I went to a lecture on ethics in Sante Fe, New Mexico. After the lecturer finished, he clapped his hands and held out his palms. I left the building and stood outside in the parking lot. Everyone inside left as well. They got in their cars, turned their lights on, and left. I couldn’t remember where I had parked my car, but I needed to be sure. I waited until all the others were gone, and then I found it.
I went to a gas station outside of Provo, Utah. I went inside the station to pay, but the man behind the counter kept sneezing. He couldn’t get a good grip on my money. “Sorry,” he said as his face bucked forward from the force. He kept sneezing and sneezing. The plexiglass between us fogged up. I set the money on the counter and didn’t ask for change.
I went to a small regional history museum in Pocatello, Idaho, and then I left.
I went to an orchard in Fruita, Colorado. I drove my sensible car out onto the firmly packed earth between the trees. I didn’t set foot on the ground, but instead lowered my window, reached out, and yanked a peach from its low home among the heavy leaves. Later, I asked a farmer if the name Fruita meant fruit in another language, and he fired a shotgun into the air. Back wheels spinning, I fled the premises.
I went to a rock formation in central Wyoming. It rose out of the flatlands, a slate and granite pillar. A Park Ranger was standing in a hole near me. I could see people on top of the formation. Their moving shapes made the top edge of it waver. I asked the Park Ranger if they lived there permanently. I asked him if they ever came down. From his hole, he reached up and hooked his thumb around mine—a child-like gesture. I was not in my car at the time. I was standing right next to him. Because of our height difference, his cheek grazed the back of my hand. I bent down, and his hair smelled like khaki and skin. I began to ask him another question, but he unlatched our thumbs and headed off in the direction of the tall, tall pillar.
I went to a field in Lewellen, Nebraska. The heat made my teeth hurt. The sky opened up, or the earth was shrinking. The sky was like a jaw snapping shut.
I went to Parsons, Kansas in the dark. The night was thick like smoke. I could only see the houses immediately around me. I turned off my headlights and moved forward at a crawl. The dark congealed. I drifted off the road, crashed in a shallow ditch. As I clawed fistfulls of cold mud up from around the rear wheels, I heard croaking in the distance. Frogs were talking to each other. I had to stop digging and listen to them. After awhile, I couldn’t decide if they were talking or singing. They didn’t stop until the sun came up, at which point I discovered that the damage to the car was greater than I had previously assumed.
I walked to Jacksonville, Illinois. It took time. My feet were tired. My feet were more tired than feet have any right to be. The city was unlit and unwell. I asked a man what was wrong with the city, and he coughed up a half-eaten passport at my feet. I walked away. I thought about how Jacksonville had changed since I’d last been there, and then I thought about change itself. Blocks after, I found a glowing orb that growled like a feral beast. I touched it and growled back, my white teeth bared. We all have our respective failings, I said, and then the orb bathed me in light and heat.
In time, I counted my blessings.
William VanDenBerg is the author of Lake of Earth (Caketrain Press) and Apostle Islands (Solar Luxuriance). He lives with his wife in Providence, RI. His dog is afraid of wind.