the radio, supplying only the most riveting conversation.

My mother, as mothers do, took care of the rest.

Her car is a Honda Civic model manufactured in the early 2000s. It’s an automatic silver-painted sedan, compact and sleek for the time it was built. My mother got it secondhand over a decade ago and it shows: there’s a deep cavity next to the gas valve, a few white scrapes along the left side of the front bumper, and a missing mudflap. The things in the glove compartment have been the things in the glove compartment for years, and the backseat windows have a latticework of scratches from all the times our dog has been on board. On the rear windshield are stickers that read Papa Mama Kuya Bunso Dakin with corresponding doodle cartoons.

The Civic was her second car after we returned from a year-long stay in the States. We had moved there on an attempt to start over, but it was ultimately decided against after we ran out of money. There, our home was another family’s garage rented out for $500 a month, the big mechanical doors replaced with a wide panel of sliding glass that we draped curtains over. The suburb, Charleston Preservation, looked to me more like a huge, quiet village resort with all the amenities, but just after a tangle of highways was the Las Vegas Strip with its glamorous resorts, sprawling alive, flushed with excess, and the place of my mother’s employment. We had a car then, too. A thing of necessity, on loan to us by a family friend because we didn’t have a green card, never truly ours to begin with.

Though my father also drives his own car, our condo in Cubao is allotted only one parking spot in the compound. Good enough, since he doesn’t live with us—every night after work, he travels to his real home, around twenty kilometers away from ours with his wife and children. When my brother and I were in high school, he drove us home to save money on commissioning a school bus. A few years later, I learned that shortly after dropping us off, he would head to his other youngest’s workplace and bring them home, too. He managed his two families, his two lives between car trips.

As what he believes to be according to his duty, he visits us frequently to spend time with my mother and make sure everything is in order. It’s all down to a routine: about an hour before he arrives, my mother heads out to move her car a few meters away from our building, leaving the convenience of the VIP parking slot to my father. Four, five times a week, she does this. When it’s time for him to leave, they walk out with their hands latched together: he, to go home, and she, to take his place as if nothing had left.

I was 18 when I got my student license, the summer during which my mother started teaching me how to drive. She would bring us to a quiet parking lot, turn off the engine, and prompt me to switch seats with her—a privilege, I had thought. A sign of trust.

But in her place, I took us on the most erratic five-kilometer-per-hour cruises while she kept her fingers looped around the hand brake, prepared to rescue me from embarrassment and controversy. Every one of my senses felt fried and alive, an epic contrast to how my mother held herself: straight-faced with her hand propping her head up against the window. She was bored.

Because I had never looked out on a road from the left side of a car before, I struggled to estimate the precision of my turns. “Is this right? Am I at the middle?” I asked, leaning forward as if the answer was written on the metal hood. In my periphery, I caught my mother’s one-shoulder shrug. “You’ll find out once you get used to it,” she said, clearly with too much faith in my instincts.

Never take your eyes off the road, remember to look at the mirrors. Step on the gas, always keep your foot on the brakes. Keep your hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel, sige! Sige, kabig pa! For one sweltering afternoon hour, she dictated my every move and always with little to no praise.

I knew I must’ve been making a plethora of mistakes. I let out a laugh from my dry, scratchy throat at every dose of uncertainty, until my mother said, “What’s so funny? Seryosohin mo,” and all I could reply was, “Sorry.” I couldn’t understand how some people so comfortably wielded such a machine while others moved around it, but I was more consumed by the fact that I was losing my mother’s faith and respect. This was supposed to be it, the day I finally take the car for a spin and find myself a natural at the wheel, all the time I’ve spent riding shotgun granting me with an instant feel of the vehicle’s console, the engine’s thrum easing into my veins.

Instead, sweat began to bead up at my temples before swaying into my brow and sliding down my cheek. My shirt was wet against my back, and the only thing that eased into me was a dull ache in my jaw from grinding my teeth. There was no need for me to glance over to know that my mother was unimpressed. Still, I wanted to keep trying, but I was drenched with relief when she pointed at a parking slot for me to back into.

At 57 years old, my mother no longer believes she’s the best driver in the world. Shortly after our homecoming from the States, she discovered she had an inconsolable fear of large roads like ten-lane Commonwealth Avenue and highways like the Metro Manila Skyway. She refused to pass by most parts of EDSA when she knew the traffic would be free-flowing, and C5? Absolutely out of the question, let alone any of the expressways. She would rather commute, beg someone else to drive for her, or be late to an appointment figuring out an alternative route to her destination.

Still, I thought she was a master of all other roads—until her Civic started falling apart.

“Switch gears,” she instructed, body twisted around to watch the wall, quizzical as any teacher. “Go, put some gas on it.” I did. “Keep turning, anak. Sige pa!” And I did. “Other way! Other way!” I did, and I apologized. “Ayan. Don’t say sorry, just do it.”

After the lesson, we assumed our normal seats. I put on a song that we both knew, a silent apology while my mother scheduled our next practice session. Later over dinner, a new anec-gloat to celebrate my new commitment to the wheel: “My co-workers used to think I was such a good driver that I could travel the whole stretch of EDSA in reverse—with my eyes closed.”

The first thing that went was the aircon; during the hottest summer days, it would struggle and fail against the heat, but it began happening even under the coolest August drizzles. Consequently, that time saw the worst of my mother’s road rage because of her menopausal hot flashes. Often wondering if it was just her body inconveniencing her, she would ask me, “Naiinitan ka ba? Ako lang ba ‘yon?”

Months later, the car running too slowly while the air conditioning was on, the engine started to shudder. You could feel it lightly through the seats, but it was enough to make my mother seize up and tell me to cut the music, leaving just that low, shuddering noise against the sluggish crawl of the traffic.. “You need to listen to the car,” she said.

But then we came to a full stop. The moment the brakes were flat on the floor, the gauge hitting zero, the shuddering became a sharp, violent rattle before the engine died completely.

My father has two cars that he recently bought within six months of each other. Though she would love to drive something flashier and less broken, my mother has never driven either of them. The day my father showed up with the second car, it became her secret desire that he buy her a new one, too, though he never did.

I call this her mistress’ curse. Despite their love, without marriage, the obligation to share everything with each other loomed almost nonexistent, a non-necessity separate from the essentials that kept the gears of their unconventional relationship well-oiled. Her entitlement stretched just as far as being the mother of my father’s children, and for that, she was giving. Loving, sacrificial, and grateful.

My mother always tells me that most of my features are my father’s, though I’ve grown to understand it as a lament for how little we look like each other. In contrast, she is shorter with thinner lips and darker skin. But as I get older, making more mature decisions and learning to clean up after myself, we’ll pass by a mirror, and she’ll tell me, independent of any feature or gene, “Nagiging magkamukha na tayo, anak.”

Very few things in the world make my mother panic the way a dead engine in the middle of the road could. After two weeks of putting up with her temperamental car, she was finally caught in it during the worst possible situation: in the middle of a busy intersection on a hot day.

After the incident, she drove herself to our practice parking lot and figured out that turning off the air conditioning stopped the shuddering from happening all together. Suddenly, there were new rules: avoid driving below 40 kilometers per hour, learn all the regular inroads to avoid the traffic; if the car needed to slow down or stop, turn off the aircon immediately. Bring an extra shirt and never wear anything with sleeves. Anticipate the discomfort, tie your hair in a high ponytail.

It was my mother’s labor of love to herself, learning how to drive that car again. I assumed it was the embarrassment that got to her most of all; people on the road are quicker to accuse the driver instead of the machine. She had embedded so much of her own pride and strength into the vehicle that any sense of betrayal was out of the question.

During that summer, I became engrossed in my work, so our driving lessons came to a stop. Whenever my mother accused me of being lazy or a neglectful daughter, it was always my defense that I was investing in things that concerned my own life, the one I had envisioned for myself. This, of course, was easier than admitting I was a coward to her bored and unimpressed impatience.

Eventually, my student license expired. Still, she never stopped reminding me of my inability to drive. By then, my desire to learn was diminished each time I saw the state of the car get worse.

                                                                            ⇹

We went to America to try and start a life without my father, so the composition of our home in Nevada wasn’t different from what we were used to. There was me, my mother, and my older brother, all of us dealing with our own problems after the move. My brother, diagnosed with high-functioning autism, needed to adjust to the independence imposed on him by American culture, while I, at eight years old, just desperately wanted to fit in. Because I had been consuming Western media my whole life, I had all the same interests and hobbies as my classmates, but I remained an unpopular loner with unfashionable clothes.

As the sole provider, my mother took a managerial position at a deli inside Caesars Palace. Her shift started at 6 p.m. and ended at 2 a.m., and rather than go straight to bed after driving home, she would pull herself into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for me and my brother. The two of us would wake up, eat, and get each other ready for school while she was fast asleep. Because our schools were a short walking distance from our garage, my mother didn’t need to drive us there and had the whole morning to sleep. Two kisses on her restful face, then we were off.

After our classes, my brother and I brisk-walked on the way home. Getting there before 5 p.m. meant spending however many minutes there were left with my mother before she was revving out of the driveway to beat the traffic. All we had were weekends, spent going on the twenty-minute trip to the nearest Filipino store for sinigang and caldereta mix.

The Civic’s death rattles got worse. After a long enough drive, the engine would either need multiple turns of the key or refuse to come alive at all. It was like an old man beginning to tire too quickly.

Over the course of a year, we had brought the thing about a dozen times to three different mechanics. So much work had been done to it that I imagined its insides all mangled and confused. My mother would get the car back and find that it would run perfectly for a few days, but the symptoms would keep resurfacing, incurable.

Nobody was ever quite sure what was wrong with the car, and my mother dreaded asking for my father’s help for the repairs, always like negotiating a business deal. He was stringent when it came to spending money, though I assumed it was because his wife kept close watch of their funds.

My mother stopped inviting me to run errands with her as often as she used to. When she did, we would inevitably run into traffic, and I learned to switch off the aircon every time the car needed to stop, my small offering because I couldn’t drive the car for her. Waiting for the light to change, we would sit quietly and sweat into our clothes, and I would put on a song we both knew on the radio. I knew she felt guilty because I was uncomfortable, but she wouldn’t dare apologize just like I wouldn’t dare complain. It wasn’t her fault that the car was broken, wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t let it go because she saw too much of her self in it—that old thing, something about the exhaust, something wrong with the wiring. My mother always tended to fight herself, her own turmoil nothing but another challenge to best and turn into a story of victory.

“This is why you need to learn how to drive,” she did tell me one day, coming in with the week’s groceries. At her age, my mother is in great shape, but she looked worn like this, the lengths of her arms glazed with sweat, her hair in a damp ponytail while the shorter strands along her fringe stood like thin, wiry horns. Leaving the bags on the kitchen counter, she finally let her shoulders sag. “I can’t keep doing this.”

“I know,” I said. Everybody, in some way, takes their parent’s place. If life were a journey that my mother traversed by car, then I imagine the driver’s seat that she sweats and cries in is the same one that her mother used to sweat and cry in, too. Filth and pain and all, I was to inherit everything and keep the car running.

Years after our homecoming, when all three of us had buried our memories of Las Vegas until they seemed like nothing but a fevered dream, I asked my mother if she ever liked her deli job inside that luxurious casino. Because she was trained in pharmaceutics, it was her first job in the food industry. “My co-workers were nice enough,” she said, though I knew they frequently made fun of her accent and grammar. “But I’d never choose to do it again. The only thing I liked about it was driving there. Sobrang ganda ng mga kalye doon.”

Highway to highway, my mother survived through each paycheck until her boss found out she wasn’t a legal citizen. Over the sound of slow rock on the radio, she asked, “Naalala mo pala ‘yon?”

Every Holy Week, my mother plans out her two favorite Catholic practices, Visita Iglesia and Stations of the Cross. She lists down fourteen churches for us to visit, one for every station, which makes it one of her favorite drives, too. Days before, she spends an hour on Google Maps plotting the route and making sure our last church will be nearby somewhere we could eat, a reward for our sacrifices.

But on the year of our broken-down car, she cut the list by half, leaving only the churches closest to where we lived, and we waited until the sun was setting to leave instead of in the morning. On that late afternoon, we wove our way through four churches in Cubao, two in Anonas, and one in Teacher’s Village where we were to find someplace to eat along Maginhawa Street.

I expected the car problems, but it was clear that my mother, maybe feeling blessed by the occasion, was extremely optimistic. She was chatty and singing along to the radio while I turned off the aircon as needed. Inside the churches, my brother and I took turns reading from the prayer booklet, and my mother stood by and listened, head bowed with her fingers tightly laced together in front of her, perhaps praying for a peaceful drive. If compromise wasn’t enough, then maybe divine intervention would do. We got through the list of churches and finished reciting all of the prayers.

It wasn’t until Maginhawa that the engine started to rattle so violently that any semblance of composure drained out of my mother’s face in one fell swoop. She squeezed the wheel tight and twisted the car toward the side of the road, the turn eliciting a loud, ear-splitting sound of metal grinding on metal. The blood in my veins turned ice cold as she shouted my name over the noise—“Aimee! Aimee!”—as if I had the power to stop it. As if I could take the wheel from her grip and turn her hands into my hands instead. Make her hysteria and fear all mine, so that I could make my name into hers, too. A daughter crying for her mother made much more sense than the other way around.

The car was dead before she could direct it flush against the sidewalk, the rear still about two feet away from it. For the five seconds of silence my mother allowed us, nobody moved, both afraid of and relieved by the loss of that terrible noise, but it came back just as loudly when my mother tried to bring the engine back to life with a pained curl of the key. “Tang ina! Aimee!” Over and over again, she tried in between slapping her palms on the wheel, but all to no give.

In America, because I feared to see guilt in her eyes, it was difficult to tell my mother how much I missed her throughout the week. But she knew without needing to hear it; she loved her little girl who always sat in the front with her once she was big enough for the seatbelt. On some Fridays, she would bring my brother and I to her workplace where we stayed in a corner of the kitchen and busied ourselves with homework, toys, and leftovers. We would be fast asleep on the drive home, our mouths open and heads lolling to the side.

A few years later, well-settled in Cubao and driving back from the movies, my mother admitted that she used to stop the car at a sidewalk and cry during those homebound drives. All it took was my brother’s gentle snores in the backseat for her to remember how we used to travel to Las Piñas and visit my grandmother, the trip on the way home always spent similarly with both of her children resting in the backseat.

The worst part was that everybody in the food park we stopped in front of could hear that grating squeal of metal like it was an animal crying out, begging to be left to die. “Ma, tama na. Labas muna tayo, sobrang init,” I pleaded, putting my hand on her wrist, but it was ignored and I felt too stunned by her outbursts to do more. She started to jam her fingers into the buttons that controlled the windows, then the lights, then the stick. When people started approaching us, vaguely gesturing at the hood, my mother waved them off with another hit on the wheel, another shout: “Iwan niyo kami! Fuck!”

Minutes later, my brother and I stepped out of the car and watched my mother from the sidewalk, though she had already stopped trying. Leaning over the open passenger door, I told her, “Ma, tara na. We can get a cab and go home.”

Her expression reminded me of the way she looked when I failed my first college class, or when she found out I was a smoker, just like her. “Hindi ako nag-aalala kung makakauwi ba kayo,” she said, voice watery as she wiped at the sweat on her forehead. She rested it against the wheel and closed her eyes. “Nag-aalala ako sa kotse.”

Of course—how could she ever think to leave herself behind?

My mother learned how to drive out of necessity. As the first of her siblings to graduate from college, she immediately found work as a medical representative, and did so well that they handed her a car for more mileage.

That first car, she told me, got into a minor accident that caused damages she had to shell out money for to get repaired in secret. Was that car, then, as eager as a reflection of my mother as the Civic is, now? Young, treading authority, but steadfast in responsibility, my mother shined away all the scratches and pumped out the dents. No war stories yet, so nobody was to know about the pain.

“How old is the car?” I asked my mother. We were standing in the kitchen while she fixed herself a bowl of mixed nuts and chichacorn, her hip leaning against the counter.

“Naku…” she said, pausing for a huff, leaning back as she counted the years. “Sixteen years old. We got it five years after it was made, kaya wala pa siyang mga problema noon.” Her fingertips brushed against the bowl’s rim, and her eyes dropped down from me to its contents. “Parang tao lang, after a long enough time, may normal wear and tear talaga.”

Maybe that was her word for it, wear and tear. A natural course of reality. As if she knew it would happen to her, all of it—the cars, the roads, the breaks—all of it a wealth of pain meant to toughen me up for a world I had yet to enter. A world I had yet to inherit, which was another way of saying inevitable or inescapable, yet another way of saying that it was my mother’s life’s work, far from being burden or punishment despite having all the weight of it. Intimate, to watch someone’s wear and tear, so closely as to learn from it.

I’ve seen my mother cry many times before. The death of my grandmother, the absence of my father, the pain of her body. My own shortcomings. It doesn’t get easier to see, the sudden cave of her expression when she decides she can no longer hold it together. Her tears, her cries come all at once, never as small cracks that break the surface, and so it’s instinct to rush to her comfort. My embrace becomes her embrace, and her hands become my hands.

She didn’t cry when her car broke down in the middle of Maginhawa. I always thought it would’ve been easier if she did, so I could’ve torn her door open and dragged her away, uncaring if she kicked or screamed. It’s time to let go, I wanted to say. Please let it go. Instead, she sat there catatonic. Nothing could get through to her, and nothing could get in between her and that car. Nothing could break her away from her pain, that pain I knew I would inherit. Is that what mothers do? Hold on to their pain as to hold off handing it over to their daughters?

She didn’t cry, but I realize now that she must’ve been crying for a long time. I wish I knew when she began to fill up that car to the roof with her sweat and tears, so I know how long I had been watching her just swim in it. But now, she’s resigned to it, simply waiting for the thing to fall apart into finality the way she awaits her own death, out of my hands.

Another anec-gloat: after leaving the deli, my mother was so exhausted while driving home that she didn’t realize she was swerving left and right out of her lane. Flamingo Road was deserted at nearly 3 a.m., but the blare of red and blue from the rear view mirror was enough to make her notice that a tired haze had settled over her sight.

My mother’s usual modus when she’s stopped by road police is to argue and contrive the road rules until she could get away clean. A few times in the past, she had nudged me with her elbow to double over in my seat and pretend that I was in torturous pain, letting her pretend she was rushing to a hospital for me. Then, of course, when nothing else worked, she would bribe the officer with money for several cups of coffee. But this was America—Flamingo Road with its eight lanes was no Aurora Boulevard at any hour of the day, especially when she had no green card or IDs that had her real name.

I often wonder what must’ve been going through my mother’s mind as she pulled up to the side of the road, waiting for that cop to knock on her window. The car was stopped, but her mind was racing. Did she think please let me go? Or was it please, please just let me go home? And if it was, did she mean the garage in Charleston Preservation or anywhere, literally anywhere at all in Metro Manila? I imagine she had that same look on her face when she was stuck in front of that food park in Maginhawa. Terrified and resigned to the terror, trapped in and by what she thought would never hurt her.

Nothing happened. The way my mother recounted this, which has only ever happened once, the cop sensed how frightened she was and let her go out of pity, telling her to be careful on her way. An utter miracle. My mother was shell-shocked, completely yanked out of her previous exhaustion and ready to beg for her life, which felt like it had already been ripped right from her moments before. “My heart was pounding, but I got away with it!” she said, still in disbelief eight years later.

Whenever my mother brought up needing repairs, my father always acted as if he didn’t believe there was anything wrong with her car at all. She was either driving it wrong or letting the mechanics fool her into shelling out more money than she had to. For that, I resented him more than my mother did—she had all the patience in the world for him, and so only thought he wasn’t listening to her rather than deliberately demeaning her.

Or perhaps, the reason why he had so little faith in my mother was her aversion to those large, intimidating roads—witnessing her try to brave one was alarming, the steep spike of her anxiety evident in the claustrophobic car interior until she found a way to veer into a smaller street. Passengers had no choice but to feel just as unsafe as my mother did, hyperventilating and sweating enough to fog the windows.

What she would do is stick to the right-most lane at the slowest possible speed until it was over, never mind the column of cars breaking their horns as they took over in front. She would pulse over the brakes, jerking the car forward however many times it took until it was over, though she felt like she would never get there. She would shout at the windshield: “Ayoko na! Ayoko na!”

My father has no respect for this. She tried to explain to him that she can’t help it; whenever she’s caught in her fear, it feels as though the car is completely out of her control, the tires twisting in every reckless direction, the machine accelerating against her will. “Iniisip mo lang yan,” he would say, snuffing her out with embarrassment.

In America, my mother bought me and my brother bikes with training wheels to ride around the park nearby where we spent most of our time. Mine was hot pink with white tires, and on the handle bars was a pristine bell with the daintiest ring; my brother’s, of course, was black and blue all the way through. But after seeing the bikes of my neighbors and classmates, all without those extra rickety and unattractive wheels attached to the back, it didn’t take long for me to beg to have the ones on mine torn off.

My mother was happy to comply, and I was off to prove myself to my American friends. It was her relief that she didn’t need to teach me to how to ride a bike as it was, though my brother carried on and, to this day, refuses to pedal anything with less than three wheels. “Kaya hindi siguro matututo magmaneho ang kuya mo,” she told me once.

During our last few months in Charleston Preservation, I caught my mother using my bike. Her legs folded comically around the too-small kiddie-pink frame as she pushed herself up the driveway, her body leaning forward to keep her speed and balance. Her shoulders, arms, and even her knees were covered in sweat, and her hair was awry from the sun and wind. Around her wrists were two tote bags each. “Where did you go?” I asked. I was sure she’d been somewhere farther away from where I usually go.

“I went to the bank to get money,” she said, handing the bags over to me as she ushered me inside. “I bought some groceries, paki ligpit naman.” Even though the stores and banks were highways away, not far from the roads that lead into The Strip, she just didn’t want to drive.

To this day, my mother insists that the source of her fear is as mysterious as her inability to block it out. “One day, it just started happening,” is how she explains it to her unlikely passengers who end up petrified against their seats. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I can’t say for sure, but it must’ve been that one night in Flamingo Road, which ended with her stepping inside our garage-home to complete silence and children fast asleep. As if it was just any other night. She had to act like it was—I can’t stand to think of her loneliness, then. Already, I feel it start to become mine, but there is no reaching out to her. “It’s called a panic attack,” I tried to say once, after she suffered through one right next to me, but she didn’t hear me. “What?” she said. “Never mind,” I said. We moved on, and she kept the car running.

You were traumatized, I wanted to tell her. I want to give her a name for it, to know what she screams against, but what would that do? It felt wrong to know so much of the broken pieces, the breadth of my mother’s shame.

All I can know, and all that my mother has ever asked me to know, is the car—silver, compact, torn and worn—human being enough.

Four years after our last lesson, my mother has started teaching me how to drive again. Every Sunday, we go to a relatively deserted part of UP Diliman with the windows rolled down, and I learn that slowly coming to a stop is better than slamming at the brakes. Anticipating a mistake or an accident and turning away from it instead of allowing it to confront you. Looking both ways at an intersection before crossing, even when you know there’s nothing there. Trust your instincts. Be patient. Don’t get frustrated. I still sweat like a pig, but at least I’ve stopped laughing.

When the Civic’s engine dies while I’m driving, she takes over to find shade for the car to rest under. We stay inside and pass a bottle of water back and forth, talking of the lives we don’t live together. Every so often, she’ll add to the collection of anec-gloats, and I let them make who she is a little clearer to me. I wonder if she knows I’ve been keeping track. I wonder if she knows my willingness to learn how to drive is because I’ve been keeping track. I hope that if I spend enough time sitting in her place, then I’ll eventually see the road a little better.

I have known all this time about her pain and how I turned away from it, rejecting anything that wasn’t my mother’s arrogance and fearlessness. Perhaps, by learning how to drive her car, upon which so much of her and who she is depends, to which she still clings to, I can finally take it for my own. Not to hide it from her but to tell her that it is no longer solely hers to bear, that wear and tear.

She hands me the keys, and I strap in.


Aimee Cando is a Filipino writer who grew up on the Internet. Their work has appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Scum Magazine, and Chronotope Magazine. Currently, they are living in Quezon City and working on their Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman. They’re on Twitter as @kidaquarius.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

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