The gravel pit was fifty feet from the front door of my trailer house on the outskirts of a small town in rural southern New Mexico – a nowhere town with an oil refinery in the city center, making the whole place smell like methane and brimstone. I don’t know why it was a gravel pit or what it was meant for. Measuring at least ten square acres, empty and flat, it was bordered on three sides by trailer homes. The main road ran along the fourth side.
The gravel pit was my sanctuary. My friend. My wonderland. It was my holodeck – the place I went to escape into a safe world where my imagination was free. Dead pets were buried there. Dead washers and ranges, too. I would squat in the middle, digging up pillowcases full of bones on windy days and swear I was surrounded by the lost souls of animals, all of them trying to communicate with me. I could envision anything in the gravel pit – ghosts, monsters, the old west. A life outside of that suffocating town.
It was also where I started building my robot.
For three years, I collected wires and circuit boards. Spark plugs. Distributor caps. Any electronic or mechanical thing that had been dumped or abandoned in my sea of possibilities. I gathered and stored them, unsure what they were but certain that they made things run. Brought things to life. Unsure how to fit them all together but sure that if I could, I would be able to make my own robot. And he would be my best friend and protector. My companion who would help me fight my fights. He would clean my room for me.
A couple years later, I left this town, moved to Las Vegas and unceremoniously abandoned my bucket of diodes and doodads. Life moved on and I grew up, as these things go. Yet, sometimes, I still miss my robot.