In the backseat of a first-generation Daewoo Matiz, I am reading a roman à clef that seeks to describe the overlap between the grotesque and the sublime. The palm trees and dry, yellow plains take on an almost phantasmagorical quality. Moody, layered 80’s ballads emanate from our car radio, set to a brew of white noise, dark news updates, and Kiss FM.

The idea that idiosyncrasies are flowers in the garden of the mind has led me to cherish those peonies, irises, and chrysanths that I otherwise would have left for dead. Consider indole, an organic compound found in fecal matter, but which at low concentrations smells of flowers. At the gas station, we buy potato chips and a Milkybar; they melt gradually in the mouth, a blend of salt crystals, cocoa butter, and the heat of the Spanish summer.

Rural Japan, the southern coast of India, the American Midwest: they each left their emblems — aromatic pine, rich benzoin, Buffalo wings. But this upcoming departure feels like it’ll be the most difficult to shake. Every memory made here is incurably bittersweet. Marmalade orange, ziprasidone. I can’t help being irascible when my mother cries, but know, at least, that I regret it always. I don’t know how to say that, in our interactions, I am seized by a fear that consumes every minor detail of existence: the craggy mountains, the fine lines like petals around her eyes. The most painful reality of being the child of divorce is that my parents will grow old alone.

From faraway, I text Strawberry silly endearments, but I wonder, privately, how much any one person can wring from love before it withers. To my mother and my father: You deserve much more than what can be given to you. You always have.

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