We were on our way to San Francisco, going 90 miles an hour in 110 degree heat with the windows up so we could do coke without it blowing all over. We turned the air conditioner on from time to time, but never let it run long enough to cool the car down. We drove all night and at dawn discovered we were in a black sand desert, for a moment I thought the world had ended. We were heading off to start a new life, it would be over before it even started.
Sometime around Albuquerque the car started making a racket, and by the time we got to Arizona it was sputtering. Over a thousand miles between me and fast food wage slavery, 80 hour weeks at a grill and a check that bounces. My landlord kept my deposit because the shower head in my apartment spits out water on on side and not evenly. My card got declined at a service shop for gas, so I gave the attendant some cash and hoped the car would make it past Las Angeles. It didn’t.
This house was on the horizon when the car caught and tripped and died. He popped the hood and watched heat rise up off the manifold in the airless afternoon, not turning to watch me walk away but not touching the engine, either. I don’t know much about engines, and he knows even less but I would never, ever tell him that.
I don’t know why I headed to the house, maybe because it was the first thing I’d seen in over an hour. Maybe I just wanted to be alone. We were out of coke and I was starting to come down. The whole California thing seemed more and more outlandish, my little car dead on the side of a barren road, a rolling suitcase filled with underwear and hats and no socks. One pair of boots and no money in my pockets.
The house was boarded up in exactly the fashion a useless house in the middle of nowhere would be, the slat over the door didn’t even block me from reaching through and opening the door, ducking under the recovered wood barrier and entering the house. From the window I watched my boyfriend from afar, staring at the engine, not touching it, arms across his chest and his back to me.
I laid down on the bare floor and slept on my arm, turned to the wall to keep my eyes in the shade. We’d been strung out for days when we got in the car, and the little I’d slept in the passenger seat had been restless and filled with feverish dreams. This dream was about being suffocated, surrounded by people so close and cloying that I couldn’t breathe and I woke with a start, pawing the ground for the familiar figure next to me, but he wasn’t there.
I must have slept a long time, when I woke up the sky was dusky. I hurt all over and my head ached with hunger. The door was ajar, though I had closed it behind me, and when I looked out the window, the car was gone, my suitcase beside the road.
I still wonder if he made it to California, and what it is like there.