I stand in an Econo-Lodge parking lot in the hour of the wolf, bronzed by the glow of the Walmart and Waffle House logos across the street. The only noise is the highway, which sounds like an angry sea. I’m fantasizing about the desert again, where everyone is on Plan C or D, transforming their lives into myth. Some say there’s a woman known as the Voice of the Red Rocks who lives in an abandoned Death Valley church and knows all the answers. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll point the car west.
An hour ago I stood in line at the Gas ‘n Go behind a furious man with a pistol tucked into the elastic waistband of his sweatpants, yelling that the cashier only gave him three Powerball tickets when he should’ve gotten four. I bowed my head and thought about patience and chance. The manager had to intervene and everybody narrowly avoided getting shot. Near pump number nine, a woman in the passenger seat of a jumbo pick-up truck wiped away some tears. She caught me watching and I turned away and began fiddling with the radio.
A news report at the top of the hour told me that we’re still arguing about whether guns kill people and kicking around new ways to ruin the poor. Standing in the grass near every highway ramp, you’ll find a man holding a cardboard sign. Sometimes it says veteran, sometimes it says father, but it always says hungry. Sometimes I give him a dollar, but I usually look the other way. I hate these moments when my nation not only feels ugly and mean, it looks like a mirror. I stand in the parking lot and think about what to do next.