Las Cruces Looming

May I be mindful on our one-time trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Happens to be Father’s Day weekend. Only he is helping me move.

Dad, the cat, a truck, my car in tow, and me.

When he is behind the wheel, let periods of calm-abiding meditation, thick description, and familiar conversation expedite my perception of time. He’ll listen to books on tape, comment on the logistics of the move, and request frequent snack-stops.

When I drive, stack my vertebrae like checkers. Enjoy the stream of sensory input. Rehearse facts from my favorite podcasts.

As we begin, let this post serve as a stream of consciousness.

Notice the rumble of the truck and my cat pleading to turn back before it’s too late (like anyone, she whines about habit disruptions).

Notice myself aware of my field of vision.

A mechanic outside of Montgomery shuts the door of his latest project and hauls a concern for his family across the junk yard to a blue Chevy. The sun hollering in the Chevy’s handle does not harm his Teflon hands.

Not a soul remembers his autos, not in the end. Brief impressions of metal glinting in the eyes of passersby, mostly children whose figurines dodge the dangers beyond the windowsill of family sedans.

A salvaging man. Man whose daddy sold the parts of classic rides, whose granddaddy sold the parts of vintage rides, whose great granddaddy fixed the motorless ploughs, whose daddies ploughed and ploughed. A family of hands passing beneath the baking sun.

A three-wire fence splits the land between Joey’s Junkyard and his neighbor. Three wires and then acres of finger-grass, ryegrass, common couch, and wild barleys interspersed with steer. We pass a tenuous driveway leading toward a grand farmhouse lit up with long, vertical windows.

A wife wanting natural light, accustomed to lounging in unnatural comfort, ordered the polycarbonate polygons of plastic. Wife whose son will inherit the farm, whose granddaughter will run for mayor, whose great grandchildren will live on interest, whose offspring offset capital losses with capital gains. A family who defies the hollering sun.

We stop at a gas station off Highway 80. Near the register, the staff offer beers in bays of ice, sectioned by brand, like trays of tuna or clams in a fish market.

A young gentleman pumps gas in basketball shorts riding above his large calves. His tawny skin. His fitted hat. A pang of desire for a stereotype his firmly planted legs cued in me. Be with me.

Notice how I wish him well: he is someone’s son, was once a snot-nosed baby, was once an undivided cell.

It’s my turn to drive.

We ride through chunky Mississippi, a state gorging on sugars and processed fats, where there is a Chunky, Mississippi.

The great river, purchased over a century ago when the French were stretched thin, runs wide. Memories of motorboats and before them, steamships, and before them, rowers. How often has a heron flown the same air currents as his ancestors in search of better bayous?

It is dark before we reach the casino-dense metropolis of Shreveport.

A short nap and two cups of coffee wire me for my final turn at the wheel. As dad sleeps, I am reminded of the Wired Puppy, a coffeehouse in Provincetown which I was too inebriated to visit. Raves along the beach, raving in the sunlight, wading in the moonlit waves—waking from the memory. I reminisce with a few minutes of circuit tribal music, but the beats are dry.

Miles of shrubbery and oil wells where one can see cloud-shadows sprawling in the distance like sleeping dragons. Hills hump higher into small granite peaks, dripping with scree. Who planted that singular palm tree?

A thousand vehicular insecticides shift from a blur before my eyes.

Then there’s trail of white smoke billowing from beneath our truck, 220 miles from Las Cruces. The transmission blows.

“You’re not going to believe it, but the transmission just blew.”

Ten hours pass before the tow guy shows.

Ten hours to praise the beauty of the country, ten to soothe dad who boils blood-thirsty, ten to pray, ten to ask for mercy, ten to nap in the truck bed, thirsty—ten to meditate.

“You over-packed the truck.”

We didn’t.

“You stored heavy items in the towed vehicle.”

We didn’t.

“Sir, we’re going to have you towed backwards, to a hotel of your choosing, until we diagnose the cause and determine a suitable solution.”

You’re kidding.

It’s improbable that we’re culpable!

We packed less than two rooms in a—we even made sure—are you really telling me—this is just crazy.

At least the cat enjoys the air-conditioned room. As good a destination as any.

At least we can afford to be flexible. What a luxury to pray less for mercy and more for convenience.

Behind our hotel are modular mobile homes of sand-colored vinyl that function as dorms for migrant labor. Muffled Spanish drifts from behind poorly insulated walls.

Oil-rich Pecos, home of the first rodeo. The hotel guests around us are burly boot-wearing buds in cowboy hats and baseball caps, boots covered in mud. Unadorned men except for their trucks: decked out rims, massive exhausts, and peel-on stickers of antlers or sport-emblems tenderly placed on rear windows. A masculine town, Pecos.

I write. I read. I run. We talk. We eat. Sleep.

Eventually the replacement truck arrives. Switch the loads. Quicker when you’re over it.

Notice that I’m over it.

Bring on the sun in the pastel skies! We pass metal teepees above picnic tables where countless long-haul heavy men stop, rusty windmills creaking and dry—we pass I-20 to I-10—I wonder if we’ll break down again?

Funny how the thought of reliving frustration is more repulsive than its actual experience.

Everywhere is sand, brittle dirt, and brush reaching out of tan heaps (their roots splitting tons of tan earth to quench thirst). Cream stalks sprouting from the heads of dwarf palm trees, cream flowers.

Have the flies gentrified the bees? Or was it the heat? The rarity of desert blooms? Who are the midwives in these wide-open fields?

Notice how I feel.

Las Cruces. I already love you.

Cory J. Cascalheira
Doctoral Researcher in Counseling Psychology

Research interests include identity, oppression, and resilience among marginalized populations, especially sexual minorities, with attention to addition and sexual well-being.

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