Extension of 35, free write for book idea
I leave undulating burnt orange hills behind me at 80 mph, creating a constant but wavering line in my peripheral vision. I haven't seen a car from either direction in 20 minutes. I don't know where I am, in the specific geographical sense. Somewhere in Nevada between gas stations. I've put complete trust for my wellbeing and safety in the GPS application on a small handheld device. The device has been malfunctioning, on account of the transmission inhibiter I installed before leaving. It allows my phone to send and receive only from a collection of private satellites which I have been assured are spared from the government's Mobile Protection Program, which has followed me since the age of 16. Blindly, I have followed this GPS application to what appears to be the uninhabitable portion of the SW USA. Sweat drops down either side of my face because I refuse to use the air conditioning. I am a homeless, jobless, partnerless vagrant and AC seems like a luxury that a homeless, jobless, partnerless vagrant is unworthy of.
My breathing has not settled. My breathing is as staccato and shallow as it was 14 hours ago when I left. My back is bent and rigid as I clutch the wheel at 10 and 2, my long fingers nearly white from my strained grip. I do not feel anything, as usual, but my body reacts to the situation despite my unfeeling.
The midday sun hits me directly in the face and sneaks into the gap between my sunglasses and my forehead. It doesn't really bother me because there is nothing and no one to watch out for. Perhaps during the previous 14 hours of driving, some apocalyptic forces have wiped out the rest of humanity, because I am feeling an undeniable sense of existential and physical aloneness as I traverse the arid lands of Nevada in my vehicle. Not even the muffled country tunes, nor the once-in-a-while generic desert bush, give me hope that I am not suddenly the last poor soul on earth. But I'm not sure I would mind. Alone never sounded so good. Being noticed, well, being seen, is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
I've only been seen by a man once, and it was briefly, and more like he was seeing me in a mirror than in person. I met him in my line of work under unfortunate circumstances. Do you know what it's like to be seen? It's like being split open down the middle, fingers reaching down between your two rib cages and pulling them apart, and then every little hidden thing inside you spills out onto the floor in a big goopy mess. And you try to quickly scoop it up but you're obviously incapacitated and you just have to sit there and watch it ooze and look at the person who is seeing. I was able to bring my ribs back together but only after days of being paralyzed in the astonishment of having been driven to such intense emotion by someone simply understanding me.
My line of work requires me to see others regularly and I've become numb to that side of it. My subjects can hide very little from me. I know about their families and their college crushes and sometimes I also know about very terrible things they have done. Truly seeing somebody is acknowledging that the good, brilliant, compassionate parts of people do not have to be tainted by the dark, wrong parts. Everyone has good and evil in them, but I judge character by which parts they are consistently willing to give power to.
My work subjects tend to know very little about me, but sometimes I slip and let something through. This is what happened with Foster, and why he was able to split open my ribcage despite my intent to keep it together. I was not prepared for that crucification. That's what if felt like - being splayed and held up on a cross for all beings and gods to see. I didn't like it at the time, but I like thinking about it as I drive further and further away from my job and reality and anyone else who knows me.
I am better off not being seen. In the spiritual sense but also in all other senses. I died my hair right before I left for the road - dark, flat brown. I cut it into a cute little housewife bob and it barely moves as the wind whips in through my cracked window. I hate it, but I think that's good. If I hate my hair, the cut won't look like something I would choose, and therefore I won't appear to be me, even to someone who knows me well.
I keep driving and eventually end up on the outskirts of Las Vegas at a gas station that charges entirely too much. I buy gas anyway, because what other option do I have. I stand outside my car and pretend to stretch. I've never been so physically tested by an activity that mostly involves sitting and occasionally raising my arm to change radio stations. I'm feeling a little tired, even though it's only 5 pm, so I go into the little store of processed foods and buy a coke. I am addicted to coke, and not even the sexy, businessman kind. I get back in my car and on to the freeway before I chug half the bottle and spend the next ten minutes burping as loudly as I can.
It takes two hours to go 50 miles because The State of Nevada is doing construction on the highway and I am all but royally irritated until I remember that I have paid good tax money to drive on smooth, safe roads and The State of Nevada is fulfilling that promise.
I finally make it. It's night by now, but Las Vegas is more alive than ever. There is a large group of cars clustered around the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign and I have to swerve quickly to avoid hitting their bumpers. I definitely do not want to get the attention of a police officer. I slow down to 2 MPH over the speed limit, which I've determined is the optimal speed to limit all potential law enforcement suspicion. I am in search of a feeling, and I think Las Vegas will be the most excellent place to find it.