A gas station in Beatty, Nevada in 1973. The blue sky looks so brilliant against the yellow sunflowers in a South Dakotan summer. Twenty-two miles from here, off the U.S. 93, four cars with out-of-state plates laze in the parking lot of the Outlaw Motel. Who knows what’s really going on here? A flock of blackbirds flies off a field somewhere near Columbus. And there on the side of the road, looking up and out at the surrounding emptiness, it wasn’t so difficult to imagine. The night train from Venice. Around the wide square driveway, down the hill and around the turnabout with the lit lantern beacon in the middle across the street from the red barn and the muddy yard. The road to Hana, the 68-mile highway that skimmed along beige cliffs, single-lane bridges. A road after a flash flood in San Angelo, Texas. The stacked stones of a roadside liquor sign in Ohio. We are half-way there. Speeding the curves of a road braced by the blue light of snow. Gas up the car, pick a direction. Downtown Seattle (Spring at 5th Street). Turning a corner, heading down a blind alley. Assuming that my sadness was confined to America. From the canyons of the Badlands to the geysers of Yellowstone to the snowcapped mountains of Olympic National Park. Through Nebraska, a one-lane highway dotted with stalks of corn and orange cones. Toward the Moab Rim, and just one long block’s walk to the head of the Hidden Valley Trail. On Arizona Highway 93, there is a place called Nothing. The caves of Cappodocia. Speeding down a country blacktop on our way to I-64. Memory is little more than a rocky path. Ten-or-so mid-century Cadillacs buried nose in the ground in Amarillo. A liquor store on 205 West and 400 South in Salt Lake City. Up through Chester, past the general store and the single church with its cemetery full of Revolutionary War dead. The Loneliest Road in America. It is staggering to be here.
JILL TALBOT grew up in the South without a Southern accent. She has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame.