You are twenty-six, so you know everything about anything. You know a train goes by your shotgun apartment as often as you choose to notice the whistle. You know winter. You know how to politely say, “Fuck You.” You know how to make a graceful exit. You lie to yourself. You don’t heed warnings. You don’t eat well. You exercise to say you did. You write poems. You drink. One day, you get in your car and you drive. You don’t ask anyone if you should go. You just go. There’s a man waiting for you. There’s a dog in your backseat, not your dog, but the man’s dog, and she keeps her mismatched eyes on the road. There are poems on the floor of the backseat, not yours, but you wish they were yours. You turn your head to grin at the dog; the dog is looking at the road. You think, “Look what I’ve done.” You don’t feel twenty-six. You don’t want to die. You watch a truck pass the center lane, hit the guard rail in front of you, jerk back, and then roll. You see in the rear-view mirror when the driver stands up in the dirt on the side of the road. You are as cool as a cucumber. You add understanding that phrase to everything you know. You shake. The dog whines. She has to pee. You have to pee. You get a “You’re-not-from-around-here” look in the next convenience store. And at the sight of the first towering saguaro, you know you’re not from around here — add that to the everything you know. You add the particular sky blue. You add mountains, sorbet in the sun, then red clay in the dying light. You add armadillos. You drive. Hands at ten and two. Five and seven. Four. You should stop again, but you won’t, not until you get to Phoenix.
We keep a case of Budlight in the fridge. We keep drinking. We keep the crockpot the griddle the blender on the shelf created by the cabinets beside the fridge. We keep a stack of unpaid bills in the single drawer next to the bed. We keep the vibrator on top of the stack of bills. We keep banging the walls. We keep the walls up. We keep still. We keep looking for the other sock. We keep sleeping in the unmade bed. We keep fixing the fitted sheet. We keep moving. We keep a stash of love letters in a bag in the back of the closet. We keep the cat off the table. We keep the dog from running away. We keep looking for the other sock. We keep dirty laundry in the blue bin. We keep not having important conversations. (We have never seen rain like monsoon season in the desert — all the lights off, the heavy green curtains of the motel room drawn back, and palm trees bending away.) We keep picking up the phone. We keep putting the phone down. We keep looking for the other sock. We keep running.
He keeps a case of Budlight in the fridge. I keep drinking. The crockpot the griddle the blender sit on the shelf created by the cabinets beside the fridge. I stack my unpaid bills in the single drawer next to the bed. I keep the vibrator on top of my stack of bills. He bangs the bed against the wall. I keep the walls up. I keep looking for the other sock. I keep still. We keep sleeping in the unmade bed. I fix the fitted sheet. In my head I keep moving. I hide new love letters in the bag in the back of the closet. The cat won’t stay off the table. The dog doesn’t run away. I keep looking for the other sock. The dirty laundry is in the blue bin. He will not start an important conversation unless he’s drunk. (There is no rain like monsoon season in the desert — all the lights off, the thick emerald curtains of the motel room drawn back, the palm trees bending away. There is lightning and thunder in our hearts.) I keep picking up the phone. I keep putting the phone down. We never find the other sock.
Dear Phoenix, I’m sorry, but I had to go. I called my mother, and told her I was coming home. I slept in the other bed — the dog’s bed — the bed covered in our packed possessions. If he cared he would’ve gotten in the dog’s bed with me last night, not fall straight away to sleep like he always does. How does anyone fall straight away to sleep, like how do jumbo jets lift off the ground? And if he cared, how could he help me unpack our tossed-together things: our underwear, the socks, the DVDs, collected papers. I repacked my car. I put the cat in the carrier, to lie on his t-shirt. Dear Phoenix, I said I would go. If he cared he would say so. If he cared he would’ve gone, and gotten the new letter from the trash. If someone said it would end over a letter, I would’ve said What is this a Soap Opera? I would have said How Tragically Romantic. Really, we were cold, distant. I had to go. The morning was dark as night, and I hadn’t seen outside at 4am in months. Phoenix, I was surprised how, finally, you accepted winter. My breath fogged the windshield of my car. It was time to go. This was my fault. No one smiles at an ultimatum. Do this or do that. Do this or I will do that. I had to go. I said I would leave. I said This is Over Unless You Get That Letter Back, which he didn’t do. So, it was over. Dear Phoenix, I am sorry. I wish I could stop doing things I’ll have to apologize for later. There were times on the 101 in traffic that I loved you. Those were the times I believed unconditional love was possible as the sun was leaving the desert, the sky was purple, and, improbably orange. Those were the times I felt like I deserved to be forgiven.