Hitchhiking from Scotland when I was nineteen. Bare yellow hills. Pale blue sky. I was trying to have an adventure but all I did was wait. Once an old woman and her pug—once a refrigerator salesman, all the way to Carlisle. But then another scrubby interchange. The wind bending the grasses.
That night I finally knocked on the door of a lorry parked on the side of the motorway, and the driver let me sleep in back, shivering in the faux leather jacket I bought in Spokane with some of the money I made working at Safeway all summer, stocking shelves and imagining myself in England.
In the morning, squeezed between the driver and his mate on the way to Stoke-on-Trent, I had to pee so badly my eyes began to water. Long gray factories. Warehouse after warehouse.
We spend all our lives trying to find ourselves. And we do.
Angel! Angel! I hear a woman crying, deep in the woods one morning. She is calling for her dog, a squat, white cattle dog, pot-bellied, bowlegged—I’ve seen it, I tell her, trotting along the trail.
One ear flat. Tongue dragging. Just as happy as could be.
Someone parked behind me in the Beanery parking lot and I’m trapped, I can’t back out, but there’s a space to the left and I think maybe I can angle and scooch my way.
And as I start a man comes out to get into his truck but stops to help me. “You’ve been screwed,” he says, and steps to where I can see him in my rearview mirror, and waves with his hands and measures the air with his hands and holds his hands up to stop me as I crank the wheel and ease forward, then straighten the wheel and ease back, forward and back, forward and back, sidling, sidling, until in the end another man comes out, and the man who’s been helping me calls him over to measure and shout from the front, too, as slowly, slowly, I get within inches of clearing.
The new man has a beard. The first man, in back, is stubbly and thin and wears a black leather jacket. Is smiling. Is a Good Samaritan.
The key thing is to listen. To inch forward.
The key thing is not to think. Trust. Again, and again, and again.