All I do anymore is drive. I’m not kidding, it’s been months. I go around the Southwest in circles. Truth or Consequences, Durango, Yucca Valley, Flagstaff, Moab. When I’m not driving I’m sleeping in the back of the car. It makes me feel how you should feel here: isolated, exposed, alone.
I gave up on motels somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. They were sketchy; I figured I’d be safer if I just hid. What you want to do is stick your car somewhere inconspicuous yet still in view, some place that won’t arouse the curiosity of do-gooders or thieves. Don’t get out of the car. Wait until no one’s paying attention and then slide into the backseat. If you have whiskey, drink it; if you don’t, you stopped too soon.
Trying to fall asleep is the hardest part. In sleep, the you who isn’t will find truth: no tossing and turning, no being, just the abyss. No way of reaching it is better than the other. Curled uncomfortably in the backseat will do.
The first time I slept in the back of the car was at some gas station off Interstate 8. The next morning I woke up feeling oddly exuberant. Hell had frozen over, the air was crisp, and I could see my warm breath. The miserliness of a cold night’s sleep had purified me.
My first waking thought of where the hell am I gave way to a clear understanding that I have never forgotten: This is peace—I’ve synced myself with my circumstances. Just after dawn and with no one around, I cracked open the car door, crouched outside and had a piss. Right as rain.
It isn’t easy to do, syncing self and circumstance. Most of my life I’ve indulged and then tried to adjust the circumstances to fit. In love with two people at once? Convince them both it’s not a big deal. Want to run from all your obligations? Drop everything and everyone and just do it. Etcetera. I’m a fantastically manipulative person so it usually works. Like a heavy planet, I exert force. I literally bend the world around me, altering the course of other bodies, bringing them toward me, setting them in motion. It’s quite beautiful to watch.
But alas, it grows dull. Dull and lonely. If you are gravity, you move things. But what moves you? God did not so much as rest on the seventh day—he got bored. Bored of adjusting the world to his imagination, bored of thinking that what he did mattered.
Bored of love! If I were him, I’d hit the road. I’d curl up in the backseat and just give in to nothingness.
What an asshole. Not him—me. Still, when I look at the immense night sky, I trust that someone, anyone, perhaps even he, eventually found peace. Adjusted not the world but himself. Myself. Adjusting myself. That is what I do now. If my circumstance was always to adjust others, I twist myself now so there are no others. I renounce my influence, I affect no one. I give up the gravity and float away. It’s just me, my thoughts, my breath, my piss.
I am my own problem, and with no one around it’s not a problem at all.
In the desert I am obscured, inconspicuous. I can throw myself away and trust it will dissipate across the empty landscape, fade like dust into the night sky.
Only, the stars—they don’t like conspicuousness. If I stare at them long enough, they erase what I’ve projected on them. The dots I’ve connected disappear. The only person I ever really manipulated was myself. I so wanted to believe I had any influence at all that I created a flattering universe that proved it.
The abysmal emptiness of the desert is the only place big enough for my swollen sense of self to fit in to.
I will never really know: there is no vantage point to drive to from which to watch and see. Perspective requires a fixed point; I drive and drive these endless miles as if stuck in a loop. Yet I feel just under me, or just above, is the other side. This landscape is vast but flat, as is the universe, meaning there is nowhere to hide. I flatter myself to think I can curl up in the abyss and disappear, but flattery has gotten me nowhere. This landscape is vast but flat, as is the universe, but human life is a Möbius strip: flat, yet paradoxically so. You can’t help but make it to the other side—all you have to do is keep moving. All I do anymore is drive.
Melissa Mesku is a writer and editor in New York City.