Last night I dreamed a New Mexico road. A flat two-lane out of Texas. That straight shot that dips down before pulling back up toward the mumble of a mountain range resting on the edge of horizon and surrender. An every-trip stop at the Allsups in Las Cruces for gas and a dusty bottle of gold from the back shelf, the back shelf of our minds later spilling onto the sand.
That night, we wrapped our flannel shirts around our waists and scrambled to the edge of the mesa, the last sips sloshing in the bottle. We both had our backs to a wall back then. And we were drunk. Deliberate. The shadowed path of ourselves stumbling across sudden ruts and reminders. I remember something about wanting to be closer to nothing but black and stars and wind.
This semester, one of my classes is reading novels about New Mexico, and I’ve been showing them maps of mesas, pictures of pueblos, short films about sacred mountains. Documentaries about long roads we can’t take back from destruction.
I stand in front of them a professor who teaches in northern New York. I stand inside myself a New Mexico road, a sweaty bookstore in a southern city, a tent outside of Tucumcari not far from where I last felt whole.
The other day, I pointed to a passage on page eighty-five and read aloud: “She wanted to prowl those warm close places until she discovered the end because at that time she had not yet seen the horizon was an illusion and the plains extended infinitely; and up until that evening, she had found no limit.”
Could they ever understand I was reading them that night?
I pointed back to the screen, to a shot of a caldera, a grand valley in the northeastern part of the state cut by a million-year-old eruption, a vast vale of green and felsenmeer. You’ll understand me when I tell you it hurts to stand in a third-floor classroom in button-down clothes and black heels when I know I once took off through waves of still heat on asphalt melt on my way to Truchas or that we used to skip rocks while dusk-bats swarmed above a bottomless lake.
I want to wake up from this place.
We always said we’d go back. Come with me. Cancel your political science classes for the rest of the semester. Kiss Dan goodbye. Get in your car and speed south down and out of Laramie to Fort Collins (and wave to another version of myself I left behind) down to Denver and keep on pushing it along I-25 toward Pueblo and break through the border and bend that curve through Raton Pass. I’ll be on my way, too.
And I’ll pretend our bikes are still in the back of your beat-up truck so that when we pull into the canyon we won’t have to say a word. We can just ride. Until we remember ourselves. And each other.
*Excerpt from Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony
JILL TALBOT is the author of a memoir, Loaded, as well as the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together and editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in such journals as Brevity, DIAGRAM, The Paris Review Daily, and The Rumpus. She is the 2013–2015 Elma Stuckey Writer-in-Residence in Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago.