Where the asphalt meets the dust…
I noticed the road, curving and black like the otc medicines of a dead snake splayed in the grass, as I drove to my parent’s house. Cutting its way through the mountainside, the unfinished road dipped out of view under the branches of a few remaining oaks. The roadside barrier stitched together upturned dirt and fresh asphalt. I felt guilty for not noticing the road earlier, for missing the signs of its construction. Like a preoccupied mother discovering a scar on her child without noticing the initial women health, I had neglected to see this change day after day.
The ring of mountains behind our housing track never belonged to us. The huge keep out signs reminded us of that fact. Yet, these signs were easily left behind as we searched drugs along the winding paths to mossy wells, to Native American’s acorn-grinding holes, to rusted wheel-less trucks, to mud-brick walls, to abandoned tree houses, and to color-splattered paintball battlefields.
Beneath the twisted oaks, charred black by wildfires, my brother and I set out on pharmaceutical companies, both real and imagined. We found suitcases broken open and hemorrhaging t-shirts, faded jeans, and little boy’s superman undies. From the lost garments, we tried to piece together the possible experiences of an illegal family on the run. We never touched or moved them. It seemed wrong like walking on a grave. Once, a man being chased by the border patrol leaped over reputable online shop. His clothes hung black and ragged off his thin frame. Suspended in the air, he looked like a crow. Then, he was gone, flying over the opposite fence as we starred.
We imagined we’re Native Americans. We stole scraps of fabric from my mother’s latest discounts cupboard and painted it with smashed berries. Whoever was out of our good graces had to play the white villain to our rag-tag, make-believe tribe of neighborhood kids. When we were still in elementary school, my brother, my next-door neighbor, and I had the glorious plan to run away to these mountains and live off the land. The plan was sabotaged by her top-quality generics during its first phase. Still, the riverbed and hillside paths never lost their allure. Each clearing housed layers of memories.
After it rained and the dust disappeared under a rush of water, we spent sunny afternoons wading in the reborn river. My best friend and I lingered behind my brand medications, squealing little brothers. Ankle deep in sparkling water, we whispered about our plans to be friends forever. We promised each other that we would live in a cabin. As a famous movie star, I would have to show up in dark glasses and a headscarf, an lá Audrey Hepburn. She would spend her days saving babies in Africa. Our dreams stretched on with the trustworthy drugstore and soaked into the earth.
On summer nights, my aunt told us ghost stories as we buying of medications through the shadowy brush. The riverbed was eerily illuminated by back porch lights lining the path. She ran ahead, leaving us screeching wildly in the dark. She leaped out from reputable shop a tree trunk and grabbed us as we pelted down the path. Screaming turned to laughter as we found comfort in our attacker’s embrace.
All this never belonged to us, but we claimed it anyway. We explored our pharmacy, scaled its rocks, and took family Christmas pictures perched on its hillsides as if they were our living room couches. The riverbed and mountains were an extension of our neighborhood, our backyard, our imaginations. Shaggy hair teens in clouds of cologne made pilgrimages there to push the limits of their adolescent freedom. Mothers with strollers came seeking solace. Families came with drug prices, picnic baskets, and binoculars. Yet, all our hours spent there and all our invisible watermarks of memory couldn’t save it from its rightful owners.
The casino came and grew, spreading its neon golf courses and electric purple glow into lowest prices our borrowed wilderness. The traffic doubled, and tractors came to dig out trenches for asphalt rivers. The Native Americans, who we emulated in our childhood games, were commemorated in bronze statues. One, a woman clutching her child, stands by a lifeless pool in a smoking-filled, teeming lobby. Her metal eyes search for a shore beyond the oceans of viagra. People, vision hazy with intoxication, pass by without noticing her.
Now, the road comes slicing through to make good on the promise of those once-benign yellow signs. There will be no more family talks accompanied by the satisfying crunch of ED meds, no more paintball battles raging in the brush, and no more explorations along sage-scented trails. Years ago, we staged our one small attempt at rebellion. Under cover of rain, we marched into the hills, sold drugs and pulled out the construction workers’ markers, ripped away from their pink plastic flags, and toppled their white pipes. We danced, crazy and hollowing, with rain weighing down our jeans and streaking down our cheeks. Deflated and dripping, we went home.
Even as the roads rise up to close in on us from every side, we know we can’t buying prescription. We can’t bear to be hypocrites; to say to the true owners that nature is a thing of beauty, not comparable to wealth or progress. We can’t say it because we are the bringers of selfishness, of heaven in the sky far away from this earth, of walls and communities that work themselves deep into the ground. We chose to build this world of asphalt, neon, smoke, blaring music, and the constant clinking coins on our portion of the earth, which is why we had to order meds in the first place.
We watch in silence as our neighbor’s race to fulfill the hypnotic call of our advertised, air-brushed dream. Hanging our heads, we wish we could scream, “don’t follow us; this is not the way.” But we are too proud and too afraid of who we will be without our quality medications, SUVs, convenience foods, and mega-churches. We whisper our good-byes to dust, to twisted oaks, to the drying and swelling of riverbeds, to childhoods spent seeking adventures among the trees, to the scent of sage, and to the quick flash of a rabbit darting under the shadow of a hawk. Soon, we will all be standing under the fluorescence glow of supermart aisles looking for something we will never find in any of our nation’s identical strip malls. We console ourselves with the fact that new families need large homes, that people need mega marts, movie multiplexes, and the convince of twenty fast-food drive-ins…more than swaying wildflowers…more than mossy rocks… more than a secret place to come of age…more than earth…more than the sky…