A slow-burn romance on a steamy roadtrip through the Californian desert. An indebted friend and a Range Rover stuffed with weed. A 25-hour drive and all their problems will be solved.
In the transitional season after Thomas broke his eyeball, we went to the desert. We flew into Los Angeles on two separate aircraft, a ticketing mistake, which departed in tandem and arrived together at sundown. Bunny was waiting for us at LAX, leaning on the bumper of her white Range Rover in a no-stopping zone. She was, or so it seemed, the only living person in downtown LA, inhabiting a new and cavernous high-rise that boasted loft-like layouts with none of the pestilence. We had anticipated at least chopper noise, at least the uninterrupted static of traffic, not the flat darkness nor the silence that was only filled with wind. Walking to find a bar that would serve us, we were spooked by the shadowy streets. In the dark, with the lone bartender, we cheersed our fear. Driving several climate-controlled hours into absurdist desolation the next morning was a relief. We followed the interstate away from the coast, passing roadside rest houses and turbine farms, supermarkets and nail salons and boarded-up carcineras, straight into the heart of an alien landscape where, just beyond the irrigated golf courses, ambitious sociopaths were being tried for a first manned mission to Mars.
We floated on the blacktop. The white car gleamed in the white sun. The airwaves were jammed with signals, rendering useless our little broadcasting adapter. Bunny’s only compact-disc, a high BPM workout mix, looped on migrainous end. Palm Desert was an oasis, and our hotel an impressive zebra-print glitch in the illusion. Plastic chandeliers hung from velvet-black ceilings. Elizabethan armchairs in full acido dorado color stood askew in every corner. The carpet was zebra, too, straight up to our white door, keyed open with a swipe, our suite revealed with its view of nothing but atmospheric distortion. I do, truly, feel like a drug dealer here, Bunny said before she vanished, her duffel bag claiming the queen bed in the corner. I could hear a faint pulse from the courtyard swimming pool, the shouts and splashes of the midday mojito-drinkers. Thom undressed languidly and came to stand behind me to press a cold beer into the small of my back. When I turned, I could see his pupil shiver, the traumatized muscle around it marbling the original hazel into grey-blue, the encroachment of tundra as seen from space. I peered for little deer, galloping caribou, the pack of wolves that had catalyzed their flight, distant northern lights. I reached for the beer and drank it. I stripped to my underwear in neon hue. When we were done with having at each other, I went and watched for coyotes from the window, goose-bumped by dusk’s premonitory chill.