A town is a thought in the desert that goes against the desert’s flatland thinking. It’s probably a bad thought we keep having. A dry thought in a dry shade.
We aren’t even supposed to be here today. Before this we were pretty much just two people. Other people’s loved ones. Suddenly we’re two people in a situation. When the radiator fan splinters into its car-stopping parts, one of its long black plastic pieces curves into a cheshire smile. That fucking Eagles song.
The car breaks down 12 miles outside of Winslow, AZ. There are some real hateful things to say about Winslow, AZ, but why say them? For starters we can see it when we close our eyes. We don’t close our eyes. There’s that one about the cheating side of town.
Though there must be some somewhere, we don’t see any water in Winslow. We see a La Quinta Inn. We decide this is Winslow’s history. Winslow’s history is pretty much up for grabs. The local high school labors under the banner of a white Bulldog. When it seems clear we’re going to be here forever, we take turns posting up near the corner statue of the Man with the Guitar. It sounds like it could be Picasso but it’s the fucking Eagles.
Two versions of the flatbed Ford. The truck parked on the curb is empty, my lord.
If it feels like the Eagles are always playing somewhere it’s because they are. There’s that one where you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave, and then there’s the La Quinta Inn. By the pool we meet a man who has the first name of a fish. He tells us some people believe the lightning has special powers but he doesn’t go in for that Navajo stuff, we’re not those kinds of Indians, he says, and he and the women he’s with shake with laughter like they’re the ground in a hard rain.
That was the desert. This is the desert. The tapwater in Winslow tastes nothing like riverwater or poolwater or other kinds of water. The High Life tastes like High Life.
This is before the rain sealed off the canyon, before the sun came out and dried up all the rain.
We will never be here again.
Winslow is a vortex for feeling like you’re slowing down to take a look—or else being looked at slowly—from a pickup. Everybody’s cover is blown. Everything’s hard to find. Time splinters into its parts like car parts.
On an aimless walk in the low sun we take long hard looks at Winslow without saying anything about Winslow or anyone in it. It’s an approach we both know how to take to a thing that has both of us in it.
In the La Quinta Inn there’s desire, and there’s the desire to get out of Winslow. This is after the tent, which seems like days ago, lifetimes even, and which was like a radiator, in that it flooded, and which was like Winslow, in that it had both of us in it. About what happened in the tent before the radiator, before Winslow, nobody’s saying.
It must be hard, one of us ventures, having seven women on one’s mind. And this not even being the one about our lyin’ eyes. That night we watch a movie we both love without speaking. There’s a consensus about vortexes, about what kind of scarf and shirt combo makes a real musician.
The last part, love without speaking, maybe that’s it.
And just outside of Winslow, all the signs say, there’s some tourist thing we know we’ll never visit. A long time ago a fire in the sky became a stone that hurled itself down, scooped a hole in the earth about a mile wide. Now it’s an empty lake.