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.

TAGS: , , , , , ,

RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

40 responses to “58”

  1. Reno J. Romero says:

    folks-

    hello there. i will be offline until tuesday night, possibly wednesday. for all of you kind enough to leave a comment i’ll get back to you then. do take care and thanks a lot.

    yup,
    reno j. romero

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Reno,

    I hope it’s forever
    and forever comfortable
    and you make each other
    laugh.

    • reno says:

      perhaps some laughing will be involved. we’ll see. or maybe two pairs of boxing gloves. just kidding. thanks for reading, irene.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    May the road rise with you, R…

    • reno says:

      z-

      well, thank you. the road looks better today then it has in a LONG time. here’s to small towns, coffee, and girls on the side of the road.

      always,
      dimples

  4. Gloria says:

    Beautiful. I love that drive. I was there with you just now. Thank you.

    • reno says:

      gloria-

      hey, thank you. my job finds me on the road a lot, thus the stories. it’s windy out here in the CA desert. perhaps, not a good time for a drive, but a walk is bound to clear your head up. take care, gloria.

      okay,
      reno

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4e9PoDi0xI

    Ride on, amigo. Good luck, and Godspeed.

  6. Yes, yes, beautiful. Made me miss California like mad. Where did you hike in the Montecito hills? Did you live in Santa Barbara?

    • reno says:

      hey, jessica. these hills are in east L.A in a suburb called highland park (lenore zion used to live around these parts). foothills that shadowed the elementary school i went to (bushnell way). i spent tons of hours in those hills, hiking, catching lizards, etc. good times. very reflective. thanks, jessica. have a great week.

      yup,
      reno romero

  7. Matt says:

    I love the terrain of this state. Love it, love it, love it. I’m a Californian down to the marrow.

    Happy trails, amigo.

    • reno says:

      matt-

      since i’ve been back in CA i realized why i love this state so damn much. sure, we’re in shambles and need to get our act together. but it’s fucked up in charlotte, NC, dallas, TX. where would you rather be? right. give me the 10 freeway. i’ll take mt. shasta, hesperia. just will. take care, bro, and thanks for reading.

  8. Brother Reno:

    As with all of your writing, you bring me so into the scene, so into your state of mind. With this one, I could really taste the desert dust; witness the limitless stretch of land; feel the hum of wheels spinning beneath me; hear the call of crows, and the beating of love’s heart, so strong and true.

    • reno says:

      rich-

      aww, that’s nice. thank you, sir. you MAY know of this story. the desert is a magical place. it always has been for me and countless others. i am the desert. always have been and always will. thanks for reading, sir. i’ll make sure the next tale is not so mawkish, but full of bad language and beer. adore you 10 fold.

      in tune,
      reno romero

  9. jmblaine says:

    Ah shortly
    spun
    with grace
    & wonder
    & longing
    Reno the New Romantic
    Reno the
    High Plains Drifter

  10. reno says:

    11-

    hey, man. new romantic, eh? i always figured myself the Tin Man. but maybe that’s not the case. some folk are capable of pulling (yanking?) stuff out of you. wild life. haven’t figured it out yet. but perhaps one day. take care, 11.

    lizards and scorpions,
    reno romero

  11. I know this road so well. The 58. The Joads. The entrails of the Tehachapis spilling cars into the Central Valley.

    I was at a poetry event in Bakersfield on Saturday reading the work of a dead poet when Chad Plummer said something like, “So you know Reno Romero…”

    Heh.

    • reno 58 says:

      nick-

      heh. yeah, i know that guy. good friend with one hell of a brain. small world, eh. there’s a tad more weight hwy 58 carries these days. i’m currently working in hinckley at a house that stands 200 yards from that road. weird times. crazy emotions. hey, thx for the book ideas. i think you nailed it. cheers, nick. ur the best.

      vegas,
      reno

  12. Chris says:

    Reno,

    Beautiful and Touching. Thank you for making the journey down Highway 58. The coffee, delicious. The music and poetry, inspiring. The love, devine.

    You are never alone.

    I love you. A lot.

    Cheers to you, Baby.

    Chris

  13. reno 58 says:

    chris-

    thank you for reading. if you’ve never been down/over hwy 58 you should give her a try. if you have you should try her again and see what happens. look for the crows, the joshua trees, the unknown. perhaps, we’ll catch up some day for some verse and a cup of coffee w/ a pile of biscotti sitting in front of us (or i can eat a bug–whatever arrives first). that would be nice. i’d like that. until then we’ll let the music play. thanks again, chris. and i love you. a lot. take care.

    okay,
    reno j. romero

  14. Jim Lyons says:

    Reno,

    your story makes me wonder what brought me to the dessert 13 years ago. Maybe it was you, maybe me, maybe the stench of Detroit, I don’t know. But one thing is for sure–your story makes me wonder why I came back to Michigan–you put it into words perfectly my friend.

    Jim
    Tom Izzo is the greatest college basketball coach in the land.

    • reno says:

      lyons-

      come back. the desert hasn’t been the same since you left. thanks for reading you handsome devil. and izzo? he’s a badass and i wanted to see them take the trophy. regardless, MI, loves that man and for all the right reasons.

      adore you,
      reno romero

  15. Erika Rae says:

    Your desert is filled with poetry. Beautiful. I was rolling along with you the whole way.

  16. Mary Richert says:

    Very nice. Love is such an adventure…

    • reno says:

      thanks, mary. it is in the air. still flying solo these days. but one never knows what’s around the bend. or around the joshua tree. take care, mary. have a great week.

      always,
      reno romero

  17. Lorna says:

    Oh, the memories that just surfaced of me and my love driving along hwy 58 so many times in our young marriage. Thanks for the memories and good luck Reno.

    • reno says:

      thanks for reading, lorna. it is a pretty cool hwy and means a lot more to me than it did years ago. here’s to the road. cheers!

  18. Amanda says:

    I am just learning to drive, at nearly-37…it’s scaring the crap out of me.

    I am just about to fall in love, at nearly-37…after a few sound heart-stompings the past handful of years. It’s also scaring the crap out of me.

    Your story, short and sweet, made both those undertakings seem 47% less scary.

  19. reno says:

    amanda!

    good luck in ur endeavers. you’ll did driving (i don’t, but…) and the new dude is a lucky feller. string is in the air, eh?

    yup,
    reno

  20. Richard Cox says:

    I wish I lived in California. You totally rendered this in a way that anyone would know the drive. I’ve driven on a stretch of 58 before. My friend used to live in Santa Clarita (or really Castaic) and we’d take 14 to Palmdale and the 58 to Tehachapi and play golf at Horse Thief. Man that is a cool golf course. 300-foot dropoffs to fairways below.

    It’s nice to be driving to see a girl. The anticipation can be breathless.

  21. reno says:

    come out west good sir. and girls at the end of a road is always a nice inspiration. just the way it goes. but i figure there are some nice roads through OK. since my break-up w/ my ex my trips there are a no go. but i’ve been through a dozen of those lil’ towns along I-40. always cool. always a culture plunge. see you around the bend, richard and thanks for reading.

    • reno says:

      haney-
      YOU are a poem. hope all is well. now, call me. i’m SICK of you avvoiding me! heh. just joking, dude. keep rocking. wait! i’ll be in L.A next weekend. call me. maybe we’ll catch up.

  22. Judy Prince says:

    A sensual and vivid ride, reno! Excellent descriptions of your emotions/mind, as well as those of the vista, like this one: “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.”

    omelette with red peppers,

    Judy

    • reno says:

      judy!

      hey! well, thank you very much for the kind comment. it was one hell of a ride w/ a bit too much on my mind. but what are you gonna do? keep pushing forward, i guess. well, perhaps i’ll get the chance to take 58 once again. see what happens this time. if not, there’s other highways. take care, judy. have a great weekend.

      pork rinds and clamato,
      reno romero

  23. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Would swear you plagiarized first paragraph from Humphrey Bogart’s opening lines of some movie we’ve never seen . Sounds just like him. Or a from a Mickey Spillane dime novel. Did you know Mr. Bogart? I will always remember that scene in the bar with the dame and the soloist with the violin and when he says “Play it again, Stan.”

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