The Way West

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: End your story with someone finding themselves.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction Contemporary

I’m nothing without failure. It’s made me who I am, I have become it. Now, I haven’t become better for it, that is to say, haven’t learned anything of value or grown from any experience that is failure, but rather inhabited the word so well its very essence has become something of a cloth to me, my own flesh and bones warmed by the letters. 

DUI’s and failing out of school. I’ve been fired from more jobs than I can count. I’ve never saved a dime. I have no skills. 

I decided to move out West a few years ago, hoping it might amplify my spirit. 

Those who loved me thought I was going out there to die. 

I laughed at this idea. But deep down I figured them to probably be right. 

The car that took me out West was my grandma’s. It still carries on her soul. 

I’ve always wanted a truck, but never had a good reason to get one, or the money. 

My grandma’s car has taken me West of the Mississippi twice and only broken down once. Both times I came West I owe to sickness which cannot be cured, tagged by Merle Haggard in the 1960’s as Ramblin’ Fever. A disease in which a man cannot stay in one place, where the settling somewhere unsettles and rattles the spirit, where one must up and leave for new territory, new horizons. And when one has it, there’s nothing he can do, save for head up and head on.

My first venture shorted my imagination awfully. I lived in a beautiful part of the country only to work 6 days and 70-80 hour weeks in misery, spending my off days in bed resting up and recovering. After I had taken all I could take, I turned in my two weeks and then drove out to California, up Highway 1 searching for something across the Pacific, the stars, God perhaps, the design of my own soul. We were delivered not.

I came back home to Tennessee after Covid hit, and I came back like a horse that had just been broken, beaten, straddled and sold, and rode hard and rode mean. I was in awful shape.

It took about a year before I accepted a job out West again, a couples miles off the Navajo Reservation basically in the middle of nowhere, in a desert so dry and without life, the prophets from the Christian bible likely used it as inspiration for writing about all those men being tested in the desert of old, and a desert so hot and mean, you can almost see the shape of the devil rising up and forming out of the heat waves. Or it is a mirage. But probably it is the devil.

I came out here to write Westerns but I’ve been unable to write for an equivalence to the biblical forty days and forty night. So now, all I do out here is clean toilets and make beds. I’m a housekeeper, if people ask me what I am, the answer is housekeeper. If there’s an art to it, it’s an art that has totally evaded my skill set. When my supervisor looks at the bed I’ve just made and says it needs to be tighter and with the quilt squares lined and matching and with proper dimensions between the pillows, all I can think to say is, Who gives a shit.

They say guests will leave behind hundreds of dollars in the Bibles but this has proven to be bullshit. Occasionally they will tip a few dollars but mostly what they leave is vomit in the trash cans, stains of shit and stains of piss on the toilet and bathroom floor, and a collection of pubic hairs in the tubs. When people ask me why I always take shitty jobs, I tell them it’s because I don’t ever want comfort as an excuse to quit writing. I often regret my life choices.

Sometimes I can see my own reflection in the yellow waters while I scrub the toilet bowl and I wonder what in the hell have I done with my life, if my existence in its entirety has been wasted.

When I first saw Audra cleaning a table after serving the customers breakfast at the restaurant, I wondered no more. Her murky and maple eyes seem to be globes of forests invented by Shakespeare and her long hair falls down her back how water falls down rapids at the Grand Canyon. Shimmering the sun, golden rays ringing off her black strands and when I first saw her, time froze and Michelangelo painted her and I stood witness.

I introduced myself and asked her on a hike, and I still remember the song that played in my headphones while I worked the rest of the day after she said yes. We climbed down desert slopes of the hike called Cathedral and talked about horses and baseball and sat and watched the mystifying and violent rapids of the Colorado score our conversation like concerto strings from the chorus of God.

We’ve since fallen in love, a love unparalleled by any other woman I’ve ever met. We’re going to live the rest of our lives together, a life I never pictured for myself.

I tell her that I’ve come all over for her, 2000 miles twice and even up and down the California coastline, and done come 28 years too searching for her. She says what took me so long.

We saved up all year and bought an old 5th wheel trailer. Got it for cheap. Wiped out my entire savings. 

I have negative thirty dollars to my name and I work a trade each morning and afternoon that I hate. 

But I have a home with the woman I that I love. The trailer cost us three thousand dollars. It has no running water, no electricity. It’s sixteen hundred miles from the only family I’ve ever known. 

We don’t really know how to live in it. It’s called dry camping and we’re figuring it out every day. Some nights we steal water from our neighbor’s hose. We shit in a doggy bag, store it in a trash container and plan to use it as compost for a garden we’re working on. Corn and squash, apples trees, potatoes and cucumber. 

It’s a long way from antebellum style houses I grew up in. One day it’ll take us to hikes and campgrounds across the entire country. 

It’s older than I am. I told Audra I’ve come many miles and searched damn near thirty years to find her. 

We’re saving up for a truck. 

December 14, 2021 19:00

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Isaiah Ramos
22:08 Dec 22, 2021

This is a pretty good piece. I enjoyed it. Puts me in the mindset of "the drifter". I'm not someone who could be a drifter - I'd worry too much and generally yearn for the existence and substance of society (even though I like to keep away from it as I'm mostly an introvert - complicated, I know). For me, structure is important. But I feel the same desire and need to write. I'm here reading your piece and typing this comment while sitting bored to death at work, a job I'm desperately trying to get out of asap! I like the movement and flow ...


Leotie Review
17:14 Dec 24, 2021

Thank you very much for your extensive feedback. It is greatly appreciated. I think I agree with your take on the ending and will try it out with your suggestion. Thanks again


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