And thus I squandered the event entire, painstakingly focused on which muscles stayed flexing, and which relaxed. A fragile task, this delicate balance, and one struck exclusively without glory.
I can’t remember why it had seemed important.
But I watched the languid crust of the salt flats. The lake was low. It came to rest several hundred yards from the artwork. My tremors ebbed, and people gathered on the hills behind me.
Looking down, I was surprised at how I’d shriveled in this glassy atmosphere. I experienced some catatonia. Then I kept moving.
I’d made camp at the shoreline the previous evening, driving from the Ochoco National Forest, and stopping only once to be accosted by cops, one human, one canine, the latter of whom illegally searched my car with dubious results.
When I tried to protest to this “probable cause”-driven proceeding, the human explained I didn’t own the air surrounding the vehicle. According to him, I’d failed to keep my blinker on for a full five seconds while merging.
―Oh, I replied. ―Thank you.
I’d forgotten what probable cause meant. And the second time he asked if I was transporting contraband, I told him where he could find it.
―Honesty goes a long way with me, the human said.
It’s true. People are everywhere.
What’s not true is I was trying to escape. I just had to get out for a bit. I had to get out of Idaho, and every other place I encountered.
I’d realized I didn’t want to “be” “anywhere,” which was fine.
I’d been distended by love. We’d been tailed by an unmarked car for forty miles through the Carson National Forest.
And where is she now? In one of the places I got out of, I suppose. I’ve been waiting for Lil Uzi Vert to release new music for months. I felt confident my life would be “objectively good” as long as he stayed the course. Like I’d do anything to pass time.
Suicidal ideations aside, I remain, in fact, negotiating a straight line.
But what I really want to tell you about is a snake. A twenty-two-inch rattler that cruised downslope between my ankles as great swathes of sky dampened their pastels around the Smithson.
I’d passed a forest fire, gladly blazing, sixty-ish miles north. Then, the sun had just begun to set, and the hills were spattered red with Phos-Chek.
My eyes itched in darkness. Wind came down hard from the north, and it was still challenging to manage a breath. Generally I don’t take much stock in making an effort, so I pretended to enjoy it.
The snake’s movement was consummate, coils spaced masterfully apart, like a wave in a vacuum, non-diminishing. The integrity of its tail interrupted. It had no rattle, made no sound.
A man from Connecticut scuttled over to where I sat crouched, pawing the parking lot for a spot to pitch my tent. He asked if I was planning to use any “harsh” lights.
―No, I said.
And he pointed out a tripod maybe fifteen feet away, where I guessed his camera was mounted, taking in the deep blues of the night. Some meteors were falling away from us, and I pointed at the snake.
―There’s a rattlesnake down here, he yelled to a woman perched in a collapsible plastic rocking chair further up the lot.
That’s how I found out it was a rattlesnake. And that he was from Connecticut. License plate gave him away.
―My wife, he gagged.
―Then I’m in the right place, she yelled back.
The snake was already under a rock, though, and the wind got fiercer.
Many hours I wrestled with sleep, hot air knocking into polyester. And because I knew about the snake. It had been smelling too, grasping with whatever it had, in this case a chaotic tongue, moving south, further from the flames, like me, flanked by miles of salt.
Let it be known: I foster no goals of anything, because people are everywhere. “Glory,” on the other hand…
I feel that in every instant there’s potential for stuff to turn indelibly violent, but it continues not to. Keeping vigilant, I’m positive only of the self, and of further withdrawal in it.
And also this one other thing, with respect to sleeping head below feet, elevation-wise. It causes temporary mental deficiency.
All the next day, I knew nothing. I hobbled about, giggling in gas station bathrooms at sexy graffiti. And later again, coffee grounds coming out my nose, remembering.