Soaking wet in cotton underwear and an oversized soccer jersey, I am an animal—a 12-year-old in human years—sitting on a flooding wrap-around balcony in eastern Canada. This is where spruce and pine needles stick to the bottoms of your feet. This is where jewelweed grows in creeks.
Later, I dream of running across the street, a transparent green grid over my slow-motion running. Like a target. The car doesn’t make a sound, but the noise of my head hitting the car is still somewhere just across the threshold of awareness. The ears are the last to submerge.
For years after my travels, I’d track stories of women traveling alone, of women murdered, of women who’d made similar choices to the ones I’d made on the road. I followed the story of a young woman who’d been around my age when she’d gone backpacking and then missing in Nepal.
This run-down, rusted-out trailer park was the first place in years that wasn't someone else’s farm with frozen pipes in the winter, far from everyone including school friends. There were other kids here.
Am I the missing girl, my perfect niece? Am I her devastated mother, staggering towards us? Am I her devastated grandmother, crying into her fist? Her devastated grandfather, immobile at the table? Am I the silent Uber driver? Am I the men, grinning with their axes?
Riding in a gray Honda up a dark road, I felt someone looking at me. It was the light of the moon. Bright and full in all her splendor—in awe at feeling her warmth—I heard her speak.
I remember thinking her head looked like the moon: covered in bumps and divots. I wanted to explore the topography of her scalp, but instead I clenched my hands into fists at my sides until my fingernails left half-crescent indents on my palms.
Roots By Nora Seilheimer wo Saturdays after Joe and I get married and buy a house in the Upper…