Forty miles west of Eldorado, Texas, on 190 I hit a red bird as the land bottomed out of hill country into windblown dirt and scrub. It made a loud thud against the cab of the 16-foot moving van. On the phone, Tye said that red birds are so aggressive that they’ll kill themselves trying to destroy their own reflection in the window, so I shouldn’t feel bad. It seemed a fitting sacrifice; I have never known joy to come without first destruction, whether in a piece of myself or a gift offered up along the journey. The bird may be one offering, but I am another. Too long have I believed myself capable of rooting anywhere, but I have atrophied, and I was wrong.
As I drove between mesas under a blue, cloud-dotted sky, I cried. I have cried in the past year for other reasons—frustration, boredom, erasure, a feeling that my life was shrinking into someone else’s ideal, rather than my own best hopes—but this cry was for beauty, for me.
At a truck stop, I let my dog, Ripley, pee in the dirt between what little vegetation there was. The cats, Tye, and his 92-year-old grandmother—whom we watch over—were driving separately, so it was just me and the dog. It’s been me and the dog before, although it was a different dog, now bones in my mother’s mountain. I love our cats, but it helps for me to have a dog around. Dogs keep me from stultifying, a marked tendency of my character that’s made worse when I hate whatever I’m doing to keep the lights on.
That’s over now, for now.
We stayed in El Paso and the last two days before Los Angeles were a mad dash through hot wind. Our last day and just over the California border, Tye’s car got a flat. We had to make a four-hour stop in Cathedral City and depend on the kindness of two Firestone men who stayed late to fix it. One was Latino, and a United States military veteran, and he helped us even though his wife and child were waiting for him in the car, waiting for him to be free for Sunday night. We hit the road grateful, and the palms grew tall along the avenues.
I entered Los Angeles as the sun set behind the mountains. The lights extended in every direction and I rode the 10 like a river to our hotel. The next day, we found an apartment for us and another for Tye’s grandmother in the same building, in no small part because of my months of research and day-dreaming of this western life. Since we’ve arrived, the evenings have been cool and the afternoons have been warm. The curtains are hung. All that’s left to unpack are our books—so many—along the walls of our new apartment. I left the west, albeit more northward, nine years ago, but it still feels like a return.
There’s room here for new myths, and I have learned that I need that kind of possibility. I am too future-oriented, too uninterested in authority to tolerate the habits and values of the east any longer. I miss being naked under the sun. I miss the anonymity of a good, large city. I can’t imagine better soil. I need the rocks, the dry sand. Let me stretch out my thorns. I have come home.
Laura Jean Moore’s poetry, essays, and stories have been featured in VICE, [PANK], the EEEL, FLUX WEEKLY, ENTROPY, the Brooklyn Rail, Corium, the Cobalt Review, and Change Seven, where she is a monthly columnist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Reed College. http://laurajeanmoore.com/
READ ALL COLUMNS BY LAURA JEAN MOORE:
- They Will Tell You
- Against Genius
- Feminine Costuming
- The Streets Are Full of Blood
- On Vice(s)
- What Gets Missed
- Low Country
- A Dark Graceful Wilderness
- Before and After
- On Greatness
- Whiteness, A Study
- New York
- American Dreams
- Body Talk
- Habits, Simple and Austere
- On Love
READ MORE WORK BY THIS AUTHOR