Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joshua Tree (Blogophilia 2.10)

A dry breeze rolled down from the hills and across the sands. Grit filled his nose and went under the eyelids. Finally, he slowly opened them. The rim of the valley had taken on the pink glow of sunrise. Stiff, he shucked out of his bag. At least he was upwind of the foul lake. 
Riding across Arizona, another force began to pull at him. The trip was all cliches. Winslow had already happened. Chloe was the girl in the Flat Bed Ford. He was now flying down a dark, desert highway, cool wind in his hair. 
He laughed. Is this how ear worms start? In Kingman he made the decision. Hotel California was not what he was looking for and Joshua Tree was only a little out of his way. The daughter could wait another day. He'd never told her what day he'd be there anyway. After a quick stop for water and food, the van headed south.
US 95 was an proper two lane, like old 66, stretching across the scrub and into the scarlet hills. There were a couple of places he wondered if the van was going to tip, but he persevered and dropped down into the low bowl of the Colorado desert. That ended in the road to the park itself. Spiky trees the park was named for slowly emerged from both sides of the road. Branches raised in supplication to an unknown God, they resembled alien pawns in a celestial chess game. He guessed he was the knight going after an unseen king.
A few miles into the park, an arrow pointed to the left. Without thinking, he turned the van down the dirt track, rooster tails falling behind him. It didn't take long before a clump of green appeared. An oasis? As he got closer, he realized it was exactly that. A larger group of trees lining a watering hole about 25 feet across. It stank of sulfur and salt. The remains of a campsite sat on the the far shore.
He pulled the van over and rubbed his eyes. The sun was almost behind the hills to the southwest, there wasn't much choice, this would be home tonight. Only question was: did he sleep in the van or under the stars? Blue skies had the answer, the stars. 
Someone was nice enough to leave a stack of mesquite branches next to the fire ring. They lit easily and the distinct scent rose through the air. He quickly laid out a tarp and his sleeping bag. Then he brought out a small camp stool and set it next to the fire. He'd traveled almost 1800 miles and this was the first night camping. He knew everything on this trip had been for a reason. 
He thought of the ex. They had known each other in high school, but they hadn't been sweethearts then. She had been someone everyone was jealous of. A daydream believer and the Homecoming Queen. Always looking for the knight in shining armor. They didn't date until after college when they ran into each other at a party. Physically, they were dynamite. But she never was truly satisfied. She had cheated a couple of times before this last time. And he had took her back, knowing she would get restless again. It had been 14 months since he walked in on her last ride. What had she been looking for?
Was Chloe a measure of revenge? He thought about it as he stared into the silhouette of one of the trees. Two days ago, he was high on the wild Indian communion. Dead sober and still physically spent, he stared into the rubble of lost days. In a way, the whole trip was revenge. Leaning back, the whole of the milky way lay above him in the moonless night. The smelly, drunken encounter was the expulsion of all of the frustration and it was good. Maybe it was what he had been looking for. 
Now, he slowly folded his gear and packed it in van. Just before he doused the fire for good, he knelt and prayed gratitude and thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. He prayed also that Chloe would always find the peace he had found here.
One thing he knew. He wasn't never going back East.
Pic Guesses: Oasis (in blog), Shore (in blog) Shasta, Directions, Trek, Placid, Where now?, Narcissus, reflection.

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