When driving, one can see how the land stretches, like pulling a sheet over a bed. But mountain ranges cannot be smoothed out with a swift shake. We had left when it was still dark, and now the light is brimming over each valley. He slept and I drove. I drove as he slept. I watch the land change and it’s not until I open a bag of white cheddar popcorn that he wakes up and offers to take over.
It takes hours to get out of Los Angeles. I drink a sugar free Redbull and watch the buildings disintegrate along the highway, transfiguring themselves as rock walls and mounds of dirt. He sleeps on his hoodie, crumbled up into a ball as a makeshift pillow. The part of our relationship where we dated and made promises to each other is long over, but we both wanted to go to see the red rock country in Sedona, Arizona. We have enough weed and pills to make it three days in the dessert.
The red of the Sedona mountains is more like a dusty orange, rust colored, like what happens when you look under your faucet, below and inside the cabinets. There are tarantulas petrified in tequila. There are ice cream shops that sell malted milkshakes with lines out the door. He notices a sadness in me that not even the vortexes of this town can take away, the twisted roots and turquoise necklaces, the coyotes and the dust. All the dust. He wants me to be happy and I tell him that I am trying. He holds my hand as we hike infamous rock formations. He rubs my shoulders in the hot tub at night when we’ve had too much to drink. But when the maid accidentally calls him my husband he laughs and I realize what is and what could never be. I am holding a hair dryer and she has come by to drop off towels. Half of my hair is still wet and he flips through channels on the television and he is not my husband and I am no one to anyone and I’m not sure I’ll be okay when it’s over.
I am wrapped in a white sheet on a white bed without a bed frame. It is very comfortable though, like a cloud stolen out of the sky, and warm somehow, like our bodies had generated enough heat to last until morning. Beds are always cold until you make love in them. I collect my necklace from the side table and find I had placed it on a condom wrapper. I will later give this same necklace as a gift to a girl I don’t like very much because it was her birthday and I didn’t want to buy her a present.
I watch him smoke, naked, outside. I think to myself, This is real life. I’m not thinking about God. I’m looking for humanity.
He asks if I want to go for breakfast so we take his green truck, the one he no longer has, and we get burritos with eggs and cheese and bacon and avocado and I’ve never had such a thing before. He buys me a green juice and we share it on the way back to his place. I get a call from my new job and the service is spotty. He parks and I get out of the car and wander off a bit down the dirt road. He lights up a smoke and I continue walking. I walk far enough to where I can see the water out, out there. On the line, the lady tells me to come in on Monday. She says to bring identification. I think about how it all ends when you start something new.
He calls a few weeks later, after I took too many sleeping pills but woke up anyway. He says he wants to meet up for lunch and I say Yes, but then when the day comes I cancel last minute, and I lay in bed and watch the day turn to night. I won’t be myself again for a while.
On another day, later, in the future, I drive out to Silver Lake to watch a movie with my coworker. I smoke too much and when he wants to go to sleep, I drive myself home. I have leftover pasta from dinner in the car and I eat it out of the container with my hands. It reminds me of when I was a little and ate plain penne with my fingers. No one ever told me to stop. No one ever told me it was wrong.
Brittany Ackerman is a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. In 2016 she completed a residency at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, as well as the Mont Blanc Workshop in Chamonix, France under the instruction of Alan Heathcock. She recently attended the Methow Valley Workshop in May of 2017 under the leadership of Ross Gay. She is currently living in Los Angeles and working on a novel of fiction.