January 1, 2019
I had a long conversation with the poodle (Helen) about how cute she is. We’ve had this very talk many times before, but we never get tired of it. We maintained eye contact throughout. We are really communicating, soul to soul. I went outside for my second cup of coffee on the porch wrapped in a blanket. Helen peed and surveyed: an ominous sunrise today. A reddish glow coated the mountaintops like glaze, gray and subdued everywhere else. The sky was the same brownish gray as the sand.
I exchanged 14,000 texts with my long distance beau. We enthusiastically exclaimed to each other that we were working away as we spoke. I cooked Helen a cheese omelet and sprayed it with her tooth-brushing spray.
I started panicking about the caravan. My friend Rachel agreed to fly out here and watch my teen and my poodle for two weeks so I could go talk with people and write about it, but it suddenly occurred to me that border agents don’t even let volunteers give water bottles, so why did I think I could just go talk to whoever I want?
Then text messages with my beau who wanted to go to the border with me but was going to France instead. Our tone seemed to me full of longing and things not said, but it’s hard to tell with texts. My life is so everywhere but here.
I took Helen for a long and sniff-ful walk. A tumbleweed blew past. My first tumbleweed and my first dust devil amazed me, but this was about my thousandth one. I guess it still does amaze me even now. I am the only person ever on the streets. No one walks here. Ever! Not even to walk their dogs. Animals work. Dogs guard. Donkeys eat weeds. Chickens lay eggs. Not many cats at all. Because there’s so little grass, I guess there isn’t much of a mouse population. So there’s no job for the cats. And pets are largely neglected and live outdoors, so when coyotes come down from the mountains at night, they eat the cats. Also, pets get into poison a lot. I’m not sure why there’s so much poison around here, but there sure seems to be. People don’t mean to be cruel. It’s just the way of the land and the belief that life might be short and hard, but any fate is better than not being free to roam. We’ve got the last cowboys here, very creaky now. And the poverty is overwhelming.
I would say the solitude is overwhelming too, but that makes it sound thick. It’s the opposite feeling. Like your soul is being dehydrated. Not like you’re dying, you’re just getting…tough, flat. I feel like a silhouette.
I’m someone who believes in no borders but moved to a town with an ordinance forbidding flying foreign flags. But I only found out about that ordinance from Wikipedia; it’s not like you could really tell. There are a ton of veterans here. A certain kind of veteran is attracted to Pahrump—the easily spooked kind, who wants to be left alone to work on some thing. But really left alone. That’s why I came here too, I suppose.
Phone service and electricity and highways going in and out only came to Pahrump in the late 1960s. A high school in the ’70s. Even today internet is spotty on the north end, where the apocalyptic weirdos and I live. (They still think of the web as a spy machine, so there is no demand for companies to invest in cell towers here. And people like solar panels and do-it-yourself and doing without.) I had to wait four months for wifi. Phone calls cut out, too. No movie theater, and the TV plays mostly westerns and other black and whites.
My daughter read my aura. She’s 16, and pretty much all teen girls are witchy—those are her qualifications to read auras. Mine came out as white, or blank. I feel like all of Pahrump’s aura is white and blank. It’s static.
Those are all the things I thought about on my silent walk with Helen.
After many days of mix-ups, I finally met up with the family who wanted to buy Helen’s unopened pack of pee pads from OfferUp. What a happy-go-lucky attitude they displayed about pain and death. We met in a parking lot. The lady emerged from an SUV with a walker and said, “I brought my brother along too, so we got a car full of gimps. And here’s my son I told you about. He has bone cancer, so it’s just a matter of time.”
The son said, “I’m 51. I’ve fit most life activities in. I’m all right with it.”
I said, “You got a pretty cockatoo.”
The lady said, “Is it in its cage? Oh. It’s on the steering wheel!”
I said, “It’s a freebird.”
I told the lady that I wanted to be friends, and she said, “Let’s do it!”
Maybe I’m finally going to make some friends around here. This is the most hopeful I’ve been since I can’t remember when. She’s about 80. I hoped she wouldn’t die right away!
I made baked potatoes and acorn squash for dinner. You have to cook all your meals in Pahrump if you’re vegan because none of the restaurants—most of them are buffets in casinos—have even heard of vegan, much less cater to one. I also have to order food items off the internet. One time in Walmart I asked a stocker if they had tofu, and she laughed and yelled out to a shopper, “Hey, you know what ‘tofu’ is?” And the shopper yelled back, “Yeah, it’s disgusting, that’s what it is!” Another shopper chimed in: “Not for dinner, that’s what I say it is.” Oh, they laughed and laughed. They must’ve thought I was a Californian. (I’m not. I’m even worse—an East Coaster.) Everyone in Pahrump thinks the Californians are coming and stealing all our stuff.
I put Helen in her basket on my bike. It’s nice that in the coldest month of the year, I only need a sweatshirt. We watch the sky turn orange then purple then blue-black, then light again in the moonlight. We glide safely down carless streets. The moon is so bright it feels like a spotlight on us.
When we got home, the Music Man was on. Well, all right!
Then there were many words about love sent and received between the faraway fella and me, each in our respective beds, descriptions of sensations instead of touch.