Photo: Doug Robichaud
I walk away from my credit union. I have just failed to be able to use one of my new credit cards to get a cash advance so I can deposit it in my friend’s California bank account so he can pay his rent. He can’t pay his rent because he is a writer living in Los Angeles who works every day for chump change. (In America, 2015, “Writer who works every day for chump change” is a redundancy.) Six months ago, my friend Western Unioned me enough to make my car payment. I’m a writer in a little Arizona mountain town who works for chump change. What goes around, comes around.
I head toward my car — wherever I parked it. I’m barely on the planet enough to find it. My new novel is ripping through me toward its conclusion. I feel as though it’s taking me with it. I’m calculating how to get the six hundred bucks my friend needs. And where is the car? Eminem’s lines from Lose Yourself run through my head: This whole rhapsody, better go capture this moment and hope it don’t collapse on him… I’m a store-front from Savers second-hand Bargains when I see the two guys walking toward me.
Abruptly we are all in a Coen Brothers movie. And we are in pure reality. The first man greets me. The second man shuffles by carefully studying the ground. I smell eighteen-hour old screw-top port. I remember how it feels to want to take your head from your body and let it rest somewhere till the fumes have cleared. They pass me in less than a minute. I wait till they are out of ear-shot and open my cell phone. I call my home number and leave a message for Eminem and me.
Later in the afternoon, I walk the trail at Buffalo Park, see a red-tail hawk dive and nail a rabbit. The sun is going insane just above the Western horizon. A medical helicopter throbs toward the hospital roof. I head home and pick up the state and local papers, with the long-cherished and long-disproven theory that reading them will help me unwind. My friend calls. He tells me he has held the landlord at bay. “I’ll have the pin number by Monday,” I say. “You won’t have to sell the farm.”
It is sweet twilight by the time I drive up to my cabin. A chunk of the porch roof has finally given up the ghost and lies on the ground. I try to have a deep thought about the nature of the ephemeral and am too cranky to generate deep Thich Nat Whatever bliss. I do have a shallow thought about how lucky I am to not have cancer, or a pack of grand-kids I have to raise. The cabin is gloomy except for the red 1 flashing on the answering machine. I put away the groceries, start the skillet heating for a quesadilla, check my e-mails for fabulous news from an editor, a publisher, or even an ex-squeeze. There are messages from Moveon, Common Dreams, and Friends of Flagstaff’s Future.
I take tortillas and cheese out of the fridge and remember the message light. He’s called. He’s finally faced that he’ll never find another woman like me and he’s called. “Hey girl,” he’ll say, “I was wrong. And, by the way, I figured out exactly how many hours you worked with me on my writing and I’m sending you a check for $10,000.” My “woohoo!!!” fantasy is premature. And then, it isn’t. I hit Play. I hear a woman’s voice. She is laughing. She sounds like me:
“Thanks, Eminem. I was walking toward Savers a minute ago. Two guys walked toward me. The first one was Navajo and carried a little old-fashioned suitcase. The second one, a white guy of indeterminate age, carried a bad case of, ‘Oh sh*t, I wish I hadn’t had that last pint.’ I remembered how that feels. The first guy waved the suitcase high in the air and grinned. He could have been a monk or a drunk. I grinned back.
He shook the suitcase and he said, ‘We’re goin’ to New York!!!’
‘Yeahhhhh!’ I yelled, but they were already past me.
I didn’t turn to watch them on their way. I didn’t doubt the guy. They were, after all, headed up Highway 89 North. And at Tuba City, the road goes East.”