One year ago today—at this very moment—I was somewhere on the road between Las Vegas and Indianapolis. After less than five months from the day I moved to Vegas, I was moving back. I was broke. I was jobless. I was homeless. And I was driving a 2001 Chevy Blazer with a faulty driver’s side door latch that caused the door to fling open while driving. On a highway. At high speeds. I don’t need to tell you how harrowing that made the experience.
Of all the moments on the road, my lasting memory of that drive will be fighting with that damn door for 1800 miles. I swear, it was a microcosm of my life, or some such thing. Here I am, trying to get from one point in my life to another, but can’t even focus on the task at hand for fear the car door will rip from its hinges and be left laying on an interstate somewhere in Oklahoma.
Even with the anxiety caused by the door (to say nothing of the anxiety of not having a job or any prospects thereof…or two pennies to rub together), it did bring me to a moment on the road that crystalized that entire experience.
Dead of night, somewhere in New Mexico on I-40, I had to stop and (once again) address the door. Pulling off a major highway in the middle of East Jesus Nowhere, New Mexico is not the same as around a major metropolitan area. The strip of asphalt you’re on is cutting through miles of wide open spaces with little civilization around. I exited the highway and parked on what appeared to be a dirt road leading to a ranch or something. There may have been a farmhouse somewhere in the distance, but it was pitch-black dark outside. The only light I could see, aside from my headlights, were stars dotting the midnight sky. And, oh my, the stars I could see. Even though my car door was stressing me out, I was able to take a moment and take in my surroundings and appreciate what I was seeing.
The flat lands were covered with hard, brown dirt and brush. The cool night air was crisp, but bearable. The sky was dark, but the stars were so brilliant I couldn’t help but take it in. And the quiet. The highway was barely 20 feet from me, but empty. The only thing I could hear was my breathing. I imagine this particular spot where I stood receives more horse traffic than cars. I say that because I had to navigate a minefield of horse “exhaust” as I walked around my car.
That moment in my life—though most remarkable by the uncertainty of where I was heading (and if I was going to make it in my car)—is still among my most favorite. Because here I was, standing somewhere in the middle of New Mexico deep in the night, enjoying the tranquility all around me.
I don’t know why, but that moment means a lot to me. Even in East Jesus Nowhere.