I drive north through the mountains in the dark, as usual. The sky goes up a million years, and the stars I see reflections of snow and chickweed. The road is long and curvy, and Bro curls up tiny in my lap. I want to drive these roads forever. I want to leave these roads far behind and live in mountains and sky, in the song of chickweed reflected in mid-winter stars.
The road becomes mesmerizing, after a while. I’m awake but my minds moved through my eyes, somewhere along the road up in the distance. I want to drive further. We’re almost out of water, and I can drink ginger tea, but Bro will need water in the morning. There’s a gas station 70 miles up the road, and if I slept right before it it’d be perfect. I pull over, and Bro and I pee together. It’s become such an important social ritual that I’m sometimes startled to remember that urination is such a private thing with people.
Getting back on the road, I turn on the radio. The only station has some people talking about meditating through the spheres of consciousness to reach enlightenment, where the Goddess Athena will lead you to Jesus Christ. A man calls in to say that he’s discovered the magic mudra. Then a woman says that human consciousness is an egg, a fake reality, and we have to break free of our shells. It’s traumatic at first, she warns, being out of the shell, but well worth it when you realize Nothing Is Real. I wonder if she knows the name of the plants that must grow so lustfully at her door, or even sees them. Of course I’ve stopped seeing the snow and stars and trees while listening to her.
Soon I’m pulling into the gas station, weaving carefully between the pumps to park before I see that I’m going the wrong way. I park in front of the store, where the two employees sit smoking on stumps, and pour a little water for Bro. In his senility, he’s started trying to bury water. This results in lots of frozen blankets, and I’ve stopped giving him full bowls of water. Instead I pour a little bit in the bowl, offer it to him, pour a little more after he drinks it, and repeat until he stops drinking. Then I down the rest of the water and open the door. As I step out of the van I hear something fall, so I squat down as I get out, but there’s nothing. I look up and the smokers are laughing at me. In this town, I’m sure they think I’m stoned off my ass.
“Hey,” I say, “can I fill up my water bottle?”
“Sure. There’s a sink by the microwave.”
Cool. I fill the bottle, gulp as much water as I can handle, and then refill it leaving a little space for freezing.
I take the next pull off. There’s a babbling brook, a frozen waterfall, a mountain, and the ocean. Really. I leave the van running with the heat on high while I step out barefoot in my jeans and sweater and step through the thin ice of the stream. It’s icy kisses tie me to the dirt, to myself, and I freeze for as long as I can handle it before running up the mountain a little ways and then jumping in the van to warm up and go to sleep.