We Called it Emptiness
I told Andy I’d been lost since we left Lubbock. I said all the back country roads in Texas looked the same, and I was just glad this one went north to Oklahoma and not back home, toward Lubbock.
We’d taken the new freeway out of town that morning. I’d watched them build the freeway, watched trucks come and workers wrap the streets with orange tape. They piled dirt in mounds and the wind blew and covered our eyes with grit. It pulled at my skin, seeing Lubbock try to be a city. So when Andy offered to drive a group of us students to Adobe Walls, I jumped at the chance for a day out of Lubbock. And when no one else showed, I said I was still up for the drive. The sun was only rising, the road was never long, and sometimes it felt good standing on the same ground the Comanche, the Kiowa once did.
Andy handed me the map and said we didn’t need directions anymore. He wore a cowboy hat and pulled it low over his silver hair. Mr. Wilkinson sounded old, so he said call him Andy instead. I’d been going to his shows since I was a girl, and Andy sounded more like
him, the guitarist I’d seen.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone bust a map out in years,” I said. I folded the map backwards, trying to make the ends meet. When they didn’t, I shoved it in the glove compartment.
“Well, you’re young and have everythin’ on your phone.” He smiled, his eyes warm under the cowboy hat. “My bosses at the Southwest Collection makes us keep one, otherwise I’d throw it away—they’re more cantankerous than anything. Remind me of a few old men I know.”
He strung the words with barbed wire and as I listened I felt restless, like water in a creek bed. I wondered if we were alike, looking out our windows and hanging by the same line of music.
Andy continued humming, and I leaned against the window, staring sleepy and bleary-eyed at the blue grama grass, the yellow mesquites we passed. Andy pointed at the power lines running along the shoulder and said they were monopoles, the kind with one frame, placed low to the ground. Andy said the legislature had approved a new transmission line to carry wind power from the turbines in the pan handle to Dallas and Austin, and that they weren’t going to use monopoles like these. No, they wanted lattice towers. Lattice towers are fifteen stories and four frames. If they went up, this area might have something like mountains.
I should’ve asked why he knew so much about lattice towers, but it was seven-thirty, and my mouth was cottony. I sipped from a thermos