Between here and there in Big Spring, Texas
It rained about 50 miles out of Abilene, rained hard with the water slapping against the windshield while semi-trailers sped past my tiny car. No hail, no thunder, just the weight of clouds unleashing their load, and afterward the blue-hued haze of Texas country under overcast skies. Something about road trips makes me yearn for thick, cold Dairy Queen shakes and salty French fries. But I drove straight through from Fort Worth to Big Spring, despite a pull toward those asphalt-hugging strips of gas stations and fast food places.
In Big Spring, ate at a place known to locals by two initials, a place that looked like a trailer from the outside but which the clerks at the hotel assured me was “real good.” I found it set off of I-20 next to a field of indecently lush mesquites and baby yuccas with tender white blooms. My table was tiny and round, a two-top by the murky tank from which two stocky fish peered out in a daze. They seemed stunned into stillness, as if wondering how their lives went from the infinite spread and depth of an ocean to this tank where they can barely turn around.
“I understand,” I wanted to say to those poor fish. “Your life is deep and wide and spreading before you with so many choices, and suddenly you find it collapsed around you. In your case, it’s that someone caught you. In my case it’s my mother’s brain under attack from the Alzheimer’s. But yeah, I sometimes feel as if I can barely turn around.” Briefly, I pondered the idea of setting them free, but how? How to do that out here in the middle of nowhere — where I can’t imagine how this restaurant can offer Gulf shrimp and Islandic cod? Regrettably, there was nothing on which to anchor the thought.
Now, I sit in the hotel room, thinking about the rest of my trek to El Paso, the other five hours of rubber on blacktop tomorrow. I recall the burgundy pleather of the restaurant chair and the size of the butter bowl with its uncanny resemblance to a large scoop of ice scream. The way the locals ribbed the waitstaff, and one of them promised that these were great “homemade rolls.” And I can’t help but think that this might be a great place to settle, this vast flat landscape between here and there, where I can silence the rumbling in my belly with rolls and butter and fill the void in my heart with the sight of desert spreading outward in all directions.