Living on the road feels like traveling through space in a spaceship. You are in your car spaceship, flying in your little capsule alongside your fellow space travelers, zooming along the interstates and through infinite emptiness in a martian land.
Banner art and story by Marina Hansen, published in Volume 20, now available
You are alone in that space, and you are free, bouncing from star to star, moving through the vast medium, the vacuum of sagebrush and dirt. Ancient magma blobs in pastel pink ensnare, eyes fix on them like laser beams, plotting the next frolic and skip and crimp into the vertical plane. You check in on your home planet occasionally with a visit to an earthly Walmart or a call to a friend to see what Earth is doing. You don’t know, because you aren’t there. You are in space.
Sometimes it feels like your car is a planet. It has everything you need: food, water, shelter, a pee bottle for lazy times, all your favorite books, cams of every size, shape, and smell, watercolors, or stick-and-poke tattoo supplies.
Ends and bites of ropes slither over your belongings in the backseat, like the ghostly hypothesis of rattlesnakes lurking behind the boulders as you bushwhack toward the base of a monolith. You leave your car to go make starfish shapes with your body on slabs of rock, but your spaceship is your anchor in the wild sea of confusion and elation, and you always come back. Sometimes the rain lashes at your windows while you mourn the state of sandstone, and the moths sneak in to give you a good-night face attack. The swirls of weather and dying light change the ambience accordingly.
The headlamps of your travel companions are celestial bodies in the dark. Sometimes vans or cars look like aliens themselves, antennas poking out at weird angles and headlights smirking at you. Campfires are twinkling faraway worlds, and around them, people tell stories of space travel. Desert travel. Rock ballet in the nooks and cracks of time. Lost in the mountains and then found again.
The road can be a lonely place. Sometimes you have a gang of fellow spaceships and aliens to wander with, laughing and howling at the moon, catching each other with ropes to save each other’s lives, embracing and dancing and napping and eating together. Passing around landing coordinates for latitudes of harmony under the open sky. Matching leathery hands with dirty fingernails, dried blood, tape residue, and you grasp them all together for warmth and union.
And sometimes it poofs away, and you wonder if it all even existed. If it all was an illusion. Sometimes you are anchored deep, and sometimes you are adrift and rudderless and yet at the same time, stuck. Sometimes you fly through space, and you can’t stop because there is no gravity, and sometimes you don’t know where you are. The glue that holds together the craft project that is your home melts under the summer sun.
Maybe your car makes a sound like death, and there is no one there to ogle your engine. A tarantula stalks you in the dark. But the world is in a teetering balance, and soon you will find yourself pressing the gas pedal with fire in your eyes and a cloud of dust rising biblically from your back wheels. Besides the gray pavement with a yellow stripe down the middle suggesting industrial footprints, you could be anywhere in the universe, at any point in space-time. The only souls who watch you are wild and made of fur or limestone. The goldenrod explodes with yellow and waves hello to you in the wind and then good-bye, because in a moment, you vanish.
Marina climbed out of the urban jungle of New York City onto the rocks of the West, and she has never looked back. The culture shift provides her with a stream of ethnographical tidbits on the dirtbag life that she often keeps to herself, but sometimes she writes them down. She has lived and taught kiddos in Yosemite and now resides in her Suburban named Big Red, roaming, climbing, and growing all over the place.