Photo by N.I. Mahmoud

Too Soon To Know

– Memoir by N.I. Mahmoud – 

“Promise you’re better?”

“I promise, I’m ready to come home.”

It was time, I had to bring her back.

Airports were easier; not as crowded, plenty of room to stretch out. Two-thousand miles in under 5 hours, it was dark when I opened the first door. A stranger’s house; a stranger’s bed. I played music loud to drown out the quiet.

The first day I visited, we wore masks and played with the kitten before we climbed the mountain. The canyon painted amber and red, she said she was happy; tie-dyed shirt, messy pony tail, a child with ancient eyes, their brightness dimmed by what she couldn’t control, it was still too soon to know, I said we had time to figure it out.

She called and asked if we could have a picnic, I brought her favorites; cheese, olives and crackers; fig spread, apples and macaroons; she spread the blanket on the grass. Within the canyon, constrained vastness held us close to the horizon, we imagined a different kind of future— I was ready to believe her. We made plans, from Utah to Colorado, we would stop at Arches, and visit an old friend along the way; a mother daughter road trip to rebuild time lost and heal old wounds, it was time to start over. 

After a week, it was arranged; signed forms and negotiations, we all had to agree to the terms. Afterward, lunch and a game of Dutch blitz. Kittens in our laps, we got up to feed the horses. The one that liked to nibble made us laugh, they were so much bigger than us. In a different world, we agreed it’d be amazing if we could live out in the middle of nowhere; big barn, shaggy cows, and lots of chickens. There was enough time before dinner, we went back up the mountain.

I picked her up early the next day. We didn’t have much time; we drove fast, singing along to music blaringly bright, our feelings filled the car, we could be happy again— hot springs in the middle of a field, she couldn’t wait to show me. Fish nipped dead skin off our toes, it tickled in the best way, we held hands and screamed. 

Other people came and went, we didn’t understand why the young woman’s friends let her wear a badly fitted bikini, or which children belonged to which couple; in Mormon country, it was hard to know mothers from wives. 

On our way back, we agreed Jim Morrison is under-rated and that Lana Del Rey was a goddess; past and present strangely aligned, like us they juxtaposed time— dinner in Provo, we were full, but we still went to the creamery and got honey comb ice-cream; a promise is a promise. I dropped her off by 7 before I drove back down the dark winding canyon alone. 

We had four days left; logistics of cars and rentals, check in to check out; there was time between places, I visited the Great Salt Lake. Trek up a craggy mountain, blasted by sun and wind. At the top, pain from the past lessened, I was ready to move on. I hoped she was too.

She visited my apartment; of all the places I stayed during my trip, it was my favorite. She also fell in love with the room; thick mattress tucked in the corner, navy velvet sofa and a warm kitchen. Best of all, tall wide windows showed the changing leaves outside. 

We bought supplies for our trip. Just one more day before it was time to go. I wondered if I was too close; I didn’t have to be her friend, I should set more boundaries— If we give happiness to others we will end up happy, the tag on the teabag told me what I wanted to hear. There was no right or wrong when happiness was at stake.

Sunrise ceremony; tears, hugs and promises to stay in touch before we were on our way— one last time down the canyon, she said it was bittersweet— I hoped our time on the road would make the space between hard points blur for her.

Green River to Island in the Sky and Arches; life eroded, life held together; sunlight on our faces, we were lizards scrambling over red sandstone, searching for the cloud eating dragon that ruled the land. Up and down winding roads, over Kebler’s Pass we made it to Crested Butte— visiting old friends have a way of testing time, stories rooted in a past that’s no longer apparent; 12,000 feet higher than what we’re used to, the altitude made us dizzy enough to know everything was fleeting.

Over the Continental Divide, our last two nights, a mile high above sea level, we walked and ate our way through town. So many pictures and songs later, we were ready to go home; ready to receive hugs and kisses from those we love best. A well-planned reckless adventure come to end, it was time to start again.


N.I. Mahmoud


N.I. Mahmoud enjoys exploring conflict; the mundane or the spectacular, in the present, future or past, she believes there’s no limit to how far a story can travel.