I’m too exhausted to be itchy and we sleep until the glorious hour of 6:30, and for these reasons I wake up feeling refreshed. We drive to the gas station in Lone Pine for coffee and trail gummies and then we’re off, walkin up the road. The pavement turns easily beneath me. Ahead is all that jagged granite in the early light. This is the only paved roadwalk that doesn’t suck, I think, as I eat gummies and listen to Cardi B on my phone.
I think about my grandma. Her service is today, at 2pm. I won’t be there. I’ll be here, instead. I don’t have a relationship with my blood family- they don’t know much about me. My Grandma, though. I almost knew her. Almost. We should have known each other. But there was no way. Not in this lifetime. It pulls at me, that I’ll never know, now, what was in her heart. That even if I’d asked her when she was alive, she wouldn’t have told me. What happens to our inner mysteries, after we die? Will I die without anyone I love ever truly knowing my heart? My secret hopes and dreams and fears? Is it even possible for another human to know us, or are we completely alone in our embodiment. My existence is an island, I think, as I walk the asphalt shoulder of the road. I imagine another life, in the future or happening simultaneously, because who knows how reincarnation plays out. I am there, and so is my grandma. Except this time we’re two aspen trees in a grove, part of the same organism. Or two birds in a flight of swallows. Or we go back in time and I am her parent, except I do a better job than her mother did. Or I don’t, because that would be impossible, because her mother did the best she could, considering the circumstances. We’re all doing the best we can, absorbing these ripples of trauma through generations and holding on, waiting for the waves to stop shaking us, staying alive if only because we know if we killed ourselves we’d just wake up somewhere worse.
There’s a trail at Lone Pine campground that will take us the rest of the way to Whitney portal, no need to walk the entire road. We enter a forest of flame yellow aspen trees and massive sequoias, cool air, and clear creeks. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve been on this route and I wish I could stay here, that this was just the beginning of our hike, not the end.
The trail dumps us at the parking lot and there is Pilar’s car, which we left up here yesterday. Pilar’s car is our terminus. We all put our hands on the trunk. I feel like I could cry.
Our final trip to Carls Jr is the best yet, and then we’re scattering to the winds. Pilar and Plants are driving to the Bay, and I’m driving Laurie 3 hours to San Bernadino where she can connect to her flight out of LA, after which I’ll continue east, solo to Tucson. Laurie and I really want to shower at the hostel but they’re closed for a few hours, and we don’t have time to spare. We find a campground en route that has showers but when we arrive two hours later the building is dark, locked, a strange post collapse world, a gaggle of thin cats curling around our feet, meowing. My hives are off the hook, and I scratch all the way to San Bernadino. I drop Laurie at dusk and leave the city for the open desert, finally pulling into a dispersed camping site outside Joshua Tree at 9pm. The earth is silent save for some crickets, somewhere, and the moon has waned enough to not be bright. I open all the windows and lay in bed, feeling the wheels inside me slowly winding down. I close my eyes. The grief I feel is closer now, close enough to make out its shape. My grief is a little boat, being paddled by my heart. The boat grows larger and then recedes. I’m too tired to keep running away.
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