By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By the time we reached Colorado, we were both weighed down with junk food and soda, but there was nothing to do about it but press ahead. The next stretch in L.A. would be the tough one — I didn’t need to deal with Route 50 just yet. We took the safe route, I-70 to I-15 South.
I hadn’t seen her in about six months. I thought about the ring inscribed with the words forget me not that she had given me when I left for the Post gig. Back in D.C., I would go to the mailbox every day looking for something that explained it all. Instead I got forwarded bills. I fingered the ring in my pocket: Forget me not. Fat chance.
My father’s Buick LeSabre was impressive as we headed toward Las Vegas. It had an understated luxuriousness. Ninety felt the same as 55. The steering was responsive. The miles flew by in silence, save for the crinkle of individually wrapped Dolly Madisons. Arty was playing every CD in the Soul Assassins catalog. I think we were up to Funkdoobiest. We were getting closer and fatter.
“Arty, what am I going to do about the bed? I mean, I can’t take it with me.” We were at the Coco’s in Barstow, eating chocolate cake.
“Look, man, if it’s bothering you that much, you gotta do something about it. You gotta call her.”
I told her I wanted the bed out of there.
“What do you want me to do with it?” she asked, like there was no other option.
“I want you to call Salvation Army and have them pick it up.”
“You heard me. That bed better be fucking out of there when I come to pick up my shit.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I know you don’t, but you should.”
I dropped Arty off in Hollywood and made my way to the loft she and I rented at the Brewery. It was empty when we moved in. I put in the cabinets. Unfortunately, I put them in upside down and the doors opened the wrong way — my own forget-me-not.
It was cold and overcast when I arrived. She was waiting outside, wearing that sweater, the one that made her look like Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to be angry when I saw her, but I was just sad and felt like a fool. That sweater was like six daggers in my heart. I picked up my belongings. The bed was propped up on display in the hallway. It was just an appeasement. I knew Thor would be using his hammer on it before I was out of the county. I had to let it go.
If there ever was a sadder-looking sap than I was in the parking lot, loading my shit into the car, staring at her in that sweater, my feet cinder blocks, I would have liked to have met him. She gave me a hug goodbye. I wanted to refuse it, but I couldn’t. I handed her back the ring. “You may need this,” I said, and drove away.
It started raining while I was on the 101 North, heading up to Oakland to see my uncle. I pulled over and called her. I didn’t have anything to say. I just cried.
“You gotta stop this,” she said, not unkindly. “It’s gonna be okay. You’re a great guy. You deserve better than me anyway.”
I didn’t want better, not then. I wanted my pride back. I wanted to know why she didn’t want me. I wanted to know why, despite my best efforts, despite J school, the front-page stories and the breakfasts with editors who told me how great I was, I was still heading back to the place I had tried so hard to get away from. Driving back to Vail, I meant to take Interstate 80. I knew I was in no condition to meet up with my old traveling companion, The Loneliest Road in America. Somehow, though, with my head a mush of regret, I missed the turnoff at Sacramento, and I-80 turned into Route 50 all on its own. I didn’t even notice until I was past south Lake Tahoe and out in the wilds. It started raining as soon as it was too late to turn back. I should have stayed in Fallon, but there were too many miles to go and, besides, it was just rain.
By the time I was approaching Austin, where the shoulders drop off the road as it winds through the mountains, the rain had turned to snow. By the time I was past Austin, with 70-some miles to make Eureka, the snow had turned to a blizzard. Visibility was about 10 feet. I slowed to a crawl and put on my hazards. If I stopped, a truck would come up behind and crush me, but there was almost no way to go on. One wrong move would send me tumbling down a hillside where I would have to wait days or weeks for someone to find my charred body. I should have kept the ring, I thought. How poetic if the ring was the only thing left to identify me.