I bragged that after six days on the road, I was only on my second T-shirt. I wouldn’t have taken off the first one, had it not been for the stains that were either beer or coffee, maybe both. We did around four hours driving each day, started stealing creamer packets from the restaurants and saving them for our campfire coffees; Dawn had the idea to take the butter too, and use it for cooking.
I felt like we were the bad American family on a European vacation who thinks they can see everything in a week. And we tried to, down the Oregon coast and up again between Seattle and the California Redwoods.
Our friends Chris and Wendy live near Klamath Falls, which isn’t saying much because most people don’t know where that is, and that’s one of the reasons they live there. I sat on a lawn chair with Chris facing West, over the lake and through the trees, past a pile of branches and lawn waste he had planned for a bonfire in October.
He warned us about the midges, how they rise in a swarm and make an unsettling sound but they don’t live more than a day and don’t bite, don’t eat, they just get into everything.
The girls had Coke for the first time out of a can, and watched Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, while we sat drinking beer on the porch, as the night fell. Chris encouraged me to pee outside as long as I wasn’t in sight of a neighbor’s window. The neighbors occasionally sent one of their kids over on a bike with a mason jar for a cup of wine, for cooking.
We went on from there to the High Desert Museum outside of Bend, learned about raptors and looked at dummy owls and eagles puncturing their prey with talons, fake blood running from the claw mark, exhibits showing each type of raptor with a button you could press to hear what they sounded like.
I took a shower in the campground and regarded myself in the mirror, how I resembled a criminal on the run with my hair combed back looking clean, but only part-clean, still dirty beneath.
After Quiet Hours in the campground, you can hear the sounds of the campers bedding down, how the conversation gets low and they start getting into the meat of it, all it is they wanted to say and never got to, saved for this moment by the campfire, late summer after the stars are out.
We drive on south, had to buy paper maps because you can’t see anything through a fucking postage stamp, on a phone. Some day we’ll scatter a code in the air and conjure scenes at will, tied to the Cloud or the Web or the Net: tied, “Connected.” We’ll spread it in the air like pixie dust from our hands, like magicians.
We admire the clouds through the windows, through the trees, and I call out to the girls, Look…!
But they get tired of it and anything I say, and I do the same, getting tired of them and of myself, of hearing me bark at them from the driver’s seat as the miles pass, the meter runs down, and we estimate the time of arrival at the next town, how long it will take, and how long we will stay. We scoop out the moments and try to save them, the four of us, still a bit green, we should know better but probably never will. Knowing’s not as important as living right now.