(Sorry about the lack of updates, for anybody out there who might be waiting with bated breath. Been a rough few weeks. But I'm back for the nonce, with a little bit more of this...stuff. Enjoy...)


I suppose that I’d read somewhere that the sun comes up fast in the desert. I’m guessing that I had, because that was my first thought when the pale gloom of sunrise turned into a blaze of heat on the back of my neck in the space of a dozen steps. Oh yeah, the sun comes up fast in the desert. Maybe it was just something I put together as it was happening, a thought that sprung into my head fully developed based on the immediate evidence I’d been presented with. Sometimes my mind is quick. But only when it doesn’t truly matter.

So, yes, in case you’re wondering, the sun comes up fast in the desert. You go from damp and shivering to parched and burning in the space of a commercial break. You can feel the blacktop getting soft and sticky and sucking at the tread of your shoes. You can feel your scalp burning through your shaved stubble. You can feel the first trickles of sweat between your shoulderblades followed closely by the dead fish feel of a polo shirt that’s drenched from collar to hem plastered against your back. You can turn to look and see if the sun is rolling along the road directly behind you, as it feels it must be, but you’ll only get dazzled by rays of pure white light blasting at you across the sand, your only reward your pupils slamming down into tiny pinpricks that turn the world around you into nothing but shadow and murk.

Whatever road I was on, it wasn’t the one the locals used to get from hither to yon. My Timex called it almost exactly eight hours between the time the BMW did the big spark and the time I finally just collapsed on the side of the highway, and not once did I see a car going either way. Nor did I hear engines rumbling in the distance, on some Interstate that I couldn’t quite see. Nor did I hear any kind of aircraft moving overhead. All I heard was the sound of sand being blown across the road, the scuff of my $20 oxfords on the blacktop and the beating of my own heart.

I got as far as I could, smoking the rest of my cigarettes as I sauntered along, figuring that Fort Stockton had to be coming up just over the next dune, hidden behind the next mesa. It was an idea that I had been rapidly losing faith in, if for no other reason than the lack of markers on the road.

You drive enough, and you get a feel when you’re getting somewhere. You’re out in the wilds of New Jersey, nothing around you but rolling hills and stands of old oaks and you start to wonder if the maps in your Thomas guide are totally fucked, and then you see a little green sign somewhere, a mile marker or a street sign or an intersection informational with arrows and town names and numbers next to them, and you know that you’re all right. Somebody, at some point, figured that somebody else would be on that road for a reason, and that they’d want some indication that they were headed in the right direction. It’s a cultural thing, I suppose. People want to get from here to there, and those signs are a common agreement that achieving your destination is a good and desirable thing. We all want to know that we’re working together on this whole navigation deal, and that any time now, we’ll pull into a happy little spot with gas stations and diners and hotels. Or at least a 7-11 and a pay phone. Something. Those little green signs make all the difference between knowing that society has done its job to keep you on the right track and wondering if you’ve wandered into the Twilight Zone.

The road to Fort Stockton didn’t have any of that. There was that first sign, that first indicator that yet another outpost had in some way thrived out in the middle of nowhere, and then nothing. No mile markers, no sign reading FORT STOCKTON 21 MILES, no speed limit signs, no signs prohibiting hitchhiking or littering or announcing a no passing zone. The road was there, sure, but it felt like it had been laid down and then simply abandoned, as though the Fort Stockton that it had announced at its head had, at some point, simply failed to come into existence, and the road had been left, unmarked, to disintegrate under the blazing sun.

Thinking this particularly cheering thought, I turned on a heel, blearily imagining that I would walk back the seventy or eighty miles to the last gas station I’d passed, and then promptly passed out. And just as my head slammed into the blacktop, it occurred to me that my phone might just work out here.

Again, I am not a quick thinker, when it truly matters.


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