The story is that it’s important for me to learn to fail, to fail miserably, to flame out wildly and spin in circles and hit the sand dunes wearing these inept paper wings. I can’t hire three new staff members, fill in for three absent staff members, plan a party, create a ticket office in a park building, finalize a half-million dollar budget, turn in a grant for thousands of dollars, order more soda, pay you and you and you, open the door for you, lock the door for you, do this favor and that favor, all in the space of two weeks.
The story is that I stranded the love of my life in Las Vegas. I booked him a bus ticket from San Francisco to Las Vegas and then a train from Las Vegas to Chicago. But there’s a Las Vegas, New Mexico as well as a Las Vegas, Nevada and Amtrak only goes to Las Vegas, New Mexico — but Las Vegas, NM and Las Vegas, NV look so similar at the end of a long day.
The story is that I flew to Las Vegas, NV and drove us both back to Chicago in a rental car, a silver Pontiac hatchback that bucked as it changed gears and carried us across the desert; I knew these paper wings were meant for a journey after all. The red sand, the rocks like sleeping elephants snuggled under blankets, the Utah canyons — libraries of rocks stacked endlessly high. In Colorado, a snowstorm, a traffic jam in the Rockies while we all just tried to get off the mountain, just let us down — we were the kids stuck on top of the monkey bars dangling one foot down, begging. In Nebraska, the sunset washed the cornfields in watercolor pink and orange. In Iowa, we forgot time as the fields evaporated under our wheels. In Illinois we were so close, and that Kid Rock song, the new one about Sweet Home Alabama, was simple enough to sing at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down.
The story is in the words you read to me from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe when I was too tired to focus my eyes on the road ahead:
The trouble with most forms of transport, he thought, is basically one of them not being worth all the bother. On Earth — when there had been an Earth, before it was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass — the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another — particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
The story is that it was worth the bother after all, that I had to ignore the pulling of inertia on the backs of my eyeballs and the throbbing resistance in the small of my calf and just go, and go, and go, and when we were out of the snowstorm and out of the cornfields and back in Chicago, the story is that I was grateful but that my body felt like it was rushing onward still, the way sailors must feel when they dock on shore, like the blood is still throwing itself at the walls of the veins and the ground seems like it’s moving because you’re finally still.