This night makes me think, and I wonder how she can drive me, her father, when it seems I still have the feel of her plastic car seat in my fingertips, and now she is talking about vacation, but my head is pounding from work, so all I can do is smile along with her, my mariposa, but she gasps, and I see a flash of skin in the headlights, and after two thumps she pulls to the side and turns to me, and I do not pause, looking behind at the stains growing on the cement, because no, no, this is not yours, mariposa, and I turn the wheel back toward the center of the road for her and, again, I am leading her home.
Cristina will leave for college in a few days. She’s been packing for weeks, worried about forgetting her socks or favorite books. Half-filled boxes are everywhere. I look in one and see her sweaters jumbled together with picture frames.
The mail arrives. There is a letter with a form for registering vehicles for parking at college, and I hand it to Cristina.
She glances at the form and crumples it up, saying, “I don’t want to take the car.”
I take the paper from her and gently smooth out the creases. They’re stubborn, and I press the paper between my palms, forcing it flat.
“Take it, mariposa.” I hand her the paper again. All that’s left of the creases are faint lines.