Finding Roots in my Boots

Submitted into Contest #196 in response to: Write a story that includes the phrase “Maybe in another life.”... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction Inspirational Romance

“Your life is not a fairytale country song,” my recent ex said as I packed my car with the few belongings I had in our home with my name on them. Mostly from the kitchen.

“George Strait would beg to differ; I am going to write my own country love song with a happy ending!” I said as I angrily slammed my SUV’s door shut.

I put my car in reverse and sped out of our gated community in proper Las Vegas. As I drove out of the golden gates, I vowed to find my Knight in Shining Armor…or cowboy boots. Forget this town, I wanted to go back to my roots. All the fancy lights in the world couldn’t replace a simple night by a bonfire and good country music. Or could they? I prayed I was making the right choice.

I drove for an hour and a half before I stopped in Kingman. The rodeo was in town in Vegas, so the horses were coming up the opposite direction of my travel. It was also a Friday night, which meant Kingman was hosting a rodeo parade the next morning. I started to yawn and see headlights passing by me as though I was staring at the sun.

Scared of falling asleep at the wheel, I pulled off on the main Kingman exit only to find that all the motels said, “no vacancy.”

Near the point of exhaustion not only from being on the road, but from closing the final chapter on my relationship, I sought solace at a small coffee shop with the lights still on at 9pm. I stumbled inside the entrance with the deep echo of my boots. I seemed to remember angrily putting them on and exclaiming that “my boots will show me my roots”, but at this point I was so tired that my feet felt numb from driving in them. 

           “Late night on the road?” The barista said. He was an old, withered man with a white beard so straggly and matted that it looked like the tassels on a dream catcher.

           “Yes sir, so sorry for stopping by so late. I’ll buy a tea for the inconvenience, but do you know of any last-minute vacancies nearby? I don’t feel safe making the drive back home tonight.”

“Well, it’s your lucky night ‘darlin, the coffee shop has a hostel above it. Tonight’s moon is one of the most invisible we’ve ever seen, so those roads are too dark to know where your next turn is. I’ll tell you what, if you will promise me that you’ll help me hand out coffee tomorrow morning at the parade, I’ll let you stay for free.”

Seeing that he had hotel key cards and other people were around, I didn’t once feel that he was anything less than sincere. I felt an overwhelming sense of calmness. Almost as though I’d walked into a coffee shop owned by my guardian angel.

“Yes sir! I’ll be up bright and early to help you get started. Thank you for your kindness,” I said with a sleepy smile. He handed me my tea and a key with directions to a private room on the top floor “that usually gets the best view of the moon.”

Gladly taking the key, I grabbed my backpack from my car and made my way up the old wooden stairs. When I opened the door, it looked like Johnny Cash’s childhood bedroom that hadn’t been cleaned in the last century. I didn’t have time to worry about the cleanliness of the old hostel because I fell asleep so quickly, deeply and soundly on the old rickety bed. I even forgot to take my boots off.

°°°

I awoke to a soft cold breeze coming in through the window. The bed was comfy and surprisingly clean. I rolled over and my boots got tangled in the big white comforter. Was I so tired last night that I had imagined this room as “western”, yet it looked like a ritzy Westin? Confused, I felt around for my phone. Afraid I’d been close to hallucinating last night out of fatigue, I checked to make sure all my ducks were on a row.

First, I checked my car’s location. Parked. I rubbed my eyes so that my contacts would focus and switched to my e-mail, text, and social media. No new notifications. I sighed with a small relief and rolled over to the other side of the bed. Reaching for where I thought I had put my phone charger, I tipped over a bottle of wine.

“What the hell!” I yelled at myself and stood up. I was in my boots, but also my favorite lacey white club dress. The champagne had splattered everywhere and made the room reek of old wine.

Did the guy last night spike my tea? Did I go out? What the hell happened?

And then the panic attack began creeping up in my chest. I knew what would happen next: repeating to myself that I’m not having a heart attack, explaining to my brain that it doesn’t have proper fight or flight signals, and gathering facts.

Fact one that I could deduce was that my car was safely parked. Fact two would be no strange calls or messages on my phone. Fact three would be that these were the same boots as last night.

Oh! I was in Kingman, of course. I fact-checked the weather app with my location to ensure that it would be 5am and I’d be ready to help the coffee shop owner with the parade.

5:24AM, local time. Shit. I overslept. Scrambling to put on my fresh clothes, I looked out the window to see a full moon. How weird that it was so vibrant only hours after my hazy drive.

There was nothing in my backpack that I had originally packed but sundresses and flip flops. Had I been in such a haste to leave my ex that I packed so haphazardly? Possibly.

My weather app finally loaded, and my entire body froze. Hawaii. 82 degrees. What the flying fuck was I doing in Hawaii?

Panicked, I tried to call my mother. Mid-dial my phone died. Where was my charger? I was hysterically searching the hotel room when a beep came from the door.

In walked my ex, yelling on the phone and distracted by what seemed to be a sales call. Terrified but knowing that he wasn’t violent, I calculated my question. 

“What are you doing here?” I said softly. 

“What do you mean? I went to the gym, wife. Jeez. Why do I need to tell you everything? What, we elope and now I have share my location with you?” He glanced at me annoyed and returned to talking about closing costs on a deal he was trying to make.

I looked down at my finger to see the horrifying truth: I was married. I must’ve dreamt that I left him. Which one was the nightmare, and what was reality?

All the dreams I had for myself seemed to slip through the beams in the dark wood floor of the hotel room. All the aspirations I had: a partner that wanted kids as desperately as I did (my ex –er—husband? could take them or leave them), my dreams of having that simple country life after traveling the world, all fell like quicksand into a swirling pit that I couldn’t make sense of. I wasn’t happy. My peace felt like it had been ripped from my soul as I tried to ward off an impending panic attack.

“Oh jeez, again? Just take a Xanax and chill,” he said while covering his cellphone. Clearly the attack had morphed from mental to physical. I remembered the days when he so kindly used to sit with me and help me breathe through these. But they were long gone.

I had to get out of this. I looked at the moon and prayed to be back in that little coffee shop in Kingman, making my escape to freedom. Woozy with anxiety, I did what happens often when the panic makes my blood pressure drop: I fainted.

°°°

I woke up with a throbbing headache only to see that the moon had retreated behind clouds and the "fancy" hotel room was completely dark. My back hurt, likely from the fall. A musty old, spilled wine crept into my nostrils...but there was a phone charger where the bottle of wine previously was. Rubbing my eyes so that my contacts would adjust, the room looked like Johnny Cash lived there once again.

I shuddered from the apparent nightmare I had and went to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face. Sober as a stone-cold fox, I knew I hadn’t even taken a pill or anything for my anxiety last night because I was so tired. The dream felt so vivid, real, and left an overwhelming sense of…relief? Had my prayers been answered?

I threw my parade clothes on ready to go help the old man hand out coffee for real this time. After putting my stuff in my car, I took a moment to enjoy the crisp air of a small town.

The old man walked up to me and extended a hand with a mug full of hot coffee. “Some moon last night, eh? Some say when it hides behind the clouds it’s scared of showing itself again to the rest of the world.”

“Something like that,” I smiled as I took the hot coffee from his hands.

“Do you wish you hadn’t left Vegas and that relationship?” He said after my first sip.

“I…how did you know I was worried I made the wrong choice?” I asked, struck by his intuition.

“The moon knows. Do you think you should have stayed?” He said as he put his hand on my shoulder at an attempt to calm my watering eyes.

“Maybe in another life,” I said with my bittersweet smile, “but right now, this town, this coffee and these boots are all I ever wished for.”

May 04, 2023 04:26

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5 comments

David Sanchez
02:03 May 12, 2023

Good story! I really enjoyed the tone and pacing, going from the narrator entering the hostel upstairs into the nightmare. And echoing the welcomes from others. Looking forward to reading more stories.

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Mary Bendickson
18:25 May 07, 2023

This is your first story? It's a good one. Welcome.

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Morgan Thompson
21:28 May 07, 2023

It is! Thank you, I'm getting used to the format - it didn't copy correctly. I appreciate the read :)

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Karen McDermott
12:49 May 06, 2023

Great writing. Loved this imagery in particular: "He was an old, withered man with a white beard so straggly and matted that it looked like the tassels on a dream catcher." And then the trippiness of the nightmare. Finally, I'm jealous of the boots.

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Morgan Thompson
15:38 May 07, 2023

Thank you! It was a little bit of a rough draft I forgot to finalize, but yes! My boots travel the world with me :p

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