Wrong-Way Love

Nothing better to cure a broken heart than a road trip filled with coffee shops, strangers, and soul searching.

by Luellen Smiley • More.com Member { View Profile }

I’m watching the double-yellow line between coming and going on Interstate 25 from Santa Fe past Albuquerque. In the rear-view mirror, I see scaffolding, an airless sprayer, paint tubs, tools, a wardrobe box, and suitcases. It is the same VW van I used to refuse to ride in because it smelled of wet drywall. Now cushioned in the front seat, I see the wide windshield to the world that features the bullet holes of a wrong-way love. It mattered before, the van thing; now it doesn’t. I’m grasping for the road, to burn out the memories, on the other side of the double yellow line.

“Are you glad you came with me?”

“So far — but we’re still in New Mexico. Try not to drive me over the edge, okay? I mean with the speaker phone talking Taiwanese to B of A, or… would you hold the steering wheel with two hands please … see, there’s an accident.”

“Wow, the car flipped over.”

“Yea, that kind of thing.”

“I’m a safe driver.”

“I know, but only about half of you is here.”

“Whatta you mean?”

"The other half is glaring into the distance, the mountains, the clouds, the crows, imagining yourself a dinosaur.”

“Not no more.”

“Why? Did she make an adult out of you? I hate her for that. John did the same to me.”

Scenery whizzes by; snow capped mountains, speeding patrol cars, highway signs; it’s barely absorbed before it is gone. Make it like this, easy to forget, like the scenery. I fell asleep, a dreamless nap, the kind that wakes you displaced but without alarm. Rudy was leaning away from the sun-splashed window, one loose hand on the steering wheel.  

 “Gallup”

 “Someone told me it is the drug capital of the United States. Where is everyone? Maybe they hide indoors so as not get shot."

“Gallup is also the largest Indian center in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America. There are many American peoples in the Gallup/Four Corners region. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. “ — Wikipedia

Five hours later we are sitting by the window of Pesto, in Flagstaff and talking alternately, not in conversation, but in spite of, John, Match.com, and the billboard irony of our circumstances. Even though we hadn’t checked into the motel yet, or even knew where it was, the adventure of livingness struck, and I climbed out of myself.

“It’s like it never happened, you know?” I said.

“Oh yea, I know.” 

In the middle of the night, I woke up screaming at John. Rudy was in the next bed, and didn’t hear me, so I opened the drapes and stared out the window at the brightest star and listened to the voice of reason that visits me sometimes. What love scars bring to the world is poetry, literature, art, music, theater, gospel, and dance! So where will this take me? I thought about the documentary on Nicholas Ray, and his remark:

“Without content all you have is composition.”

I wish morning would come. 

Starting in 1999, every road trip between New Mexico and California includes a morning at Macy’s Coffee House. I entered this time without the explosion of zest in previous trips, when my heart was in one piece, and found enough distractions to pull me further out of wrong-way love.

A group of middle-aged men, retired cops or civil servants were my first source of entertainment. At a wooden table, conversing microphone loud about city ordinances was the leader. One Fry boot perched on a chair, and the other on the floor, his belly protruded way beyond a few beers here and there. His pals, all looking up to him, waiting for an injection of his wry humor, and dirty jokes. Rudy is talking about how much he loves Flagstaff, but what I hear is a tide of elation rising up, just resurfacing now, after a good nights rest in the Hampton Inn.

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