Saturday, December 31, 2016

1500 Miles to Go Home

The steering wheel clenched in my hands. The feel of the road, gently rumbling beneath my legs and feet. Scenery passing by my face and shoulders. So much sameness that you almost don’t notice the changes.

First, a flurry of buildings. Old ones, new ones, familiar ones. Landscapes you’ve seen dozens of time. Then sand. Sand and Joshua Trees. Why are they called Joshua Trees? Is it because they resemble our lord Yeshua? With mangled arms and bowed brows, leaves like the thorny crown and stigmata of a crucified martyr.

My car breaks down. In my fear and panic I contemplate leaving it by the side of the highway to become just another lonely relic to the thriving economy this freeway used to be, before man truly tamed the skies.

Many miles in the wrong direction, and we’re on our way again. Slowly, the sand turns from tan to red. The desert plants grow smaller, lower to the ground, as if wishing to avoid proximity to the sun. The steering wheel is hot in my hands, and the leather seats make me sweat.

Still I push past the red sand and the short paltry shrubs of the low Arizonian desert, and now I am in New Mexico. Land of the country’s most beautiful rest stops. New Mexico. State we can’t even stop in because we lost a day and a half. New Mexico. I hear you’re beautiful. I hope we can come back eventually.

I enter my new home in a flurry of signs. The highways are broader. The signs are bigger. The speed limits are higher. WELCOME TO TEXAS

We stop in the first vestige of civilization. I eat Mexican food that tastes more like Cabo than Chihuahua. I thank God this isn’t where we’re stopping forever.

I keep driving. We’re in the Badlands now. The dirt is an indeterminate color of sadness and forsaken land. There are no plants. Each bastion of civilization, a town supporting a Gas Station, population 20, is at least sixty miles apart. It grows dark. And now there is thunder.

As a child I loved the thunder and lighting. The gods playing with the light switches, pretty patterns marking the sky, tearing its paper into bright portions, lit only for a moment, but seared in the eyes of my mind. As an adult, leaving her home and seeking a new one, aware that I travel in a metal cage moving eighty miles an hour in a desert with 60 miles between rest stops, I am terrified.

I reach out to those who can help. My mother. My father. My husband. In the end, the sweet strains of Paul McCartney are what truly calms me. I sleep peacefully beneath a dry and thunderous sky, obscured by the roof of our hotel.

One more day of driving. The landscape becomes high desert. Then I see more trees. I pass a colonial looking town that I mistake for a Civil War battlefield because of its name. I vow to return and go shopping. I climb up a hill in my twelve year old car with sticky leather seats. I look to my left. There is a giant man-made lake, created to drain the flood plain. I drive further. “Bee Cave 12 miles.” I wonder if it’s a town name, a cave of bees, or both.

I stop. I am here. This will be my home. It looks much like the 1980s landscape I remember, only in less Sandstone and more Olive.

I take several trips up the stairs. My belongings are here. My husband is here. My father closes the door behind him as he heads for the airport. I look around and burst into tears. I am home.