100 Miles to Lubbock
Wonton spent the entire trip across the country hiding under bags in the back seat. If I hadn't tethered several leashes together to her harness, It would have been impossible to pull her out and sneak her in and out of economy hotels like a furry ten pound pumpernickel. It's very difficult to convince a terrified cat to act like a loaf of bread. I admit I didn't know what I was doing. I was 'chicken-winging' it. I had always wanted to roadtrip across country but never dreamed my only companion would be a cat.
I'm 46 years old and I still don't know what I'm doing. And it's not just me to fuck up my life or be like a dandelion seed blowing in the wind. I have to take care of her, think of her always, first, because she is little and she may be ferocious at times, but the world will devour both of us if we aren't guarded, and even if we are and that was a lesson I'd been learning my entire life and would come to a head over and over again like increasing larger crashing waves until it was sink or swim. No indifferent floating for me, ever. The analogy is ironic considering how little water there actually was in the town I was in on the outskirts of Lubbock, Shallow Water.
Although I couldn't see Wonton, I spoke to her all the way. I would call out and she would answer a quick meow from the depths of the car, or if she was in need, a howl and come out and I'd have to figure out what was going on. I stopped on the shoulder somewhere on a toll road in Oklahoma because she was yelling and discovered a throw pillow in her water bowl. As far as I could see, she wasn't eating, drinking, or using her litter pan all day long, but was offended that she didn't have the choice. Thinking about it, so would I be, considering how little room she had to navigate.
I'm glad I got the air conditioning fixed because in retrospect, we would have both died in the heat. We were traveling in July and like a bad luck lottery, hitting hundred degree weather in every state we crossed. Even with it on full blast, it wasn't circulating well into the back because the car was packed to the ceiling and when I saw Wonton mouth-breathing, I was filled with guilt, I pulled in early for the night. She didn't volunteer for this shit.
I saw my first tumbleweed 99 miles in. There were three, to be truthful, and ridiculously tiny but so delightful, I pulled over to announce it on Facebook. I was so full of enthusiasm and gratitude and love. And stupidity. But that's all I want to say about that.
Things I won't forget about TX:
The kindness and hospitality and good manners of strangers
The wide open sky
Breathtaking farmland where even shacks were glorious in ruin
Super cell thunder clouds, purple skies and formations with lightening sandwiched between them while boiling on the edge of a clear starry sky
Ungodly 'dry heat' that made me wither the moment I stepped outside
Fluorescent sunrises that lasted forever
Cap'n, the orange and white cat, an underdog which stole my heart and would have taken with me, had there been any room left in the car
Feeling more alone and isolated than I ever have been in the worst times and places in my life but at the same time, thankful I had someone to take me in for 37 days.
We were not a good fit. I kept her in the bedroom 24/7 and she was lonely, and there were days I stayed in the bedroom or alone for long periods of time and we were lonely together. When I saw the cut on her ear, I chalked it up to cats being cats. When I saw the cut on her neck, and she ran from me, I knew it was time to go and we went.
This time, she perched on a bunch of pillows and stared out the window the whole trip. She saw the first armadillo, before I did. And the second, and tenth. She liked buzzards and eagles. Horses and cows were boring to her but I liked them, the different species, markings, colorings, sizes.
We stopped for the night in Paris, TX. The nicest motel room of the cheap chain I was favoring. We got two beds because the singles were taken and she took the one closest to the door but she spent the night sleeping on the floor between the beds next to me, and as we were leaving caught and ate the biggest roach I ever saw in my life.
Everywhere we stopped, for gas or snacks or potty breaks for me, she stood and yelled for me and when we crossed the state line in Arkansas, she stood up on my shoulder and I felt genuine relief as if a giant burden had lifted. As we came off the highway and into the city, she put her paws on the dashboard and meowed at the windshield as if to say, WE'RE HERE! WE'RE HERE! and the energy shifted again.
When we pulled into the driveway, my friend was on her way home from work so I texted her that we would wait out on the deck and I saw four giant quartz crystal clusters glowing in the sun and I sat on a rocker and felt at home and when she pulled up, we pulled Wonton out from behind a rolled up Oriental carpet and she took her in her arms and coo'd and Wonton let her love her and I knew it would take time but everything would be okay.
And I burst into tears and am still crying as I type this.
It's not easy to leave an abusive marriage. It's harder still to turn away from an abusive family. It's even harder when you're homeless and have few choices and have to leave someone who invited you to stay but you knew you were never going to belong. Everything feels like a long series of goodbyes. Everything is temporary and you don't know who your friends are anymore and you're suspicious of the ones who are generous and loving and are exhausted trying to figure out how to appease the ones who aren't. You burn bridges when you think you're building them. You burn them because you want some fucking respect to make your own decisions without their permission because they don't ask for yours. You burn them because you don't want to be enslaved. You constantly look over your shoulder wondering what's next. You pray for relief and mercy and forgiveness from God and all Creation. And you wipe the dust off your sandals of the ones who drove you away and you don't look back and you don't go back. You move forward, keep going, brush the tears away and take care of you and if you're blessed, a little cat or dog that you know loves you when the rest of the world has cast you out.