I’ve been driving during the day. I doubt I will feel safe at night and do not want to test it. I plan how long certain stretches will take, add time for lunch, for hiking, and never drive beyond the last drops of sunlight.
I listen to a podcast about the history of tampons. My thoughts travel to my childhood bedroom and to the CDs I had. I play No Need to Argue, the whole album, and sing along. The roads are empty so driving is a pleasure. I don’t like driving in traffic. Now my body is elastic and calm. The purple and yellow hues of the New Mexico landscape become my aura.
I reach a closed-off section of the road. It looks like border patrol although, I think, I’m nowhere near an edge. An officer leans over my window, one arm bent over the top. He’s wearing sunglasses.
“Can I see your passport please?”
“I have my driver’s license.”
He takes my license and scrutinizes it. “You need to have your passport when you’re within 100 miles of a border.”
“I have a photo of my visa,” I say. I show him my screen.
He looks at it and types something on his phone.
“What are you doing in the United States?”
There are drawn-out gaps between his words and motions. I am anticipating the worst.
“I work in New York. I’m just traveling now. I drove from West Texas.”
“Yes,” I say. I shrink smaller and smaller, trying to distance myself from my window.
He steps away and talks to other officers. Then he comes back and leans in deeper. “Be sure to carry your passport next time. You could get arrested.”
He taps my car and waves for me to go on. Men with guns in their pants watch me drive by. My heart beats in my ears.
I check into a dome home with an outdoor hot tub and a telescope. I message my mom to say we’ve arrived. I told her I’m with my boyfriend so she doesn’t worry and stress me out. It is night in Turkey and she must be asleep. I send my boyfriend a selfie, looking sun-kissed in front of my kooky abode.
I walk into a restaurant and order a burrito and a beer. The burrito is dry and tasteless. I notice that they are selling art. I choose a drawing of a cowboy in an alien spaceship called “Space Cowboy.” The bartender has shiny straight black hair and a pierced lip. “Kyle’s a local artist,” she says as she hands me the frame.
Before sunset, I crave ice cream. An ice cream sandwich, to be precise. There are no corner stores. There is a grocery store and they only have a pack of ten. The woman at the checkout counter is all smiles. She has eggplant-colored hair and jittery blue eyes. I wonder if she’s high on meth and then scorn myself for judging.
“Mmmm, ice cream,” she says.
I smile. She scans the box. I move over to pay.
“Where are you from?” she asks.
“I live in New York,” I say.
“Oh, it’s still cold over there, isn’t it?”
“It was getting warmer before I left,” I say. She places the box in a plastic bag before I can object.
“You like the heat, don’t you?” she asks.
“Sure.” I laugh uncomfortably.
She laughs too. Her laugh goes on and on. I can still hear it when I feel the doors close behind me. I walk into the sunset to reach my house. I wonder why my boyfriend hasn’t texted me back.
In the dome, I unwrap one ice cream sandwich and finish it in three bites. I realize that I don’t have a freezer. I feel bad about the nine ice cream sandwiches I will have to throw out. I hang the bag on a chair out on the patio and sit on another. When the sun disappears, I shiver. Things howl and whisper. I remember that I’m alone. It was what I wanted and what I’ve enjoyed. But right now I want a friend.
I turn the faucet on and the tub fills with hot spring water. It steams. I step in, wearing my bathing suit, and look through the telescope to find the moon. It’s not dark enough. I see it faintly hanging in the sky.
Then I hear the crinkling of paper and see something crawl into the plastic. I hold back a scream and remain in the water. Once the sound stops I walk inside and lock my door, hoping I won’t have to deal with anything more than some mess and not before the morning.
I have nightmares about missing my flight, being chased by strangers. I think I hear taps on my door and creaks in my room. I change positions so the nightmares stop but I can’t rest. I look at my phone and see a notification. A heart emoji. I fall asleep for a few hours.
When I wake up, the bag is still intact, though the box and the ice cream are not. I tie it up and find a trash can.
I drive toward Santa Fe. I stop at a hiking area. I lie on a giant rock and feel a half day’s worth of heat through my loose striped cotton T-shirt. My heart beats. I am a cold lizard. I am a hare.
I have fallen asleep. My mind recreates the night bus from Bodrum to Mersin where I woke up to a man touching my hair. I feel pressure on my shoulder. I jump awake and stand with one arm pushing forward.
“Are you okay?”
My eyes adjust. A little boy and an older woman stare at me. They are holding hands.
“Yes,” I say.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s alright,” I say. “Thank you.”
I walk to my car and drive on.