For Kelly, Zoe, Lindsey, Mark, Greg and Dave.
To the woman driving the mint green mini van on I-40 toward Gallup, NM,
In another life, maybe you could have been my grandmother. I know you’ve seen things. Scarred and callused hands, broad fingers and strong palms. Your hands do not know manicures or delicacy. They have raised children, held grandchildren, put men in their place after too many drinks. Maybe you were a bartender or an outlaw in a past life.
Where are you heading? May I come with you next time? I wanted to be anywhere but where I was when I saw you, the grey pickup that slid past you with the bright blue camper shell. There were four of us in the cabin and it was stuffy and I was hung over and sleep deprived. It was the day of the balloon fiesta, though we bypassed the festival to hike petroglyphs right outside of Albuquerque. Funny how that day keeps coming back to me–the anger and frustration over failed plans that turned to hilarity, the realization that we were in the middle of the desert running on no sleep hiking a dormant volcano, then to sublimity by the end of our hike and the balloons ascension. Was it because of you? Did my optical absorption of your profile blazing by me, your car, and your silence stay with me? Did it change me? Were you the alternative for who I was? The option of solitude which continues to be a stranger.
You were driving alone, your hair pulled back in a tightly wound spiral bun, comb marks still visible, your nose and chin hooking toward one another and I thought for a moment, Gertrude Stein? The 7am sun was finally peaking over the Sandias descending behind us, slicing the sky, yellow, orange and blue stacked on top of one another like a books on a shelf, the remnants of a city and hot air balloons dissolving behind me. We were listening to the Beatles and I bet there was no music in your car, no radio station streaming through the speakers. Were you headed home so early in the morning? Or leaving your house for Gallup or Arizona, even?
I imagine your car has a scent, distinctive to you. Like patchouli. No, not patchouli, maybe pinon or cedar. If I had been a hitchhiker, would you pick me up? Did you want the company? Or were you content? I wanted to be in the car with you, in silence with nothing to say, our thoughts drifting where ever–with the sliding concrete underneath the car or to the dream catcher and prayer card hanging from your rear view mirror. Are you religious and do you have a god or many of them? I need that type of power in my life, I need someone to intervene. My sister recently told me, trust thyself, know thyself, but would you teach me something. Anything. Teach me about solitude. Teach me how to sit. Show me how to be steady like your eyes and your hands and your car. Take me with you and teach me anything, please.