Route 67: August 27, 2020

Ruby and Roy and I take Route 67 all the way down from Marfa to the border. We lose phone service quickly, but Yehia has sent me a playlist of Egyptian funk music that I downloaded before we left. Roy has issues with small, closed off spaces and whenever we are in the car with him all of the windows must be down. Arabic and tender drum beats are tossed all around us, carried by the wind we carve out of the highway. Save for a rare passing car or random building, we are lonely subjects of vastness: held by the air and suspended in the desert. 

Presidio, Texas: population of 4,000. Bleached buildings and a border patrol station. The expanse of the desert is momentarily interrupted by the city. We shift directions and we are driving along the Rio Grande, along the border. Dust stains the air. The dryness of the desert oscillates through us. 

When the heat becomes unbearable, we pull over and jump in the churning river, the thin wetness like a vein running through the earth. Yet even the water of the Rio Grande is dehydrated. When we dry off, we are coated in the white clay of the ground that the river mixes up with the force of its aggression. Mexico looms at us, exacting and severe. We feel guilty and giddy, layered in whiteness. 

Ruby and Roy’s love moves backwards through the car, thrown by the wind like the music. I sprawl in the backseat sweaty and half-naked, stripped to my bathing suit. Their gentle touches and looks make me feel ugly and washed out in my haze. I melt into the observing heat waves. They hum with life. Youth and love render the driver and her companion untouchable. 

Nothing grows in the desert except the toughest things which have trained themselves to thirst for weeks at a time. Nothing except things that have learned to adapt after millenniums of death. The sun is unwavering, sharpening every detail and killing shade before it even begins. I leave parts of myself on the side of the road with a mid-day piss and in the river as I spit out rushing water. Transience is a gift—to shift among the sand and then circle home again. 

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