Me and my sister were used to sitting in the back seat of a car, riding on dusty Nevada roads - crammed up against sets of luggage on either side, familiar with the smell of sweaty clothes (though we did eventually have a functional AC, at the least) - heading to great big family reunions over Thanksgiving each year. I remember when I was seven years old, she dropped a popsicle on the floor between the seats. She didn't mention it to me because I was in a gas station restroom at the time. I came out and buckled in and two hours later the side of my new shoes with blinking lights were mysteriously stained pink. I didn't find it a dashing look.
But we were used to it. There were rules that applied. You did your own thing. I've learned to be very patient - out of necessity. I didn't have a smartphone as a child - I largely predated them. I think something from the GameBoy series is what I was expected to entertain myself with. I insisted that I never fell asleep on these trips, though the people around me heartily disagreed with that suggestion. I first learned to be less certain of myself, then to be quiet around others about my deeply-held beliefs.
I used to think everyone went on those interstate trips. It wasn't like sleeping in the same bed or anything like that - it was a fact of life; the only family you had was your immediate family, and everyone else was far away. One uses inductive logic as a child rather a lot. It's not always in one's best interests to continue doing so, especially after one learns your grandparents are the only ones in Arizona, everyone else goes to see theirs right after school a couple days a month.
Today I'm in a car, seated with my sister, driving interstate through Nevada again, but we're in the front seats. I'm legally blind, and she's in the driver's seat - which is probably how it should be - and I was worried how the trip would go at the outset. I don't think the sun was up. We were loading a few pieces of luggage into the car, I stubbed my toe on the curb, and she laughed at me for it. I had lost touch with her years before, and in that moment, I realized I may have gotten myself into something unpleasant. But there's no turning back.
She took a few long drags off her cigarette, and I thought the smell was unfamiliar. I let it be. We talked about dogs. She said she doesn't like them. I said, they eat dogs in China. She didn't say anything to that. It was the most trivial conversation I'd had in months. We were actively trying not to disturb the peace. I remember the moment when she took that cigarette and disposed of it and said, tersely, "Let's get off then, eh." In our dust-covered car, we rode off into that rising Nevada sun.