I stepped off the bus into the desert heat with nothing but my guitar case in my hand. As the driver searched the bottom compartment for my luggage, I took in the scene.
A long, lonely highway stretched to the horizon across a landscape that had more in common with the moon than the planet I knew. The mountains loomed in the distance a rusty brown and green. The ground was powdered red dirt and rock sparsely dotted with scrub brush and stunted evergreens. There was no grass and not a soul for miles.
“Nope, it’s not here,” declared the driver as he slammed a stainless baggage door closed. “Must have gotten lost when you changed buses in Oklahoma. You’ll have to call and get them to put a trace on it.”
“Okay,” I answered, expecting more. Instead, he slammed the last compartment door, turned around, climbed on the bus, folded the door closed and drove away, blowing a heavy cloud of hot diesel smoke in my face for emphasis.
Well, this was different.
Thirty-six cramped hours and two busses ago I’d left my family and friends a few days before my high school graduation ceremony. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home alone. Now, on the advice of a friend, I was standing in the dirt beside a highway in the desert over a thousand miles away holding a guitar, watching the bus disappear around a distant curve.
There was no one to meet me as promised. It was a good first lesson on how things worked out here.
I spun a three-sixty looking for civilization. There was a deserted gas station by the exit that looked like it had been built to refuel wagon trains on the Santa Fe trail. There was no pay phone since pioneers had no one to call. Near the horizon I saw a steeple that I recognized from a photo.
I’d learned that distances can be deceiving in a place not smothered in pine trees like my home. I’d watched the mountains appear on the long bus ride and waited most of a day for them to actually arrive. It could be hours across the desert to the steeple on foot.
If noon sun and thirst didn’t get me then the rattlesnakes probably would. But I couldn’t see the advantage of standing here until dark when the coyotes started to howl. Maybe I could defend myself with my guitar, or serenade them, or build a fire with it.
Given the options, I started walking.
To be continued . . .
Photo by joannapoe via Flickr