Disappearing into the Anthropologie catalog like Alice down the rabbit hole, I twist my grey ponytail into a knot and reach for a chipped platter with imaginary fish painted the colors of Moroccan doors. Tan forearms with garden scars, strong hands, tendoned like turkey legs, blue bumps carrying spent blood. I’d shrug at the wrinkle fans next to my eyes if I ever noticed them. I don’t wear mascara, just a red batik skirt, a blowsy cloud-white blouse, clink-y bracelets.
Then I blink and I’m back to reality.
An irritated tongue click. The chair isn’t adjustable at the desk in my hotel room. WiFi, Caesarstone, gas fireplace, spending some of Margie’s found money. Tidy, clean, right angle, matched woodgrain, sterilized robes with square-knotted sashes. Orderly rows of creams, powdered color, brushes and blushes, contact juice, scents and sleight-of-hand. Keeping real age a few years at bay, disguised under careful draping, tight here but not there. An age-appropriate hairstyle, short, hip but not too cool for school. Bifocals hidden in one-sided sunglasses. Carefully calibrated, cautious steps. No slipping, no falling.
I miss Mot, his warmth and heft, his thick arms around me. I’ll be home day after tomorrow to feed him and kiss kiss kiss his neck, to wash and straighten and smooth wrinkles on linens, on our lives, to plan… things. Dinner around seven, plenty of wine in the pantry, clean glasses. I’m just about to say I will miss being on the road alone a few days after I refill my Mot jar, so I must first gush about how much I love him. Why is that? In case he reads this? Or you do and think I’m disloyal? Loving him has nothing to do with backing the Mini out of the garage and heading for the highway, no matter how often I do it or how long I’m gone. What I am escaping isn’t him or our shared life.
I could say the lure is the destination, and sometimes, often, that’s part of it, but what I crave is the going, not the getting there. Out past the cities on the roads between, on a familiar hill or around a brand new bend, there it is. That hill was brown last time I saw it and now it’s covered with neon orange poppies or there are black and white cows pasted onto its lime green grass. Miles of desolation in the Mojave, rocks and dirt sun-blasted to a sad, sick grey, grit that blows in bursts against my doors, gravel skritch. Cactus and ocotillo and rocky purple mounds imperceptibly rise to a rolling valley, and around a bend is a thoroughbred ranch, thick grass and bright white fences, muscled horseflesh, a little Kentucky in a completely unexpected part of Arizona.
Wanting to stop, I drive on. Someone is waiting for me; I have a deadline. So far it has been enough to eat the scenery as I fly by at 50 or 60 or 80 miles an hour, hungry as I am to slow down, turn off, sit in the car while the engine cools, open the windows to the sweet air, walk to touch the soft noses. On the way to Albuquerque, I press on past Winslow, Arizona (thanks, Glenn and Jackson) with a streaking scarlet sunset behind me until I reach a grim motel in Gallup that has hallways that smell like old cigarette smoke but a surprisingly good chicken fried steak. Maybe I don’t stop for long to avoid that tiny chance of leaving the car on the verge and walking away.
I sometimes want a secret life. To live like an earth mother on a plot where warm tomatoes grow, where I cut fresh noodles with a big, sharp knife and hang them to dry on a wobbly rack, where friends stop by in the late afternoon and we drink wine and eat olives and Parmesan and the bread they brought and never mind dinner. Where I don’t think I can’t because I have to work on our tax return early early tomorrow because I’m meeting an electrician at 11:30 and that expense isn’t on the spreadsheet. Where I don’t have to pretend I’ve forgotten because I never knew the smell of my mother’s fetid alcoholic breath, where I didn’t make rules and schedules and line things up in rows to disguise the chaos behind that door, on the other end of that phone line, hidden not so well in that excuse for not coming home, for why we were inconvenient impediments to a good time, accidents of someone else’s love.
I have made and worked and fought for my life, my child, my man, and our place is beautiful and peaceful, the hacienda in the garden of aloes and clumping grasses. When I feel that tug to go, I know better than anyone does what I have to come back to, what I will always come back for. But I want to see Montana through my windshield, and Maine and south Florida, and that pull is a permanent imprint, like the bobcat footprints in our adobe pavers. They may be covered with a red and turquoise rug, but they’re still there. I can feel them under my bare feet when I step on that one spot in the hall; invisible to you maybe, but I know where they are. My toes wiggle to find them. And then I have to go.
… A good song takes you far
“Highways and dancehalls, a good song takes you far” are the first lines of “The Road” by Jackson Browne, 1971
Posted in: human beans, la-la-la-love, my guy, road trip, what i'm thinking
Tags: adobe pavers, alcoholism, alice in wonderland, anthropologie, batik, casa de swell, hacienda, hotel, kissing, lonely roads, love, montana, pawprints, separate vacations, the eagles, white rabbit, winslow arizona
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