We are all, at some point in our lives, handed an envelope of sorts. In that envelope – sometimes crisp, sometimes worn and wrinkled, depending – are two decisions. One from your bones, one from your brainwashed head. If you lack passion, go for the head. But I say go for the bones.
Always go for the bones.
I met my first crossroads when I was eighteen. The day after graduation I was behind the wheel of my father’s pickup, winding my back way from a friend’s, when I spotted her: sweat pants, loose tee, the curve of one shoulder on point in the sinking sunlight. An old handbag clapped against her side as she weaved through trash and high grass on the side of a back road. Before the stop sign I’d already noticed her thumbing it like clockwork. I still don’t know what pressed my foot to the break pedal instead of the gas.
A jumble of words filled the air and she was in the leather cab, the handbag on the seat between us. I cleared my throat, she shifted and rested an elbow on the windowsill. The window was up and she turned her head towards blurred houses. Her fogged breath sprayed in circles on the glass. I focused on green lights until there was a red one and I asked her name as the truck idled.
“Nancy,” she said. She had some kind of accent, something nasally. I though of the city, what she was doing here. I nodded and twisted my grip on the steering wheel. “Take me to the nearest motel,” she’d asked. I managed to avoid passing any in town, and headed far out with methodical turns. She stayed relaxed. My mind raced.
“Here” I said, parking. A tan, rectangular building and a neon sign, that was all. The highest curve of the sun was peaking from behind it. I smiled. “Let me pay, it’s the least I can do.” As if the ride hadn’t been enough, she didn’t object.
I slipped the credit card back into my wallet, we headed through the parking lot to 32B, I opened the door. She had nothing but the handbag, nothing I could offer to carry. “Thanks,” she mumbled, holding the knob. Suddenly her face was a landside of realization. I stared at the navy carpet from the doorway. Her grip loosened like the waving of a white flag. Her whole, complicated life, had it all come to this? Maybe it was nothing new.
I stepped inside.