photo thanks to RWLinder from rbgstock.com
It took forever to get out of Colorado, but too quickly the mountains were gone from my rear-view and that was the last time I knew solid what was west. The night before, we ran errands at the end of the day and I saw the sun set in Colorado for the last time in I don't know how long. The foothills were cold and planetary, blue under the full moon and a starry starry sky. I miss the grand expanses of the prairie with a sky-arching ache. The prairie was the one thing always gave me the space I needed. I watched the hills and the fields go dark and didn't know what to feel. I still don't.
We crossed into Kansas, whose small towns are the boyhood home of everybody you never heard of. Forgotten writers, never-mooned astronauts, and a Chrysler or a Carnegie, memory fails. We drove forever. We never stopped driving. I felt empty inside, task-driven, no thoughts to comfort me mile after mile. I didn't know what prayers to say, I said none, except the one the heart speaks straight to blue skies.
Kansas never ended but when it did there was Missouri. So many signs advertising Jesus like Warner's Old Time Cure. Like a panacea, but if it were that simple we'd all know by now. So many porn shops and adult stores and live nude girls, more than I see driving through all of Denver. "The Lion's Den Adult Store" and in front of them, signs claiming Porn Destroys Jesus Heals, except they'd thought of a synonym for destroy that rhymes with heals and I can't remember it now. And guns & ammo stores. Guns, girls, religion, American as apple pie.
It was supposed to take fifteen hours to get to St. Louis. It took eighteen. We checked into a smoking motel, only room available, outside the city proper at just after midnight, local time. I wasn't happy, but I didn't miss anything, my emotions stifled by road-drunkenness and the path ahead. Noah slept about five hours and left before me. At 6:30 in the morning, I hauled two girls, three bags and three pillows down to a car full of bees and we drove straight through St. Louis. The city was a beautiful reflection in my mirror as I crossed the Mississippi River and didn't know it, which is something out of a book I already wrote. After St. Louis there would be the awful fringed-and-glittered Nashville, the hours of rain, the semis crashed on the highway and the unexpected stay in a dank and dirty motel room, alone with the girls and no hot water in depressing Rockville, Tennessee. The rain would follow us all the way to our new home, which is where I sit now, where I've been sitting for two weeks and I'm unable to tell you about it yet, because I don't know what's happened and I'm still not sure where I am.
What I can tell you is that while I was writing this, a honey-thick female voice wafted into my windows, blown in on the wind down from my neighbor's porch, and I set aside my computer and walked through the grass to the place where people were gathered, five or six on guitar and one man on a harmonica, and they sang sweet and forlorn tunes while the green hills of Carolina undulated like vibrato behind them and the moon rose and cast us all in golden, bee-hewn light.
I can tell you about leaving St. Louis before rush hour on a Thursday morning with both of my daughters sleeping lightly like fairies a thousand miles from home. The arch was so beautiful, gleaming silver like the river itself had surged up over the city and froze there, in perfect symmetry with the orbit of stars.