AUTHOR'S NOTE: for some reason, although I don't know her in any way/shape/form, I feel like dedicating this to Joanna, who has left me two of the most inspiring comments on days when they were particularly needed. And to Sam, for fielding late-night Oregon phone calls and sending me three of the four text message currently locked in my phone (since back in December, no less).
And: this is different.
You flash on the light to the bedroom.
You allow the moment to permeate your corneas and sink into your brain. Your spatial reasoning is solidified and informed by the image. You shut the bulb off and step out of the kitchen light and into the dark.
It's pitch black.
Carpet has been poured across the floor and tickles your bare feet. Your toes brush up against empty boots and your heel strikes paper plates cast to the ground not two hours before.
You inch to the corner, looking for words on paper thrown in corners and bindings. A sweater finds its way to your fingertips and you're warmed by cotton and a gust of central heat.
You hear a noise outside.
You see a raccoon hiding in the trees through your window. He's--she's?--nibbling on a piece of chicken scavenged from an overflowing city-ordinanced trash can. He--she?--looks satisfied and you wonder what it would take to give you to satiate your appetites.
Because tonight you are raving. Tonight you are a madman. Tonight you speak the language of passionate men made weak by history and callused knees and there's a song from the other room.
You will awake in the morning to find yourself bathed in yellow comforter and hill country blues. Your haze has lifted itself like a passing cumulus and there's nothing holding you back.
There's nothing stopping you.
You ascend from the queen-sized and wash the sleep from your face. Salicyc acid burns your eyes and smooths the lines from your cheeks. Water is purifying. Water washes yesterday and the day before and baptizes you in fresh morning. Your dried feet fall into brown boots and your arms dive into 100% cotton and an outlook that's unfamiliar.
The sun's up and says hello through the curtains.
Black coffee hits your veins like morphine and braces you for a day you didn't expect. Your nerves are switched on and electricity runs from pore to pore, begging for an outlet.
You settle on egg whites and turkey. Protein to power you through the afternoon as the Columbian roast burns through your blood.
Your engine is idling.
Your trip has begun.
It's only five days until Boise. You're confident you can hold your breath until you meet the amber waves of grain. The sky has been calling for you and begs forgiveness for rain. It cries for its mistakes and swears a blood oath to your guidance. To the clouds that will show you the way and the cornstalks that will point north. To the rumble strips that will jut your eyes open and keep you pressing forward.
Because that's what matters. Color and light and blue and sunrises are all you have and they're all you need. You're not a greedy man and you wouldn't dare ask for more.
You grieve for those who've been left behind and you pray for those you'll find ahead. The souls that exist without you and the closed eyes that sleep sweetly and dream of the west and the bigger pieces of sky that it contains.
These are not your people. You know this now. They have made it clear that they are not your people. This was not your decision. Your decision was made for you. Confusion has been banished from you like a convicted felon and visiting hours have been snatched like penny candy.
There are places you have to be. And you're going to them. Hell or highwater cannot stop you and it wouldn't dare try. You will mount these times like a Palamino and ride them until they break. They will respect your reigns and your strength and trust your care. They will ignore your shortcomings and embrace your sure hand. They trust you.
They know you are honest and they know you are good. They will turn left as you turn left and turn right as they turn right and gallop as your heels ask them to. They listen. They understand. They feel you on their backs and understand your words as they come. They are pure and they believe you to be.
You descend into valleys and ascend upon peaks and request that nature let you pass. It does. Gravel forms single-file lines on your left and right, showing you home.
But it doesn't understand.
Because your home is where you decide it is. Your home is behind this wheel and beside this land and between these mountains. Whiskey is for lesser men. Intoxication is for fools. Held hands and batted eyes and goodnights taunt you from the south and you drive on.
You sit alone in fields of corn and they implore you to stick by them.
But you will not. You cannot. You are required elsewhere. Your presence is not in this spot. You are a man on the move and a man on the move is a shark that will suffocate if it remains still.
The clock is ticking and the odometer click click clicks. You're closer every second.
You move until you cannot move any more, until you are in a place you cannot be. You catch your breath and move on.
You are a man with a destination.
Click click click.
You hit triple digits. Hundreds. You have more to go.
Nothing fades as fast as the future and you're encumbered by the present. You have no use for the past. The past has reminded you time and time again how irrelevant it is. You are headed forward. Let those who don't believe themselves head backward. Or, God forbid, stand still.
For God is on your side. God pushes the pistons up down up down up down until you've made past state borders that don't deserve your attention. God gives you energy when the all else takes it. Everything spends and God gives you extra moments and reminds you of strengths you didn't have.
Your eyes fall to prayer but you don't stop moving.
Dear God in Heaven, save me and save them all. Save them that need saving. Bless them that need blessing. Stand by those that stand alone.
I am strong in you. In prayer I find kindness and in prayer I find forgiveness for those who have come against me and in moments of silence and from within hailstorms and throughout squalls I see goodness on the other side and I'll fight and claw and tear for it because it is all that Any Of Us have.
Let others sleep, Lord. Let others restrain themselves to their better judgment.
Let me soldier on. Let me live.
You pass state lines and railroad tracks and the paths of those who have come before. Treads thrown into dirt are passed beneath you like distant memories and you have no place for them.
They have made their loves clear and you have made your loves clear and you will not throw yourself to pits of mud and uncertainty when there is beauty above the hills only miles ahead of you.
They have said that they do not need you. They have specified their own dalliances in unfamiliar terrain and isolated themselves in watery depths and your grace and strength and warmth are required elsewhere.
Because somewhere there's a cold night praying for fire. You are that fire. You are tinder and kindling and flint and a spark and a roaring flame drying those who will smile at an orange glow before them. Those who will protect you from the water that could extinguish you. They will feed you dried logs and old newspaper and will fan you to a blaze and they will find comfort in your dedication to what you know.
And you know so little. Every day throws fear in your ears and rubs your face in shit because it knows it can. But its time is up. Because you are alive. You are a newborn. You rise from the ashes of your life. You will set flame to the pires under which you have lived, whose shade has hidden you from the sun and from light and from stars that have tried to show you the way.
Let others survive, Lord. Let others thank you for what they have. Let others give you their words and their obedience.
Let others fight, Lord, but let me prevail.
There are wildflowers on the side of the highway. The colors peek into your Christmases and demand a place in your seasons. They create a niche for themselves in your eyes and your rearview mirror. They are looking for roots and they ask for land in your mind.
They cannot have it. This land is reserved. It is spoken for. It is taken by your destination.
You drive on.
You come upon rolling hills like ocean waves and ride them like lightning. They submit themselves to your power and bow their heads in the respect you've summoned for them. These are all two-way roads and you will not be told otherwise.
Your dreams have shown you where you are going and you will continue until you have arrived.
Your feet twitch with restlessness. They need motion. The bloodflow has slowed and the coffee had evaporated from your vessels and your fingertips. A beat pounds from your chest to your hands and the rest of you follows suit. Your arms stiffen and your legs flex and your calves turn to granite while you press sole to pedal and cut down the miles like chaff from wheat.
Let others travel, Lord. Let others journey and let others move.
Let me arrive.
You can see it in the distance, peering from behind small peaks, throwing up red gloves to guard their eyes from your jabs and hooks and you bob and weave, left and right, moving feet like the knob on a combination safe and you sneak in crosses until it's back in its corner, dabbing the purple from its cut complexion.
For others, you are a mirror. They see themselves in you. They see you and your open arms and your "sleep sweet"s and your understanding and they note it and divorce themselves from it. They dry themselves off in your fire and look for a thunderstorm that will chill them to the bone.
And yet you drive on.
And you find yourself alone in a town built for two and you remake it in your image. The roads become canals and the sidewalks become passageways to your arrival and doorframes become markers and you sit yourself down and revitalize.
You find strength in the dark. The night reawakens you. You do not sleep tonight because sleep is for those who would rather pass on the stars.
you need the stars. They dot your path like a road atlas and by them you know your place.
So you step outside, away from the noise and the confusion, and you look to the sky. You are reminded of your position and you are grateful for it. You kick pebbles from sidewalk and traverse to your empty bed, filling it with your days and icing it with your nights like a birthday cake.
You know that they sleep while your eyes remain canyon-wide. This is not something over which you have (or would want) any control. This is not something you would change.
For they can have their mornings and their afternoons and their evenings. While the nights are yours and yours alone.
You learn to release your hands from the nights and days and weeks and months and years you have given them and you look west--as you always do--for what you require and you find it in passes and gorges and coastlines and lakeshores and you remember where you were told to go once, that cabin whose peace would inject itself into you like dusk, whose four walls and roof would protect you from the reality of hypotheticals for which your mind had pleaded, and you laugh in the face of the audacity necessary to see such things as comforts and not as the obstructions they are.
Construction of any kind builds walls and you are not a man for walls.
You are a man for sky.
You sleep soundly beneath a blanket of Oregon stars. They kiss you goodnight and sing you to slumber with which you are wholly unfamiliar.
Things may be different when you return. This is not something you can control. This is not something with which you can afford to concern yourself. You push it out of your mind like a cafeteria tray.
You dream of memories and overturned stones and hesitant revision.
You dream of down comforters and mispronunciations of "pseudo-" and blind dogs at the foot of queen-sized beds.
You dream of blank pages and stories that need telling.
You dream of days that have passed and of days that have yet to come.
You dream of loves you'll gain and the loves you won't let go without a fight.
You dream of the thoughts that drive you and the drives that fuel you and the combustions that shoo you down the road.
You dream of the inspirations that have made themselves ephemeral through their absence and of your patient plans to draw them out.
You dream of bobby pins and black coffee and Chinese takeout and little black dresses and 11:55 PM bedtimes and the morning sun rapping its knuckles against your eyelids.
You awake a changed man. The tint has left the morning sun and you're grateful for its gentleness.
Let others let both hands go. Let others let loose the past from their fingers. Let others ignore the paths they've taken.
For you have two hands: one lets go and the other holds on, knuckles bruised, resolve strengthened through stings and caked blood. Each blow stimulates your grip and makes you hold on that much tighter to your own memory. Your knowledge is solidified through fire and ice.
All the while, the world grows beneath your feet. Dandelion seeds float by like a magic carpet.
Everything's looking for purchase. Everything needs roots.
Everything needs soil.