unlike the 1997 chevy silverado, my life and many of the things in it were not reliable, durable or built to last.
the last night i spent in la was very similar to many others, in that it involved good luck bar, a few too many pbrs, and running into the erotic audiobook narrator i went on a date with once exactly six months prior. i could have been a normal human woman and perhaps chatted him up to really make this shit into a katherine heigl movie that ends with a movie montage of us taking engagement photos on some railroad tracks to me wagging my finger "no" to paint colors to us slapstick-rearranging furniture in our hypothetical quaint fixer-upper, set to "don't get me wrong" by the pretenders.
i always get to wear a bandana in these imaginings and for once it's a good look, too. (my diva cup runneth over.)
instead i opted to awkwardly and quickly avoid him, descending further into my tiki drink and into tangible polaroids with my friends that i would not be able to grab onto for a long while. looking back, i could choose no better send-off from los angeles than this.
the next day, i was driving away from a place i wasn't entirely sure i should have in my rear view window.
"chrissy tiguan" and i were the queens of all the surface streets of los angeles and we were pretty adamant about keeping our divine-right kingdom that way. i taught myself how to drive in this car the past 9 months with a license i received due to a clerical error. after a good 5 minutes of googling what "merging" was that next morning, we were off.
perhaps i should have worn a large trendy witch hat and taken more pictures of lattes and adopted a rescued australian shepherd to fully become a sponsored instagram #wanderlustgypsy, but chances are that would have not made my trip any easier.
don't worry, i have nothing novel to say about the grand canyon. ya know it, ya seen it, ya love it. but i will say that there's so many germans there and i also almost threw up because i forgot i hate heights. staring at the top of the canyon hitting the horizon line also definitely had me thinking about the concept of infinity for a bit too long for a sober person to do safely and this is probably where my road trip psychosis started to set in, now that i think about it.
that's actually all i have to say. aren't you glad i'm not your cousin who is asking you to read her study abroad blog? i knew it and you're welcome.
the second day started the "driving through beer commercial country" portion of my trip and damn, was i PUMPED! i could just hear the coors lights popping open in the background with each swerve through new mexico and colorado.
the entirety of northern new mexico looks like where all my "famished" and spurned neopets live since i definitely spent all my neopoints on rainbow paintbrushes because i am a deadbeat neopet mom. it's completely stunning and i don't deserve to own neopets or live in northern new mexico and i will eventually come to terms with this.
after three days of driving i was beginning to look like one of the women featured on snapped. you know, the lifetime show that's always playing at your childhood dentist's office that features mothers who drowned their children? i had the defining look: government-funded glasses, overgrown roots, and mom jeans that look like they were bought in bulk from costco. but DAMN, was my skin clear!!
i will talk a bit about the dunes before i get into how my trip imploded, because DUNES. this is now a blog about dunes because there aren't enough blogs on dune appreciation, so let me just add to the dunes oeuvre for just a minute here. first of all LOOK! and second of all, think about how no one knows how these dunes got here and they haven't moved in over 200 years!
damn it, i love dunes!
sure, i vomited up a bit of my diner huevos in my mouth climbing to the top to get these photos, but wow, DUNES!
right after i posed for enough future instagrams to trick people into thinking i was their local yoga teacher for like, three months or so, i did what no self-respecting person should do: i drove through southern colorado and the entirety of kansas. which was perfect, because i lacked all semblances of self-respect.
my feet at this point smelled like hot trash that took a shit in its own vomit, because i walked through a little stream right outside of the dunes to cool off. i felt a romantic fondness for the fact that my shoes were now saturated with what i called (to myself, all these thoughts are to myself, because i am a prisoner of my own mind!) "dune magic".
i refused to change or clean these shoes, so this translated to each crack between my toes became an individual swamp ass.
it's important to note that my life did not stall as soon as i strapped into chrissy tiguan, who i could not be sure was not gaining sentience and perhaps human empathy with each passing hour. in ten hours of driving, i very notably felt the inklings of a new slow fade i've become accustomed to receiving in the barren romantic wasteland that is 2017.
just call me little relationship napoleon, because i trudged right on through a russian dating winter and no, i will never not run out of metaphors for this. it is how i cope!!
i was, for lack of a better term (and i sure fucking wish there were), being ghosted by a guy i met over the summer. not a super unique experience, but when combined with driving 8-12 hours and being "with my by myself", i felt pretty deranged pretty quickly. the way my ocd works is that i can't find relief until the awful imaginings or compulsions are actualized in real life. so for instance, if i imagine a loved one dying in a car accident, i cannot find relief until they eventually die in a car accident. which, thankfully, never happens, but my body and brain are on constant high alert for this fake-eventuality. imagine this thought process coupled with being ghosted and not having a clue why and you get a layered parfait of nasty thoughts (now available at all starbucks locations nationwide, $4.99).
driving through kansas, at its best (and remember, its best is still very much its worst), involved me imagining bob seger crooning "OOOOH LIKE A ROCK!" (like the 1997 chevy silverado commercials of my youth) at the end of all my grotesque ocd thoughts relating to dating in order to stay afloat.
"WOW, this guy is dropping me like a sack of fucking potatoes (LIKE A ROCK!)"
"let's go through a movie montage of all the men who have rejected you in a confounding, quiet, and/or sudden manner! don't worry, i'm going to set this particular slideshow to mazzy star!! (OOOOOH LIKE A ROCK!)"
the thing about this experience was how picked out of a crowd i felt. as someone who had braces from ages 14-20 only to find out she was also missing a tooth when the braces finally came off (and then ate the same fake tooth two years later...in front of my ex boyfriend...whatever you get it. i had a shit time dating!!), i was the most shocked of all to be singled out by, wow, a GUY?! and one who was vied over by all my friends? sure, the guy in question could have struck out with some other nerd before settling on me this past summer, but i had long been told by men and male family members not to expect much attention or interest. regardless, i allowed myself to dare to expect something for once and i'm always glad when i can relinquish my disbelief for even just a minute when i find myself knee deep in shit-pickles.
it'd been four years since i had last felt the "crowd" feeling, which felt worthy of being noted down and also paradoxically made me relaxed enough to be seen for a split second there. the last time was with my ex-boyfriend; i always described our relationship as a "a freak accident gone horribly right", which i said immediately after he told me how grateful he was to have met me. super cute, 22 year old me!!! nailed it! i know, i have fucked up feelings regarding a strange disbelief of being noticed by men. can i pay you my $20 therapy copay? i can venmo you!
this wasn't unfamiliar to me, unfortunately (both the bob seger and the ghosting). i have had countless men flatline on me as soon as i stepped on a plane, only to come back to life when i'm in the same time zone and things between us irreparably shifted, or choose rather to pretend nothing happened, leaving everything behind without a change of address filled out. there were the years of lukewarm manipulation and having to win scrabble game bets to receive affection and "you know, we'd still be together if we never broke up?" (THE LOGIC!!!) and the time the guy thought he dumped me and whoops, he's been seeing someone who lives in SWEDEN the last 3 months and "forgot" to mention it (THE LOGIC, PART TWO FEAT. R. KELLY!!!)
i've gotten to know the tell-tale signs well. they slowly mention me hooking up with other people as if a confidante ("you know, you can hook up with whoever you want when you're in europe" or "you'd probably do well on dating apps." )
or you realize a two year relationship has been condensed down to three weeks from meeting their friends and chatting on the phone while running errands to all the delicious hypotheticals you dip into like a white woman in a 0% fat yogurt commercial to the eventual crescendo of a too-close-too-soon freak out. you tell yourself, HA their loss! five times in a row like a "gesundheit!" in response to your heart's sneezes.
and you can "yas kween!" yourself into oblivion but you still can't find any answers to the whys and the hows and the "at what point did you know i was to be a very temporary thing?" question to the boys who you let surprise you with their abrupt absence, when you were given all the clues to not even get comfortable enough to take your shoes off.
my kansas day of driving involved me wondering who do these boys of my past see and go "yes, her! for an extended yet undefined period of time! can't get enough and don't think i will ever!", and coming back with some vague descriptions of indelible women who don't actually exist, which then obviously leads to me wondering about the areas in which the venn diagrams of these women and mine clearly don't overlap. this is what i did every time i had to stop for gas and every time i passed a silo in kansas which, wait a minute, lemme get my calculator out, was EVERY. FIVE. MINUTES.
a friend recently told me a boy from my past would realize how much he missed out on me in approximately five months and i realized how fucked up it was, for myself and womenkind to ever feel 5% hopeful of a 3% chance of mutual affection, five months in fake-advance.
"well, that's cool for him, i suppose!!" i responded back, because i am not in the market to be excited about false futures. i'm not here to feel the instant high of a sad boy noticing me in a crowd every five months.
all the yelling of "fuck this shit, actually!" while driving through kansas corn fields for 12 hours lead me to phasing out the need to know every little thing about the autopsies of these situations. i don't crave to know where and how these boys give out their care now or what made up fantasy i couldn't ever reach, or desire to reach. my reaction times to bullshit are trigger happy, yes, but i'd rather that than rationing my feelings out in piecemeal, and then trying to scrounge it all back.
i'm the leap day baby of dating, finding it only relevant to come out and play every four years or so. next round, i'll be sure to make sure these boys know firsthand that it sure is nice to meet them, but i better be going. i must be worthwhile somewhere else and i'm running late already.
as i rolled into nashville with one day left of driving, my eyes were visibly bloodshot from staring at the road and i became angry at every instagram gypsy couple i've ever followed in their dumbass airstream trailers for making this looks cute, quaint or easy.
whereas my friends from afar were like, "nashvillesofun! bars! brunch! MUSIC!" i was staunchly about going to see the beguiled at the belcourt theater my one night in town because i was angry at the full cast and crew of my romantic life and seeing a man gradually get dismembered sounded understandably cathartic.
i did do the brunch part the next morning, with a dear friend from high school who, like me, felt like breathing fire about life and eating a lot of beignets and pork. i especially loved the charles grodin poster in the restaurant's ladies' room, because i realized that me to dating is like acclaimed actor charles grodin to beethoven the dog.
just a whole lot of yelling "ugh!" and slapstick falls into mud puddles.
however, i can credit about 70% of my remaining sanity on my last driving day to a road trip game i played with myself called "snack roulette".
the game is simple: you pick two snacks that, when held in your hand and unable to look (because, ya know, you're driving and trying *for the most part* not to die), feel exactly the same, yet taste completely different. you could probably do this with: dried apple slices and pig ears, kale chips and self-hatred (just kidding, those are the same thing!), or m&ms and tylenol pm.
for my purposes, i chose dried mango slices and turkey jerky, a combination that will lead your bowels and your tastebuds to form whatever the body's version of daddy issues are. each time you plunge your innocent li'l hand in one of the snack bags, and just go right on down to the flavortown of probably-not-your-choosing, the resulting shock keeps you awake when the scream-crying just won't cut it.
they say your gut is your second brain. after this onslaught of being meth'd-out on gas station iced tea caffeine and basically only eating mcdonald's chicken nuggets and dried things for days, my gut had developed a really debilitating learning disability and also a partial lobotomy? i got a 5 on my AP bio exam, guys. i think i know what i'm talking about here!
which explains why i don't need to outline why taking saloon pictures by myself became the only viable option for me to make it the last 5 hours to north carolina from tennessee.
i naturally got this idea hovering over some dank nugs in a mcdonald's in pigeon forge, tennessee, hometown of dolly parton and my self-appointed mecca. "i think i have it in my budget to get saloon pictures done? i really need to feel like a woman right now?" i mused.
i was eating about once a day, usually nuggets, and just living off of the energy i generated from shout-screaming father john misty's new sad boy album at mountains and gas station dogs. i had been unknowingly saving for this my whole trip and planning for this moment my whole life.
so i sidled in to the photo studio, full of diet coke, a bit too much confidence in how my hair looked that day (c/o aforementioned iced tea caffeine meth) and a dream:
saloon photographer girl: how many?
me: just me.
saloon photographer girl: oh, hell yes.
i saw a photo of an 8 year old girl in a saloon outfit sitting on a bar counter top with a murderous look in her eye. i couldn't say "yes, this!!!!!" fast enough.
"we won an award at the saloon photo convention for that one." they added back.
DEALING WITH PROFESSIONALS HERE.
"but can i have a gun?" i added. "AND a cowboy hat?"
they also couldn't say yes fast enough. i was in the right place.
despite it all, i think it's important to live as closely to what you think 1999 "man! i feel like a woman"-era shania twain would do. she wouldn't let men define her date-ability. she probably ate less chicken nuggets, sure, but she knew she was special when men wouldn't let on. hell, i had just driven from los angeles to north carolina! by myself! i can probably crack walnuts with the tension i now store in my butt! taking the saloon photos was my way to send myself mental postcards into the future to say "wish you were here" to the self i know is back there, probably rollerskating back out west and eating an amount of turkey jerky that is manageable to my bowels.
i think, very much like pinching yourself out of a bad dream or leaving breadcrumbs to find a way back home, it's important to note down what number "rodeo" you're on.
this was not my first rodeo, i knew that for sure. it was my second and there will still be many more.