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Fuck going to the beach and hanging out in L.A. I wanted to go to the desert. To one of those small towns with a name like “Indio” or “Cima,” where cross-country criminals dump bags of cash on motel bedspreads, old episodes of Gunsmoke playing while they separate twenty dollar bills from the fifties and hundreds. I wanted to be where artists go to forge metal sculptures that appeared in their dreams; where hippies claim to have seen God in a cactus.
The idea had been in my head since it first got warm out and I met this guy I kind of knew already at a barbecue in Southeast. He was friends with some of my friends, running with June and E. and ‘nem back in the day, but I never knew him outside of their mutual acquaintance. He’d give a brief hello to our table when we used to fill up on free chips and salsa at Alero after class, and I may have spilled one of those dollar drinks on him when all of Howard would cram into Pure on Fridays, but other than that I ain’t know him from Adam.
Anyway I ran into him at the barbecue and it was like yo can we actually speak to each other this time? I told him about this cab driver from earlier who said I should take his number down because he would give me free rides if I let him rub my legs every now and then.
“Well shiiiiit,” he said, laughing. “Where we goin’ then?”
We kind of hit it off from there, posting up on a bench made from cinder blocks and scrap wood, eating barbecue and trading stories till it was dark out. He said he was driving across the country in a week or so — just because he can — and my eyes lit up like the apple on the back of your computer. “I would love to do something like that,” I said. He scooped a forkful of beans in his mouth and looked square at me. “Well then come,” he said, not laughing or anything. I ripped a hunk of chicken off the bone and smiled a little. “Ok then,” I said back.
He was cute with a really great smile, and a lot of fun to hang out with — even gave my tall ass a piggyback ride after we decided to blow the barbecue, then helped me think of classic rap lines to write on dollar bills because that’s my favorite past time. I was definitely going to give him my number, for sureeee, but agreeing to drive cross-country had nothing to do with that. I said I would go because asking me to do some spontaneous, dumb shit is like asking the church if you can get an amen.
I pulled the car over once on a back country road to see what it would be like to lie down in the street, and there was the time at Blackfinn when I grabbed an oyster off the hors d’oeuvres table of somebody’s private party on my way back from the restroom. Or like when we were walking to the car from the barbecue and I said, “let me ride on your back.” I like adventure the way ya uncle likes pound cake. I hadn’t done anything in a while, and I was itching to do something big.
I saw myself in a convertible, wearing a pair of aviators with my head tossed back and orange tipped fingers slicing the wind as we sped down long, dusty roads that seemed to go on forever. We would raid a gas station for gummy bears and trail mix and sour straws, then lie on the hood of the car to look up at the stars at night. I kind of blew past the Kentuckys and Arkansas’s in my head, picturing the pinks and blues of the sunset over the mesas of Arizona. The desert. I wanted to meet strange people and learn something about myself in the process. I wanted to go there and be part of it all.
I was for sure-for sure going for like 12 hours. Even wondered whether I should get my hair braided or have it straight or what. Figured I should buy a new journal too because there were only a few pages left in my current one and bitches gotta write. But I’m always sure about some shit without consulting my job first or my Jesus, and both of them were like nope, so I told him to head west without me. I mourned my stolen adventure like the time I cried out to God when the CVS by my house stopped carrying my favorite brand of trail mix. But it was probably for the best though, because he had driven me home the night of the barbecue, and every other song that come on his shuffle was trash. So thank you Jesus.
But I never stopped thinking about it, and by August I had devised several other plans to get myself to the desert. First me and Bud were going to Burning Man but we couldn’t get into a village in time so I was like yo, let’s just do our own drive across the country since we already have the days off. But neither of us had cars so we decided to just fly to Cali. Then Bud got a new job and her orientation was the same week as our trip, so I was like fiiiiine I’ll just go by myself. My vision would stop for no one. I would rent a convertible, get some gummy bears, put on my aviators and set out for those forever-looking roads.