The Road to Santa Fe

by Geoff Jones

It’s eleven hours to Santa Fe… The road is
Lonely, but I am not… Occasional beams of
Silver light predict the arrival of cars and
Trucks from vast distances ahead… Over
The tar and tumbleweed… They remind me
That I am far away from everywhere… But
Nonetheless headed in the right direction…
The radio and a gallon of coffee, undefiled
By designer flavors and exotic spices, deny
My eyelids permission to close…

You are on my mind… Weighty… But not
Heavy… Welcoming and warm… I smile as
I come to realize there’s nothing in life that’s
Worth a damn if you aren’t there to share it
With… And so… I’m on my way back… Soon
We’ll be sharing breakfast at Pasqual’s…

A song I have never heard before escapes from
The dashboard and pierces the stillness of this
Frigid December night… The lyrics rattle me a
Bit, but I like them:

“A candle flickers in an empty window
While guitars and widows weep
Mothers in bath robes lost in prayer
For children’s souls to keep

Late night movies in black and white
In faint nostalgia glow
Unread books on wooden night stands
Attest to all we know

Real life games of cops and robbers
In boardrooms, banks, and streets
Blood is spilled without a cause
Where saints and felons meet

A bride meanders down the aisle
The groom in panic waits
Neither certain of love professed
As scripture often states

A choir sings American Pie
The levee is dry as a bone
An anthem shared by aging children
Afraid to die alone

Heart attacks and broken hearts
Each for better or worse
Speeding tickets in outer space
And a joy ride in a hearse

The show goes on no matter what
No matter what they say
And the day before tomorrow is
The beginning of today”

An on-coming car flashes its lights at me
Frantically… I am startled back into the
Moment and veer to the right… The cars
Pass each other harmlessly… But that’s
How quickly it all can end… Life lived on
The tip of a fountain pen… An ending as
Subtle as a drive-by shooting… But not
Now… Not here at this very moment…
Not in the impenetrable depth of this
Boundless New Mexican sky…

A truck stop identifies itself from a few miles
Away in a cluster of red and yellow neon
That hovers in a haze over the horizon… The
Sign welcomes anyone in need of a breather…
I am running on empty with a bladder that
Screams out desperately for relief…

A hooker wrapped in a parka greets me at
The gas pump with an odd British accent and
Asks if I’m up for a date… She is wildly out of
Place here… She expresses herself politely with
A sense of delicacy that belies the indelicacy of
Her proposition… How she came to this destiny
I’ll never know… But she serves as a reminder
That none of us are ever more than a modest
Stumble away from oblivion… I hand over a
Twenty-dollar bill and reject her offer… I am
Not a consumer of the services she provides…
But she is beyond my reproach or judgment…
Fate is cruel and we all must find a way to
Make ends meet… She thanks me in earnest
For the twenty and ducks in behind a trailer
That is parked in the lot…

The road invites monotony… There is only
So much that can be seen… But there are
No limitations on what can be thought or
Conceived…

The effects of gravity in a vacuum…

The relief in learning that a sixth
Grade wet dream isn’t fatal …

The connection between mortality and
The random chronologies of life…

Jesus Christ… I don’t know anything anymore…
I’m without a clue… I have no answers to these
Absurd ruminations and cosmic queries…

I set aside the musings and let the riddles
And the mysteries wash over me as I soldier
On through the night… I am blanketed in a
Symphony of silence… With noiselessness
Descending upon me from every direction…
My grandfather had a name for times like
These… He called them vacant moments…
Interludes between consciousness… And
Resignation… And of nothingness at all…

And it is in this suspended state…Even if only
For a few seconds… That you feel the closest to
God… These moments can happen at any time
If you’re receptive… And perceptive enough
To recognize them for what they are… God
Can sneak up on you at the drop of a hat… He’s
Funny that way… This is a vacant moment for
Me… Hmm… God… I can tell we are in close
Proximity… I can feel it now…

And then it’s gone as quickly as it came… That’s
The nature of such a moment… That’s the way
It goes… And so I pull myself together and fight
To keep my weary eyes from drooping closed
Until the next truck stop offers another cup of
Coffee and a full tank of gas…

The restroom is dark… A light bulb flickers
On and off over a mirror that is covered
With smudges and streaks… But the mirror
Looks better than my reflection… An empty
Soap dispenser quickly dispels any hope
Of washing my face and hands… There is
Graffiti on the walls… The usual stuff…
Fourth grade verses… Rhymes expressed
With a child’s fascination for bodily functions
And dirty jokes… But one of them catches
My eye… It’s not like the others… It’s artfully
Carved in the exit door so that everyone will
See it as they leave:

“Forging ahead in search of meaning
Wherever you think it is hiding
Something’s there but yet unfound
In faith and doubt confiding

Music changes and fashions fade
But nothing dims the ties
That confine a traveler to a path
Defined by truth and lies

There is no time for hesitation
Minutes mean more than breath
Marathons finished and sprints begun
While trying to outrun death…

Aspiring once to do great things
Claims a multiple offender
He faces fate with apprehension
While submitting to surrender”

I fear for this guy… I hope he doesn’t pull the
Trigger somewhere between now and then…
He is not a lover of life… Of this I am certain…
And that’s the dilemma isn’t it… How we all turn
Into frightened little boys and girls over time…
Like graffiti, the handwriting’s on the wall…
Pilgrims aghast at what they’ve become…

And which is the greater virtue… Forgiveness or
Fidelity… I’ll be damned if I know… And time is an
Emptiness… An aching… That only accounts for the
Space between birth and death without accounting
For itself…

The sun rises and draws a bead on the day… So
Much red earth revealed… There is order in the
Desert… A simple design where everything
Has its place… A stark beauty both secretive and
Candidly frank…

A brief glimpse of the plaza can be seen a few miles
Ahead… Nestled down low… Surrounded by the
Sangre de Cristos… The sun ascends and lights are
Extinguished in adobe dwellings with soft lines
And rounded corners… And it is here in the plaza
That you and I will begin the new year tonight…
The luminarios will burn brightly and families will
Dance and sing…

I see you approach the famed turquoise door in a
Hurry to flee from the cold… You step inside and
Shiver… A weathered waitress pours me a cup of
Freshly brewed coffee as you rush to join me at
The table… She pours a cup for you as well…You
Sit down beside me… I made it back in time…

You smile… And so do I…

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