Who cracked the heart of Arizona? Many believe the Colorado River is responsible for carving a hole 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than mile deep over a period of a gazillion years. Others say that the Grand Canyon is the result of the judgement of God and the Great Flood for a period of forty days and forty nights. Either way, the end result is breathtaking. There is a beauty to brokenness.

Same with the Mohave Desert. There is a beauty to barrenness.

But I don’t like what is staring back at me from the bathroom mirror of a Rodeway Inn with the word FUCK scratched into the glass. I see a skeletal, racoon eyed, red rimmed, drunken monster of grief.

Shortly after I stop for the night in Barstow, California, I take Jack for a shit walk. Behind the motel, there is a city dump. A junkie’s paradise. Stained mattresses and syringes and missing shoes. Beyond the trash and missing people, more desert, poisonous snakes, stinging scorpions, and distant railroad tracks. A train of boxcars is heading east, a hundred wheels resembling a centipede, rolling fast toward Chicago.

An almost empty restaurant with a sign hanging over a tumbleweed parking lot: Steak and Marsico. The hell is Marsico? So I look it up on my iPhone. Ooh, seafood. Why didn’t they just say so in the first place? I answer my own question out loud to Jack, reasoning that seafood might sound more appetizing but Marisco sounds more like wine. Both work, I suppose.

A man with his butt crack whistling in the wind is cleaning the windows skillfully with a very long squeegee. The juices inside the trash dumpster have fermented in the 110 degree heat and is festering with maggots. I’m reminded of the biblical Gehenna. A sort of hell. Devil’s soup. Mmm mmm good.

Walking back to the motel, I pass a prostitute with purple hair. She is scratching her crotch.

Totally depressed, I enter room 123 (One Two Tree, is how the Indian lady pronounced it when I checked in). I give Jack a good boy snack as a reward for fertilizing and watering the desert. I strip naked and stare with wonder at my misshapenness. I pulled my lower back for the first time in a long time and my spine has deformed into the letter S.

I pop a Unisom and another pill, climb into bed, write some very private things in my journal, and turn off the lights. I can’t fall asleep because the AC keeps clicking on and off. I twist out of bed with a yelp of pain and click the “constant fan” button and fall asleep to the cool white noise.

In the morning light, I take Jack for quick piss before heading to the breakfast lobby. An Indian man lectures me “Do not touch da food unless you use da tongs” and I assure him that I’m only there for the coffee, no worries, no germs. The funny part is that all of the cardboard cups are stuck together as are the plastic lids so that any coffee drinker must dig their fingernails into the supplies to pry them apart, without “da tongs.” Kind of defeats the effort of touch free as well as the speech. Illogical as having to wear a mask indoors at the Grand Canyon in order to purchase a postcard. But I respect the man for trying. There’s a lotta lotta finger lickers in the breakfast lines all across this great land. I must have struck him as a finger licker but I’m not. I’m a shower pisser.

Anyway.

Back at the door of my room there is a woman pushing a cart of cleaning supplies and trying to enter my room. I’m checking out at eleven I tell her, slightly annoyed (because it’s only have past nine) and I’m in the middle of watching Sesame Street. Times are hard and so I tip her generously with thirty dollars. I discover quickly that she doesn’t speak English and that she’s not Indian and that I have somehow miscommunicated. Because she’s saying yes, yes, after dropping to her knees, unzipping my pants, and putting me into her mouth. Her slobbery lips slide up and down, her head starts bobbing rhythmically, and her tiny left hand forms a perfect C shape around my hardening girth. She’s looking up at me, deep into my eyes, and my private unromantic thought is this: I’m going to have to shower all over again, followed by the announcement that today’s episode of Sesame Street is sponsored by the letters C and S. I think of the word curse.

The alarm sounds. It’s 5 a.m. Jack is licking my face. My cock is pop, pop, popping from the dream.

For the many days, I haven’t been eating or socializing or self-pleasuring in any way. I have no appetite. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to shower. I don’t want to brush my teeth.

My dopamine levels must have risen by one hundred percent.

I lay there in the dimness of the pre-dawn, staring at the ceiling, worried about my back pain and wondering about my heart pain: Can I be healed emotionally by simply driving away? How far does one have to travel in order to escape the unchangeable past, a horrifying present, and an empty future?

When I left Denver, for the first time in my life I felt completely lost. Fucked to the uttermost. I have always returned home to her. She was my home. I worshipped her. She was my idol. My religion. My identity. My purpose. My compass. My North Star. My joy. My everything. Now, for the first time in years, I haven’t spoken to her in weeks and she’s getting married in less than a week.

Fuck. Me.

Jack tried to follow a Mexican to his tractor trailer this morning. A short man wearing a Trump baseball cap. The nice gentleman looked at me sincerely and shrugged his shoulders, “I have no monies for heem, amigo.” I assured the mustached driver that the dog wasn’t for sale but merely tired of my company and I allowed my face to smile.

Hanging with Steinbeck and Kerouac, I’m on my way to the Big Sur, then farther north to Cannery Row, and finally onward and upward but no further westward to “ole Frisco, with end of land sadness.” By then she will have tied the knot. I will drive back east with two-thirds of a novel complete and with no other choice but to accept the unbearable fact that my muse has been swept away by another man and I must move the hell on.

At 11:20 a.m. I signal right and turn onto the legendary and historic Route 66, which winds in and out of US 40 and other main streets like a strand of worn out DNA, the past and the future clashing with each other. An unknown highway stretches before me and my puppy with the silly grin and crooked ear and I’m struck by a comforting fact.

I love Kat with the love of a million lifetimes. She will always have me. And that is enough.

Dammit.
_______________
Andrew Dabar