When I land at my airport, finally, finally, finally, after weather cancellations that were actually about under-filled flights, I watch the passengers from other places to see if they have yet found their magic. Their hopefulness rips me apart.
I don’t have on cowboy boots, or a western hat, although there’s probably one in my truck. I don’t wear feathers in my hair. I correctly pronounce the native ts’, my tongue pressing against my front teeth—but it’s just a party trick. I’ve been called “vaguely ethnic” to my face. Aren’t we all? I don’t have a dreamcatcher tattoo and neither should you.
The airport suffers wind shears that can flip a car. “It’s like the frontier,” says a man in the line where you wait and whisper prayers for your luggage, telling jokes about your underwear being tossed onto a runway two connections ago. The baggage always turns up, though sometimes coated in ice.
We know each other by our cadence. The pauses that visitors think are about us being dim or drunk are actually filled with thought. We have all the time in the world to choose our words. We take our mañana seriously. We’ll get to it when we feel like it.
“Welcome home,” says the airport-parking attendant. “One dollar per day.”
Sometimes when out walking, I’ll encounter a huge truck on a narrow road near my home. Often, they’ll slow down and ask me—while swiping at a cloud of dust—if I know where such-and-such not-nearby address is. I’ll know, since there aren’t that many roads. They’ll be lost, because GPS around here is a liar and delivers the user to the field where there used to be a mail drop. “Mapquest goes everywhere,” they tell me. Sure, buddy, whatever you say.
I email friends how to get from that field to my home, and ask them to just print the damn directions already, and stick them in the glovebox for when they need them. What I don’t tell them is that the howling coyotes they’ll hear aren’t ghosts or skinwalkers.
They always arrive shaken, my instructions in hand.
Monday Night Headache
When you come up through the pass, New Mexico Route 68—not that it’s marked or anything—right by the Rio Grande Gorge the radio signals fail. The strongest, from a local station, returns first, delivering your Monday night headache: “Moccasin Wire.”
Other nights, it’s reggae, the trivia contest from the casino, or Licorice Pizza, a show where the deejay lazily slaps a stack of random vinyl on the turntable and heads out back for a smoke. Sunday night is run by the high school’s Vo-Tech crew, and they’re all wasted, laughing at their own non-jokes. What do their parents think, I wonder, recognizing their voices. Western Alternative night is alright in small doses, as is the acoustic show. Everyone loves Trash-N-Treasures, where folks try to sell stuff that they’re too lazy to haul to the dump—no dude, I don’t want your broken weed-whacker. Nobody does.
But Mondays from 7 to 10 pm, three whole hours, when I ought to have remembered to grab a few CDs on the way out the door—when will I learn—it’s “Moccasin Wire.” All drumming. All the time. I feel guilty for not liking this, for counting the minutes until I’m home, for not getting enough sleep the night before, so that I could turn off the radio and be sure that I won’t doze. Just who are the program’s “massive internet audience” and what is wrong with them? I want to know why the one quarter of me—more or less, depending on who you ask—can’t override the rest that feels this never-ending thump at the temple instead of in the heart.
Linda Michel-Cassidy’s writing has appeared in Jabberwock, Harpur Palate, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and others. She podcasts for the Mill Valley library, interviewing guests on the eight books that made them, and teaches flash fiction, experimental prose, and memoir. She also works for the literary reading series Why There Are Words, is a contributing editor at Entropy Magazine, and is a co-editor of the Trumpwatch newsfeed. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and another, in visual arts, from the California College of the Arts. She recently served a decade of voluntary exile in rural Northern NM, and now lives on a houseboat in California.