I recently went to quit my job and got fired.
When that happened I didn’t know how to feel about it. I was unhappy but why did they let me go? I worked hard. I knew what I was doing.
I put one pair of pants and two shirts in a bag and ushered my dogs to the car. With an audiobook about France and a burrito, I set out for southern Utah.
My coworker at a bookstore (the job I still had) had once owned a bookstore in Moab named after a line from an Edward Abbey book called Desert Solitaire, about the Moab desert. The bookstore was called “back of beyond.” I took the book with me and tried to find the passage that inspired the shop. Was it this one?
“Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
I didn’t open the book the whole trip to the canyon walls and red rocks. Once I headed out it sat underneath my camping supplies in the trunk, crushed by water bottles and binoculars.
The drive to Moab was over ten hours. I drove the wrong direction twice, stopped at two rest stops, drank three cups of coffee and found eight tourist brochures.
By the time I was in Moab it was dark and I drove slowly through the main short strip that is downtown. Unable to find a dive bar or a hostel, and realizing that I had about ten dollars to my name until my paycheck was processed in the bank (it was a weekend) I finally parked at a brewery. Three beers and a conversation with a young married couple about traveling the world.
I let the dogs out to pee and drove around in the dark. No hostels. Just an RV park. I hate RV parks. I stopped at a gas station and the attendant said they didn’t have any wine.
“Want some beer?” a guy in a sweatshirt and dirty hat asked from across the store.
“Come have some beer at our hostel.”
A hostel. Okay. I followed him and a car of four people down the road to the left, behind storage units and christmas lights.
Two boys sat next to a picnic table covered in vodka bottles and pizza. I forget the first boy’s name. The second was Charley.
Turned out Charley was planning to move to Jackson for the winter. Charley had big blue eyes and a wide smile, dirt long hair, and a bright yellow shirt that showed off the curve of his shoulders.
“Want to live with me?”
“Seriously? yes.” This was an interesting start to a conversation. But Charley was on the other side of the picnic table and the boy in the dirty cap from the gas station, named John, was sitting next to me, very nearly touching my arm and giggling about everything I had to say about an article I was writing on peter pan syndrome in small ski towns.
“So you think this is a ski town problem or a generational problem? Is it even a problem?Nobody wants to grow up anymore. Everyone is coasting along waiting for the next adrenaline rush. Ready to find the next big adventure.”
Charley said “snowboarding is better than sex.”
“Maybe you haven’t had good sex yet, Charley.”
Charley stayed in my tent that night. John told him not to do it. John was very drunk and after we shared a half-bottle of vodka he was wandering around the hostel hitting trees and yelling at tourists.
The next day Charley called in sick, or a hurt foot, from work. We went to Arches National Park and Canyonlands. Island in the Sky is a more secluded hiking trail into the canyons. You look down into crevices and ravines of red rock. We hid in a crevice that dropped a half mile down into the canyon, and Charlie took off his pants and yellow shirt.
It was the first time he came from sex in a year. I didn’t know what he meant at first.