“Why are you going to New Mexico,” people asked, and most of the time she didn’t feel safe telling the truth, which was, “I think I lived there in my last lifetime, I think I’m astrally traveling there in my sleep, I think it has something to tell me.”
Most people, hearing that, would think you’re insane, so she just said she loved the desert vibe and all the art in Santa Fe. She felt absolutely safe, however, saying it to the man she took home the night before she left, as she drove him back to his bicycle the next morning. This was the island, a place where men couldn’t afford their own beer because the realities of life simply eluded them – but astral travel was no problem.
She realized, driving away from him, that once again a casual encounter had not been based on totally accurate expectations. She knew that he was a deeply interesting man who was living a lifestyle she probably wouldn’t be happy partnering with. He did not know, because life plans hadn’t been discussed, that she was waiting to go, and had absolutely no intention – in fact she probably didn’t even have the mental, chemical or hormonal chemicals required – to fall in love.
She woke, he was there, she deposited him, she drove away. In the back of her mind a to-do list item had emerged: Explain to him that could only mean nothing.
The question mark next to it was: Why can’t it? Why is this trip so darn important?
The rest of the morning was spent sweeping their evening under the rug and making her hungover, rather blank way to the ferry, and an Uber, and a plane.
Landing in Albuquerque the question mark became a pounding heart. The airport, small, dated, one of at least two dozen airports she’d passed through over the years, was so familiar to her she could have mapped it from the plane. Elevator is here, restrooms are here, you go there to get the shuttle.
Picking up her rental car, she walked up to a counter staffed by a thin fiftyish woman with auburn hair and smoker’s voice, reminiscent of Marge from The Simpsons, and a younger man whose shirt sleeves didn’t quite reach his wrists.
“I had a reservation,” she said, then corrected herself, “I have one.”
Marge laughed, “Did you, or do you?”
“I made one and I still have it,” she said with cheerful conviction. Marge left and paperwork commenced.
She was sent outside to meet Marge and fetch the car. In the greater Seattle area, the sky never gets darker than navy blue or smoky purple. Here the sky was black, and expansive, and oddly reassuring.
“What’s the smallest car you’ve got,” she asked. She had reserved a mid-size but under that black sky wanted something even smaller, like the tiny hatchback she drove at home.
“Oh gee,” Marge said. “I don’t even have any mid-size. I was going to put you in one of these.”
She waved a thin arm at three pickup trucks. They were twice the size of her car. The only thing to do was laugh. In the heightened awareness of this strangely significant trip, it was not good form to question something so ironic as putting a city girl in a truck to drive through the desert.
And so, under the black sky, she drove.