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.
“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.
Somewhere between Flagstaff and San Diego, we stopped for Snickers and gas, and I walked around a neglected weed field, kicked rocks, and asked myself when was the last time, I just fell into the moment without that incessant poke of reality; unpublished stories, bills, missing folders, clutter, grocery lists, mail, websites, photo sharing, John’s lunch, John’s phone calls, the news of the world.
“I feel better Rudy, I haven’t cried all day.”
“It’s still early, he chuckled. I have an idea. Let’s take the off roads.”
“How off we talking?”
“Check your map, see if Interstate 8 runs into 10?”
I reached for the Droid, and fussed with the tricky touch pad.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“So why bother with maps.”
“I know — we’ll take 78, through the countryside. It will be pretty. Look, see the sheep?”
The pasture was yellow as corn, hay stacked with sheep, hundreds of them.
“Let’s stop.” I said.
“Even sheep make money. LouLou, there has to be a way for you to capitalize on your writing, and not wait for some jackass to hire you. There has to be. Even I know people pay to click on website ads.”
“You said you had 165 clicks the other day.”
“That was once! Mostly between 10-50 a day.”
“So! It adds up.”
I was grazing on unhurried thoughts, just ripples of ideas and dreams.
“Did you see that?” Rudy blurted out.
“That guy! I just saw a guy walking alongside a weary looking burro dragging a miniature red covered wagon. I gotta turn around.”
“Hi folks, how you doing?” He extended a hoof like hand, weathered as paws, “I’m Howard West.” Howard was outdoor fit; sunglasses, hat, boots, and evenly tanned skin.
“Hi, I’m Rudy, and that’s LouLou.”
“Hi LouLou,” he shook like a city man with hardened hard-labor hands.
"This is some way of traveling. What are you doing?”
“I’m on a book tour, The Quicksilver Key Book Tour.
I caught my laughter when I noticed his educated aura; that veil of disguise we think fools everyone.
“It’s about the history, the lost history — the West in particular and how the government accrues the investment of the rancher, and the universe. If you read my books you’ll see….”
I was petting the dog, a friendly furry mixed breed, and Howard was now blending Rudy in his claw, with this rockabilly wisdom that I didn’t understand.
“How far are you going today Howard?” Rudy asked.
“I do about 10 or 12 miles a day. Whenever I feel like stopping, I just pull over. You been down to the Dunes yet?”
“Where’s that?” Rudy was keenly addressing the wagon, it’s wheels, and accessories, but only I knew that.
“Down the road. Now, those kids have money. They ride dune buggies that sell for anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000! They took me on a ride.”
“Wow! Hey do you have any power source?”
“Sure do. See this — jets up the whole works, laptop,
lights, even my stove. Let me show you.”
I tinkered with the bell around the donkey, I came to find out was named Blue Pegasus, and watched Howard lead Rudy to the watering hold.
" … and the government rules consciousness … by defining the distinct differentiation of the classes…”
I was about to interrupt when another car passed by, and Howard was distracted by the prospect of a purchase.
“Howard, you’re the coolest! I love what your doing, man. I wish I could do it.” Rudy shook his hand.
“Everyone has a book.”
We drove past the sand dunes, and all that bleached rolling sand smooth as pressed sheets, jolted my mind like a wrench.
“Howard West probably went to Harvard and has a degree in History.”
“You may be right. Why can’t you do that?”
“I would if I was a man.”
“No, not the road part, just get your writing on a disk and sell it. If you sell them for 10 bucks, and you sell….”
“You mean my columns?”
“Whatever! You’ve been writing since I met you for Christ’s sake.”
“More Magazine publishes me, and they're mainstream media. I could do a collection of columns, or even a book. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“You need to be published. You'll feel more confidence."
I took out my phone and scrolled through the numbers until I got to John, and then I deleted it. Maybe it was the dead cats in the road, or the poor teenager back in Anza without any future ahead of her but the donuts, or the clarity of a cobalt blue evening sky staring down at me that got me to move over to the other side of the double yellow line, and let John go.
“I’m starving, why didn’t I bring any snacks? “
“We’ll stop up here in Anza.”
“How do you know Anza.”
“I just do. You don’t want to know.”
“Rudy. ... I really don’t care.”
I threw my head back and laughed without a sound.
“Stop, there’s the store.”
“You know what else?”
“She couldn’t understand why I cared about you so much.”
“That’s a good ending.”
My phone rang, an unknown number; never pick those ones up, could be the guy who said his father killed Ben Siegel.
“I can’t stop now. We’re on the freeway nutcase. Who called?”
To be continued.