The Desert Therapist
I was motoring toward a town called Feldspar, out there on the edge of the nothing land, that deep, crusted sandbox of California, the dim and salty place where the heat stirs like a devil and your own loneliness is echoed. I wasn’t too sure what was going on in the belfry lately, the bells were there and gently clanging, at times misfiring, must be my neurons or electrons or the emojicons in my brain. Regardless of what the science is, I’m never the same person all the time. I am liquid. I am fluid. I break and spill. I flow and damage. Other times I am as still as an unmuddied lake beneath an azure sky, brushstrokes against a canvas of lapis lazuli. It was always difficult to uncover my own thoughts, let alone decipher them.
Driving can be therapy. There’s something soothing about driving alone in the middle of nowhere. It’s akin to survival almost, because what would happen if the car broke down and I was miles from anything. What would happen to me? I would have to survive. That’s a sort of ridiculous notion considering all the eyes on us always — the cameras, the satellites, the snipers with their cell phones. It’s not the 1800s. Someone would find me sooner or later, that is, if I wanted to be found. Sometimes, I do not. Sometimes, I think it would be better to just sink down into the Earth and never return.
As I drove, I started thinking about astral projection and dreams and wondering if they were the same thing. I had a dream last night where I was playing volleyball with balloons, and I wasn’t very good at it. My strikes were continually misguided, and the other players were down on me, so down on me that it came to the point if the ball was coming toward me, they would yell for me to just get out of the way. I quit, walked away because I was purely fed up with people being down on me. I went off to some haunted house and looked out some windows at weird people looking in at me. It was unsettling. I woke up. The sheets were crumpled. Her scent was gone. I looked to my left. Her skin was gone. She was gone. Was it forever? I remembered I had a job to do. I had a case. I was hunting a wayward husband. But maybe she deserved it. Then again, maybe no one deserves it.
And then my cell phone rang. Carola Strawberry’s name illuminated.
“Mr. Smoke. It’s Carola Strawberry. How are you?”
“I’m fine. How can I help you Mrs. Strawberry?”
“Carola, please. For some reason being attached to that last name leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Right. So, what can I do for you?”
“My husband is planning a weekend getaway to Palm Springs. Something about golfing or whatever again, but of course I don’t believe him. The only holes he’s really planning on dropping his balls into belong to someone who is not me. I’m talking about another woman if that wasn’t clear.
“It’s very clear.”
“I thought it might be a perfect opportunity to launch your investigation. I mean, it may all be just a smokescreen, but I thought it was important to let you know.”
“Of course. Do you know what country club he was planning on casting away his vows at?”
“That’s an odd way to put it.”
“I’m a natural when it comes to putting things in an odd way.”
“He prefers the Far Wind Resort.”
“Far Wind… Got it. Anything else I need to know?”
Carola Strawberry paused on the other end. Was she shattered or would she stand up on her own? I wondered. She cleared her raspy South American throat. “I know that all this will break my heart, Mr. Smoke, and I know it’s what I want you to do, but if you could, be easy on me with the details. He was still my husband, so of course, part of me wishes it to be untrue. Does any of that make sense?”
“It makes sense. I’ll do what I need to do, Mrs. Strawberry… Carola. I’ll be in touch.”
I ended the call and grabbed the steering wheel with two hands and just hung on as the machine burrowed its way toward the sunbaked playground of the rich and the weak and the broken-souled.
As I looked out at that chalky chocolate expanse of place, I started to wonder if the world was just done with me from the very start. As one gets older, one has more to look back on. The messes start piling up. The regrets fill every vessel. The guilty things start stabbing your heart. Why do I feel so damaged? Why has the world sat on me so often? Why do dreams always die?
I don’t know why, no one answered. But what about the good things? Why don’t you ever think about the good things, John Smoke? she said. Who was she? My phantom love, that fallen angel with the open arms. Did I pass right through them?
I had to get my thoughts back upon the road. This isn’t about me right now. I turned on the radio and flew upon the miles that waited for me.
TO BE CARRIED ON
You can read the previous part of this story HERE.