Sand and Stone and Receding Distance

I slept in my truck the other night.  With the drip drip drip of my leaking gas line, and the tick tick tick of my cooling engine after another five hundred miles, and the slow rrrrroar of passing semis on the highway, I slept in my truck.

And in the morning it was just too damned cold and too damned cramped to sleep another minute more, so I crept into the Ludlow Coffee Shop. It was a What Can I Getcha, Hon? sort of cafe.  A biscuits and gravy sort of cafe.  A bottomless cup of weak coffee sort of cafe.  And while I sat inside, the desert rain came down outside.

I breezed out of the Ludlow Coffee Shop to a pleasant surprise: The whole world smelled like sage and creosote bush.  I can’t even begin, don’t even know how to start to tell you what this was to me.  It was a reunion.  A love renewed.  Sensual.  Exhilarating.  Full of life and wired joy.  It was light rain drizzling down my neck, coffee warmth in my stomach, and full body chills.

I let the truck coast to a stop alongside a desert road.  I got out and started walking.  Rain was falling, light and feathery.  The creosote bushes were sticky with resin and thick with desert fragrance.

I started collecting things white.  Sand sculpted limestone.  Sun-bleached bones.  Milky quartz.  Then I started collecting things black.  Volcanic basalt fragments.  Pieces of retread.  Polished black stones.

I broke off a piece of creosote bush, crushed it between my palms, cupped my hands over my face, inhaled deeply.

A weathered piece of wood.  A rusted piece of tin.  An old hourglass-figured coke bottle half-filled with sand.  I turned back to look at the truck more than a mile distant.  It was a small sky blue speck resting on a rise against a heavy gray sky.

I picked through the washes and ran my fingers through the silky sand that gathers in the slow parts of the wash.  I ran my hands over the desert pavement where the sand had been blown or washed away leaving behind a surface of small pebbles that neatly fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  I could barely turn back.

I flirted with the idea of just walking away.  Leaving it all behind.  They’d find my truck, keys still in the ignition.  Find my cameras.  Find all my camping gear.  They’d find no sign of a struggle, no clue to my disappearance.

And I’d just keep walking, walking. Further and further away from everything.

(originally posted on the Spoon, in 1997)

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