The sun was breaking behind me when I hit Highway 58 heading north. I had a head full of coffee and a head full of questions that didn’t have any answers. For what was up ahead, what would transpire, I didn’t know. There was a girl at the end of the road. A beautiful girl. She told me over the phone that she loved me. Told me to come see her. Play guitar for her. Write her poems. I loved her, too.
On both sides of the road the desert spread out like a sea painted in tans, browns, and pale greens. Joshua trees sprouted from the ground in jagged angles—its spiny blossoms splayed out like sharp star light. A train track followed along side the highway carrying the weight of rusted trains marked in faded graffiti. Vacant concrete homes stood lifeless on the hard desert dirt. I hit the gas and pushed forward.
I was just outside of Bakersfield when my phone rang. It was an old high school friend. I told him that I was on my way to northern California, that I was packed to move there, but didn’t know how long I’d stay.
“I’m winging it.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Good luck.”
Radio stations cut in and out, but the one constant was her face before me. She was smiling. She was across the table sipping wine. She was sleeping next to me as I brushed my hand over her back feeling her skin, feeling the rise and fall of her breath. I could hear her voice coming over the line. “Hey,” she’d say, her voice familiar and warm. “I just called to say that I love you. A lot. Got to get back to work. Have a great day. I’ll call you as soon as I get off. Bye, baby.”
Three hours outside of my destination I pulled over for a bite to eat. A hard wind was coming from the north. Flat agricultural land was to the right of the freeway. On the left was a wall of mountains where the freeway weaved around and disappeared. I sat on my tailgate and watched two crows sitting on a fence, necks swiveling, their feathers lifting and dropping into the black.
I contemplated what brought me here. The choices I made. The ones I didn’t. My failures and my successes. I thought about my friends and family; most of them not knowing where I was and where I was going, much less what I was thinking. And just like I’d hike the Montecito Hills alone as a kid, here I was moving over a strange highway with no one in the passenger seat. A seat that she’d soon be sitting in, her face turning and catching my nervous profile as it moved through her city.
How long she’d be in that seat, I didn’t know. She didn’t either. But the drive would be made regardless.