Something something about high desert air, crackling with autumn snap, it gets my mind wandering, nostalgia cranked up and keening me deaf. I want us to stop the car, get out, scrabble in the dirt, that clean desert dirt, purified insect skeletons and empty weeds, I want to poke at stinkbugs and chew on a piece of hay, climb into a creaking saddle, feel my thighs chafe on leather, smell of horse and sage and haybales.
Mr. Billy says sage doesn't grow this high, this far north, so maybe I'm not missing much, hurtling toward Carson City in Punkin's car. But after finding there's no there there, turning around in downtown Carson City, and back back to Tahoe, I'm foaming at the mouth to get out of car out of doors out out out.
It isn't until morning, though, that I blow out of our room onto the shores of the lake, blue sharp as a blade in 30 degree weather, but I'm stripped to bikini, head forward I plow over sand into water, sand turns to mud and still I push ahead in in in to the lake, deep breath and dive.
Underwater it's blue and quiet. Not the shock of cold I expect. My hands fan out beside me and I'm up above the water, boats bobbing, and down again feet and hands moving slow, dreamspeed in the water, I'm not cold not shivering, I could stay out here in the quiet for an hour a day no-one would know Billy the mermaid, deep in the lake.
But then I notice I can't feel my feet.
Back to shore, mud then sand, feet coming to life like hibernating bears, shrieking up at me.
That day we started back, homeward. Freeways past the towns, who knows what each town is like, all have the same McDonald'sStarbucksBordersGap out here by the freeway, if there is a difference, it's tucked away where all the people live. We pull off the freeway for lunch, and a sign points to Town Centre, McDonald'sStarbucksBordersGap in fake Olde Time style, town itself miles away, safe out of sight.
We pass Folsom prison, and I hear the Man in Black singing the Blues about the train going by, but all I see is cars and the same stores over and over and churches as big as barns, as big as malls, as big as stadiums, the smaller the town the bigger the church, a cross the size of a landing strip on the side, Jehovah surely able to see it all the way from heaven.
And still I want to pull over, jump out of the car, bury my face in desert dirt and dream back to kidhood on Grandpa's ranch, potato bug rolled up in the palm of my hand, eggs hen-warm, hollyhocks knocking against each other in the wind.
But I know it wouldn't do, wouldn't come close, the smell of the road, the stripmalls, the churches too strong, so I put my seat back, and try to sleep.