Shot of Words 5
Somewhere between Laredo and San Antonio, Texas. (follow me on Instagram: euvelab)
That is what I adored about her—this spell, this charm she cast, a way she had—to make strangers smile when she talked to them. Waitresses, bartenders, middle-aged women working lonely road stops; guys who pumped her gas, cab drivers from Nigeria, salesmen in small-town bookshops. They all said hello with stern faces and said goodbye mid-laugh. We were always on the road, going somewhere, nowhere really, and even on the longest trips she stopped to say hello to people, to ask them how their day was and listen, carrying with her a mental notepad of characters and places. I would glance back when we left a store and notice the guy at the register still smiling, watching her as she walked away, pony-tail waving adios. She drank her coffee black and loved milk chocolate, and on those long drives she’d litter my car with candy wrappers and half-full paper cups.
Men flirted with her and women flirted with her, and I stood back, because we weren’t together, we simply refused to live apart. She was too beautiful to let go and too funny to replace, and she kissed me on the mouth when she cried and on the cheek when she couldn’t stop laughing. We were together.
We stopped once, Texas almost swallowing us whole, to eat kolaches and decide which way to go. She never cared but I asked because I wanted to take her, but she only smiled and said, “Follow the sun, then the darkness until it’s light again.” And so we went, sharing music and silence, pointing out bulls that stood on open fields and wondering what farmers’ lives were like, what ranchers’ lives were like, what Others were thinking and doing and whether They were like Us.
We were young, I suppose, that Sunday I dropped her off at the house she rented, after a night of heavy drinking and slim bits of sleep. She got out of the car, shut the door, turned to me and grinned, that four-year-old’s grin. Freckles on the nose, freckles on the shoulders. She walked up to the house and turned back once more, to blow me a kiss.
One morning I went by and she was gone. Peeking inside that old house she never truly lived in, I missed her immediately and hated my lack of surprise. She was too beautiful to let go and too funny to replace, and she was always supposed to leave; I was never meant to keep her.
Today I drive without the crinkle of candy wrappers, without the stench of stale coffee, without a plan and with every intention to keep going. I stop to say hello to strangers and ask them how they’re doing, and I listen. I listen for her, hoping to walk into a lonely road stop in the middle of nowhere and find her making somebody laugh, telling them she’s just stopping by, on her way to somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, into the darkness until it’s light again.