The Alien, The Cowboy and The Witch (PART TWO) / by grace mcgrade


Chapter 2 (Continued from below)

In the desert, the world felt wobbly, and unfixed. Almost like the grid was fluctuating, and the air was aware they were breathing it.

Adam’s adamancy on driving with two broken arms and on painkillers made the feat exhilaratingly nerve racking. His pupils had turned to the size of needlepoints from the oxycodone, which he knocked back a little too often. He fixed them sternly on the white mounds of desert ahead. He refused to take off his hospital gown and had been wearing it over jeans as some sort of badge of injury and fashion accessory. Elle liked this.

He draped one broken wrist over the steering wheel and one over her, blazing brilliantly through the Arizonian desert in his yellow Mercedes. Adam was very attached to his car, and treated it as an extension of himself. In a sense it was, it was sort of cool and almost falling apart -like him.  On several occasions, the car would spew out smoke and jig from side to side, teetering on breaking down in the middle of the freeway. Adam would get out and try to fix it and Elle would visualize it working til they got it on the road again. They were on a seven hour drive to visit the cancer hospital where Maureen, Adam’s step mother, awaited in hospice. Seven hours of golden desert, paused intermittently to make pit stops in dingy gas stations, to buy redbull and cigarettes.

When they pulled over to get gas, both bickering over whom should pay, a bucket of exotic flowers from no one in a bucket appeared on the trunk. It was a beautiful, blossoming manifestation, and Adam had to touch every last flower to make sure they were real.

They both acknowledged the miracle with glee, and then went back to arguing about who they were for. Elle, who was familiar with apparitions and miracles, believed they were sent from her dead ex boyfriend, and Adam demanded that they were for Maureen.
Adam made Elle take a photo of him holding them so he could keep up his instagram appearances, which made her feel sick. He was privy to bursts of opinion, where he would hurdle into a one man show of childlike entertainment, and then suddenly veer back and halt looking to her for approval. Almost like a puppy that had been raised on methamphetamine.  She would try to monopolize the music and when she was angry she would play songs that let him know.  

On the drive, Elle thought about her ex boyfriend, and wondered if their love making had entangled her to him from a plane surpassing death. She wondered if he would appear to her the way some ancestors appeared to her, in midnight whispers and darting light. She alternated between quietly crying and holding Adam’s hands, endorned with thick skin and silver rings. He played all the songs she had heard her mother played when she was growing up, and Elle silently questioned how he knew what they were or how to do this. Sometimes it felt like they had their own thought language, and they could always feel each other’s secrets.

Elle liked that Adam was straight forward, he seemed to soften her, and the conversations they had didn’t always have to be as existential as the ones Elle had inside her head. She felt tamer and gentler. She liked the way he seemed to roll through life, like water or music, fitting into unexpected things. They made each other laugh, and shared the same absurd, alien humor. They both felt a sense of homesickness for other realms. She wondered if she only liked him in his vulnerability, and how differently their experience would be had he not gotten injured. Whether he liked her, or just needed her, and if she was going to be thrown away when she exceeded her use. Part of Elle could never really belong to any man, for she was a Witch, made for wandering.

They arrived in Flagstaff late at night, the drive leaving their limbs numb and throats hoarse, from dust and cigarettes. They checked into a best western hotel, which felt oddly brown and empty. They were relieved to lie down. Elle had a ravenous sexual appetite, which she reserved for those she was comfortable with- as she believed sex was a sacred and the best way to transcend a reality that she felt so heavily weighed her down. She wanted to feel and not just touch, to merge and unmerge, alchemized and renewed. Adam had a much more mechanical approach. Elle liked that he was injured as it gave her an upper hand. They would enter an altered state and she would bend into impossible contortions, beds came unhinged and usually the room was turned upside down by a series of primal acrobatics.

When Elle didn’t feel like she was getting enough intimacy, she would replace it with intensity. Aggression and conflict as a way to connect. Like some kind of distorted love making. A tempestuous, volcanic orgasm. She was great at it. Fury is sacred, she thought. There was something inherintly sexy to her about conflict, the unbuttoned reveal of dark, innermost feelings.. The below the belt jabs, and sharp, lightning fast magnitude of tempered words. It was her shadow side, the polarity to her kindness, whose appearance she preferred to integrate rather than dismiss, because even in darkness she felt celestial.

The following morning, they got dressed and headed to the cancer hospital.

It was a vast, orange, solemn artifice. Almost empty, with an air of unreality that seemed to ghost the hollow hallways. It contained a cafeteria equipt with coca cola machines and fast food served under lit tables, and a gift shop that sold last minute religious paraphernalia.  

Adam took the emptiness as an excuse to steal an iced tea from the cafeteria. The cafeteria was completely empty, apart from two giant teddy bears seated at a table. Adam and Elle went and sat on either side of them, giggling quietly, almost sadly.

They looked like a still from an art house movie, Adam still wearing his hospital top, and Elle in her leather pants, lodged between two teddy bears at a plastic table. Adam commented that it was weird that there was no one there, that the food they served was trash and most likely caused cancer. Elle, who ordinarily would have thought deeply about the paradox,  kept thinking about meeting Adam’s Dad and Stepmom under these circumstances, and she almost wanted to return to the hotel and hide, but she knew better than to run from things that scared her or made her uncomfortable.

Adam’s dad had the appearance of someone who thought methodically, and had a brooding, intimidating stare, which was comically complimented by the fact that he was holding a very small Chihuahua. He was cordial to Elle, who offered her sympathies, and lead them upstairs into Maureen’s room.

It was jarring to see such a beautiful woman connected to wires and tubes, but despite the sterility and harsh fluorescence of the hospital room, Maureen had a calm, ethereal glow about her. She had the air of someone who had spent their life in kindness and love.  She couldn’t speak much, so the conversation turned back to Elle, Adam and Adam’s Dad, and became a speedy “get to know each other” sort of thing, equal parts abnormal and uncomfortable. Adam shared strange anecdotes from his childhood, glancing back at Elle to see how she would react.  It was surreal to Elle, how intimate Adam had to become so quickly. It was almost as if their trajectory together had been sped up by the circumstances life threw at them. Suddenly, she was overcome by a feeling of tenderness, joy and compassion for Adam and his optimism. He was still, even in the bleakness of a hospital, trying to make Elle smile.

They resolved that Adam’s Dad would take Maureen back to Vegas to pass away  at home, where they both shared a house, and Adam and Elle would meet them there. Adam wanted to spend another night in Arizona, and head to Sedona.

Elle repeatedly asked him why he wanted to go there, and he repeatedly replied that he thought it would be ‘cool’, which usually (at least in los angeles), meant dangerous or vapid, but she decided to trust him. In the future he would return to Sedona in other circumstances, with other girls, attempting to relive the surreality and miracles that happened there, but he was always left disappointed. It was not until later, that he realized that there would always be girls who were smaller, softer and easier to maintain than Elle, but there would never be anyone with more magic.

The hiccuping mercedes made it another few hours, til they were in sight of the mountainous layers of red rock in Sedona. The jutted towers of earth appeared alien and ominous on the horizon, which was slowly reaching sunset.