I am too old to drive for twelve hours in a day. I need to remind myself of that—the tendency picked up living in the car as a kid, my father driving from before sunup to ten at night. I did love watching the sun come up on those drives. I hated watching my father eat from a paper bag full of candy and not sharing with us. But that’s another story.
We made the trek across the southwestern desert yesterday, from Van Horn to Redlands. Stopped for a Chinese buffet lunch just outside of Tucson in Marana. Chinese buffet and the southwest desert make an interesting combination. The customers seem to walk in with sand and grit between their teeth. The staff seems to be hiding from ICE. I ate pork, broccoli, red and green peppers, onions, and rice. Drank unsweetened ice tea. Then back on the road to race the traffic to Phoenix. As we approach Mesa, I point out that Julie used to live just off to the right a few miles. All those years we passed her house without knowing. All those years my trying to find her to tell her I was sorry for pulling her hair on a dare when we were in fifth grade in Perris, only to find her on the net after she died. Obituaries include maiden names. It would have been nice to stop by and see her, Barbara says.
The mountains here look like the heads of sleeping ancient gods, their faces looking up at the sky. The drive crowded with memories of previous trips. I tear up now and then when I remember stopping at a particular gas station with the different combinations of my daughters. The vast emptiness of the open ground—none of it really empty—somehow makes me appreciate the fragile beauty of being alive, the intense pain of knowing that everyone I have ever loved has or will die. And I find myself muttering about people who are too stupid to understand. Virginia cries out from an old manuscript when talking about the leaders of Europe in the early twentieth century, seeing their faces in the flash of cannon fire—so ugly, so stupid. Nothing has changed. We have too many old men, they are mostly old men, who when it was their turn to serve found convenient ways to avoid it, who have never tasted the immediacy of death, who bluster about strength through arms, who threaten the lives of millions—most of whom who simply want to live their ordinary lives, their precious ordinary lives. People who eat bread and olive oil for breakfast, or fish, who take delight in the laughter of their children.
Too many people who are willing to follow those men. So ugly, so stupid.
I am sitting in Redlands, California, sipping my first cup of coffee. My neck and shoulder muscles stiff from the drive, my legs cramped a little. I am too old, too sick, to drive for twelve hours at a time, I tell myself. I need to stretch. Need to walk. Perhaps pray for the survival of the earth, though after Melinda died, I find it difficult to pray for anything. Something happens to your belief in magic when you lose a child. Still, the world needs something. Maybe a little magic.