Death in New Mexico

Have you found your epiphany now? Asked Cal in a voice that sounded dream-like.

Since the final miles of west Texas everything had seemed like a dream, and in New Mexico, the sky grew violet-like and the desert appeared almost immediately. The road now gradually rose and fell, and plateaus appeared on the plain like ships of a silent fleet emerging from the horizon, being born as the sun began its final descent. Cal and I had remained pretty quiet for the past hour or so, every so often making a brief mention of the changing scenery.

“So how about that Columbus fella?” Cal asked.

“Yea he was something else,” I said. I was still thinking of my father.

He too drove trucks for a living, but unlike Columbus, he didn’t reach retirement with a cabin back in the east. He was in an accident when I was three years old, and I was told that it happened somewhere in these parts. The more I thought about it, I realized that it might have been this very highway, Interstate 40. I couldn’t remember for sure, but I knew it was somewhere here in New Mexico.

Still I didn’t tell Cal any of these things, for these were truths that I hardly addressed even to myself. I couldn’t think about my father and so instead I only thought about me.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Why do you want to be him? Colombus?”

“Did I say that?”

“Yea, you said ‘That’s the kind of man I’d like to be.'”

“Oh. Well. He moves. He lived for himself and kept his eyes open. He’s the kind who is constantly focused on himself and on what he’s feeling, a student of the world and of the people he meets and of his experience. And from that, everything else…the job, the cabin, the marriage…”


“Well all those things just sort of came from that.”

“You don’t think you move enough?”

“I think I think too much.”

Try as I might to avoid doing so, as I had for much of my life, I continued to think of my father. The strongest memory I had of him was more of a feeling. A song. I don’t remember the look on his face when he played it, nor the way he held the guitar or anything like that, but I do remember the sound of his voice and the way he played it. “Blackbird”.

A part of me felt that he was still alive somewhere. I pictured him living in peaceful solitude maybe somewhere in the Bahamas. Captain of his own boat. Living as a Caribbean gypsy. A fisherman. A man of the island stars, of the shadows and the crashing waves, playing his guitar like a ghost in the light of the island moon. “Blackbird, fly….”

Tonight, across a terrifying and awesome desert, I saw no moon yet, but still a beaming sun sinking slow into the horizon.

“How many lil’ honky tonk bars you think there are around here?” I asked, searching for any sign of civilization over the massive expanse.

“Probably many.”

“I could spend a whole buncha time out here,” I said. “I could be here and just live. Go and play in old saloons. With my guitar and just play. I’d just play. I’d start writing my own songs and I’d play for the people.”

“Oh hells yea brotha!,” shouted Cal. “But look, there ain’t nobody out here! Haha! ‘Cept some crows and lizards, and some coyotes.”

“I don’t know what I am doing anymore, man.”

“Listen. I’ll tell you what you are doing,” Cal said. “You’re doing it, you’re doing it right now,” His eyes were fixed and narrow as he gazed out toward the west.

“Well maybe I’ve found my epiphany now.”

“Nah man, you’ve just found the beginning of it. It’s the kind you don’t reach the end of until you die.”

I knew my father died somewhere in New Mexico. I knew too that if what Cal was saying was true, then a part of me would have to die that night. It would die. And as the sun finally set and the desert sky grew black, I bid it all a final farewell. I never looked back.

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