Angela had spent her whole life stifled, taken in by the town in which she lived; muted, stilled, unable to move beyond the boundaries of either herself or this place. She was hopeless and mundane, knowing that if there was greatness in her, or life, or spark, she would never find it, trapped as she was in dulling sameness.
Then the earthquake hit, toppling her house from its foundation, rocking the church to the ground, igniting old fears on Main Street, burning her prison to ashes. She was free.
She left that very day, bundling her dog and the few clothes and supplies she could scrounge from the ruins into her old buick and heading north; away from the desert, away from the oil wells and the stink, away from her life. She drove the backroads to Sacramento, East over the Sierras to Reno, then beyond, back into desert, travelling on the loneliest road in America, Highway Fifty, ever on the lookout for an end to her own loneliness, a place where she belonged; She walked her dog among the sage brush, marveling at the difference in scenery that seven hundred miles and a new state could make.
She turned North in Eureka, Nevada, longing for mountains and greenery. The Ruby Mountains stayed to her right, out of reach. She found herself instead in Idaho, on a volcanic plateau of iron red rock; otherworldly, a gorge cut through the tableland like an angry slash, dark and ragged, with a trickle of remaining river far below.
She drove on, and Mormon crickets covered the highway, undulating in a dizzying impression of a world unstable, constantly moving, hallucinogenic in space and form.
Finally she reached farmlands, as green as anything she’d ever seen with tall wheat waving and swaying from horizon to horizon, three feet tall, four, six. She wanted to drown herself in its lushness, enclose herself in the life it represented. Could this be home?
But no, it wasn’t meant to be; she stayed for a time, a few days, in a tiny motel in a farming community amongst the wheat and hay, but found it as stifling as the town she’d left behind. Time to go.
Ever north she travelled, then east, into Wyoming, then Montana, the landscape like she’d never seen it, except in pictures.
Loneliness wrapped her like a shawl. She missed those she’d known, even those who’d been unkind. Constant travel began to wear on her, but she kept on, the need to find a place to fit driving her, becoming obsession, and then, a chip, wherein she saw each new place not with wide eyed wonder, but as a place to judge, and disregard, and leave.
Angela was tired. She wanted to go home, but she had no home, her house and town gone, destroyed. Sure, she could rebuild, but she’d never been happy there either, not once since she’d been dropped there at the age of ten, on the day before her fathers funeral.
She cried. Max wagged his tail and licked her face, trying to sooth her as she sobbed and wailed. She hugged him. He became her only anchor. On she drove as tears subsided.
She met a man in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with sparkly eyes and an easy laugh. He called her beautiful, and fell in love, and she in return. At night, naked in his hotel bed, he held her tight and caressed her, and asked about her scars.
“My grandmothers belt.” She said, and then would say no more.
She left her car in Jackson Hole, sold to the parents of a teenager for a small sum, and joined her new love in his new car for the ride to Seattle; and it was there, in his arms, that she found her home.