Saturday, March 13, 2021




We stopped in Winnemucca.  Mostly just to stop driving.  We got out of the car, bought sandwiches and drinks from a grocery store that had a deli, and sat on a patio that had been created for outside dining.  The proprietor had not gone all out to wipe the tables and chairs. It took us a spell to find a table that did not have bird droppings on it. Then it took some testing before we could locate a couple of chairs that did not wobble.

“So, who are you?” Maurianne said once we settled. We had opened up our sandwiches, spread out across from one another with the food and paper cups in front of us. She asked her question with food still in her mouth as if she had been debating whether to ask me the question and decided, what the hell, in the middle of a bite.

“What do you mean?” I said, though I knew.

“I mean, who are you.  I know you are a graduate student and visiting your aunt and trying to make it out and back in thirty days.”  All this I had told her during the driving.

“All true.”

“Never mind.” She said while waving her hand, sensing I did not want to open up.

“Sorry. I know what you are asking.” I stopped for a second before I repeated her question and got on a roll. 

“Okay. Who am I? Well, decent guy.  Honest.  Responsible. Lonelier than I want to be. Not where I expected at nearly 25; not sure if I will ever finish my degree. I wonder now and again if I should have stayed an English teacher.  Spend a lot of time sitting on my ass thinking that I should not be sitting on my ass.” I pause for a bit. Wondering how much more to relay, I look away from her chewing face and stare at nothing to her right. “I think that about summarizes it. Good heart, not self-actualized, and I know it.”

“Hmm.  Interesting,” she said, mouth still full.  She swallowed part of the sandwich, wiped her mouth with a napkin, and took a sip from a straw.  “Ask me.”

“Alright.  Who are you?”

“I have no idea.” She blurted as if she needed to get that out. “I was a wife and a mother up until this past year. Then I became just a mother, and now with my kids in Salt Lake City with a guy who beat me up, if I stop to think of who I am, I can’t stand it, so I keep on moving figuring if my feet move quickly I won’t have time to dwell on the fact that I messed up, don’t have any direction and am embarrassed.”

“Maybe, you are being a little hard on yourself.”

“I had no plan. Here I am talking to you in Winnemucca and how I arrived at this spot, if I sat back and thought about it, makes no sense.”

“Come on”

She continues like she hadn’t heard me.  “Like I got in the car and started driving without a map and then turned here and there because of something that at the moment seemed exciting without any notion or intelligent consideration of where the turn would predictably take me.”

“Everybody does that to some extent.”

“Maybe. This girlfriend of yours.  The steamy one who is a pain in the ass.” I had talked some about Becca.  “How long do you think the steam is going to sustain you.”

“Good question.”

“Hey, I’m not hitting on you.  Don’t get me wrong on this.  You are a little too young for me, no offense, and who knows what is going to be with Marvin, and I have these kids, but I’m thinking—just thinking—that maybe you ought to start working on being self-actualized instead of trying to cross the country to beat some kind of record.”

I knew she was right.  She said, “no offense” again and yammered away a while at how this was none of her business and we hardly knew each other, and she was just saying.

A crew of kids kerplunked themselves at an adjacent table.  Took out their cigarettes and started to smoke and talk about nothing. Three couples.  Very hoodlum looking. When I was in high school we called these kids Greasers.  

A very short guy was puffing away next to a much bigger young woman with enormous breasts.  Black hair, piled high on her head, heavily made up, puffing away mostly saying, “cut it out Billy” when he moved his elbow into her chest.  “Can’t help it” he laughed. “They’re always in the way.”  The other two couples cackled, but I had the sense this was a longstanding routine.  “I mean it, cut it out.” Said the woman with the chest after Billy had again elbowed her. She was smiling as she pushed his arm away. 

“I wish I had your problems, Teri,” said a relatively flat chested teenager with frightening long fingernails.  

“More than a mouthful is a waste” said her central casting gangster wannabe looking pimpled boyfriend. 

Again there was chortling all around, and again I wondered if this wasn’t a regular script.  

Then the greasers segued into a string of epithets maligning every non-white race.  During an ill informed conversation about sports, Billy opined that he did not like the San Francisco Giants because they had too many niggers on their team.  A third pimply guy with hair slicked back, commented that at least there are no Indians on the Giants. “Indians are the worst.”  

Not so, said the third woman who, up to that point had said next to nothing but had been, almost continuously, kissing her boyfriend with long slurping smackers.  She came up for air long enough to weigh in on race issues. “Nothing is worse than the Mexicans.  Do you know that Jose, the one whose sister works at Penny’s?  He asked me out.”  The others considered this an outrage. 

Maurianne and I looked at each other and nodded as if to say, let’s get out of here. We said nothing to the greasers, just tossed our litter into a bin and got back into the van.

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