Leaving the chalk white waste of the Alkali Flats for the twisting downshift of Lake Tahoe, nearly forty-eight hours on the road. Arizona desert in winter; a vacant web of train tracks, scraping frost from the windshield. In Brooklyn, John and I steer clear of the ranting bum outside the subway. The man shouts and spits, he howls like a kettle set to boil. The fog rolls in over Ocean Beach, hard packed sand chilly and wet. A wall solid as brick, so bleak it shatters the heart. Shitty beer for shitty Texans, an ever-declining series of motel rooms. L.A. Sunset Strip, the Standard, The Viper Room. “River Phoenix died here,” you say, and you stand there, dumb. Tunnels and bridges, a blur of faces. All the nation’s airports, the oceans stretch out endless. The Da Nang tunnels. Bullet-ridden helmets hang from trees, rusting in the humid climate of the Vietnamese jungle.
I’d have traded them all for her Murakamis, for the buzzing air conditioner that did no good, for an apartment floor that was never clean. All of it for another day at the beach with her, joint tucked away inside her bag, daring each other to dip heads beneath water.
“That makes me happy,” she said, and we both wanted to believe it.