Upon the sage advice and strongly worded recommendation from my girlfriend Sam (something along the lines of "Real Talk. F-cking do this."), I entered a writing contest recently. And then let my imagination run buckwild with possibilities of winning. Well, I didn't win. But I am genuinely thrilled that I made a concerted effort to do this –write outside my usual comfort zone and submit it to be judged by some mighty intimidating folks. The contest was for McSweeney's, the cool coolness. Their talent pool and output is like the chick in the corner of the venue wearing amazing glasses and shoes, while I am the girl lying in a puddle of spilled fruit punch, wearing leftover pregnancy tights, apologizing to everybody under my breath.
Anyways, here is what I submitted if you'd like to see what a whole lot of anxious finger nibbling, 2 cans of Coke and 1 hour of hunched over my keyboard at a sticky kitchen table can produce under duress.
I will slide behind the wheel of a grey rental car (the “least likely to be sexually assaulted in” colour for a vehicle), adjust the seat and steering wheel (how I hope there is a braided leather cover – my Grandfather had one of those and it was a pleasure to grip), and with barely contained excitement, unfold the map across the dashboard and look hopelessly at all the squiggly lines that make up a state.
If I leave from home and take a no-frills route straight for Austin (because I feel like cool people will ask me if I went there), it will take 1 day 15 hours according to Google Maps. I’ll give myself four days because I would rather not be a statistic and gently slide off the road with a gravelly lurch, eyes suddenly snapped wide open as I’m upside down in a ditch, delicious wolf food, crying all by myself.
I will pack multiple pairs of shorts. I don’t currently own shorts because if you’ve seen my legs, you would know why. If there was a full leg coverage version of a short, you can bet I would own one in every colour. Then, in a messy pile, because they are impossible to fold, some long skirts that will probably invite stinging bugs to explore up into my vagina, and provide no protection for the inevitable warm weather thigh chub rub. I’d like a cool hat but in all my 34 years I have never found one. So, I’ll wait and buy one there and then when I maybe get a compliment on the hat I can say, “Thank you, I bought it in (insert Texas town) so you will never find one for yourself.”
Once I reach Texas, I think I will start a quest. For maybe an amazing pair of cowboy boots, or the discarded skin of a rattlesnake, or what the locals will call the best tequila nobody knows about. I will go to a record store or vintage clothing store and ask the person with the most tattoos where I should stay, eat and drink. They will probably send me on a snipe hunt because I will ask them in an incredibly nervous and earnest manner that will make fucking with me that much more satisfying.
For at least one day I would like to do a photo series of the sky. I will pull over on a long stretch of highway, do a quick scour and poke through the bushes for any snakes, then lie down in the middle of the road and point the camera upwards. Later that day I will dare myself to try the spiciest dish on the menu of a cantina that may or may not have wind chimes and women serving that look like they’re pregnant, but actually aren’t.
To escape the inevitable heat I will stop and roam the aisles of any and all drugstore I pass. Any super duper ethnic product I will buy if it’s under $5 and then when I get home it will be displayed ironically or given as a gift to a friend.
I hope the turn signal in the car isn’t super loud and annoying because I have a feeling I will be legally turning off and around a whole lot. I assume with no certain destination it will be like free love driving, like what they did in the 60s. I can flip coins and take lefts or rights. I won’t clock watch. I won’t set goals. I won’t combine three meals into two if I don’t get up in time for breakfast. If the pillowcases in one particular motel have a pattern I love, I will take one, but leave one in return. (Note to self: pack extra pillowcases.)
I will make small talk with a man named Jose while I sip on a chipped cup full of black coffee on a stool. I will stand in a long line with people I don’t know, without a phone to make it look like I’m meeting somebody, to see a band I’ve never heard of. If the band is not very good I might have a few shots, wind my way backstage and tell them I’m from Rolling Stone.
I will find out where they shot Friday Night Lights and roll around in the grass there because sometimes I just can’t help myself.
For a full weekend I will endeavor to feed myself with food I steal off trees and well-tended gardens. If I have a small paring knife I can slice slippery chunks of avocado and tomato directly into my mouth with a shot of iodized salt and quick suck of a lime rind and, voila, guacamole in my mouth. Grapefruit and melon soup for breakfast, handfuls of blueberries plucked one by one for a snack, lunch hash of crispy fried potatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and herbs. Dinner might be hard to do so I might just drink a large amount of gin with lemon and orange rind, watch the local news then eventually fall asleep on top of the covers with only one earplug successfully in.
But back to the boots. I’m already excited about the boots. Should they be super badass, like over the top murderin’ boots? Or should comfort be my guide? I hope they sell socks that hit right where the boot ends on your leg. I can’t abide a chafe, nor do I want a sweat sock stripe poking over the top, clearly revealing myself as an outsider. Or do I want to revel in that status? I’ll have to think a bit longer about that. In the meantime, I’m going to memorize some Spanish verbs and google “how to walk with spurs.” Just in case.