In case you were wondering I haven’t completely lost my marbles and I am not trapped in Fargo. I didn’t even have to dole out bj’s to pay my way out of Fargo. I kid! I would never resort to doling out bj’s. It wouldn’t come to that. I have too nice of friends. At least 7 of which offered to take care of my car issue. So all is well.
Well-ish, I should say. But well enough. The men in Fargo sort of fixed my car and it got me into Wyoming and then the exact same issue started happening again. My check engine light came on and my car started to lurch and bog. I still had four hours to go so naturally I wanted to just pull over on the side of the road, put my car into neutral on a cliff bank and watch her ease down into a canyon in a blaze of fire over my aggravation.
Alas I didn’t resort to that.
This is why:
I hadn’t gotten very far on the day I left Fargo, maybe five hours. I was almost to Montana. But the sun slipped down and with it went my somewhat uplifted spirits over being on the road and Westbound. I suddenly felt all sorts of glum all over again. I turned around, because I had recently passed some motels and I decided there was no use in hoarding the last of my money. It would be gone shortly enough anyway and what did I care?
I found a red motel called the Cowboy Inn and I checked in.
I peeled off my clothes and socks that I had been wearing for two days because my car was an explosion of disarray and I was too lazy to find clean garments. I showered and curled into bed without brushing my riotous mop of curls.
I woke up to hair that looked exactly like Gene Wilder’s. But if he were taking a bath and dropped a hairdryer in it. I crawled back into bed because though I thought a night of unencumbered rest at the Cowboy Inn would cure me of my blues it had not.
I lay there feeling frozen in fear over the state of my life and again asking myself—as I had done many a time before—why I did such whimsical things like buy one way tickets to places, or crash on people’s air mattresses in their living rooms, or sleep in strangers homes, or sell all my earthly possessions, or pack up my car to drive West with nothing to support myself other than one fancy red sequined Jessica Rabbit dress, no job and no real ideas other than that my soul seemed certain on this one particular place. Much like it had felt certain on lots of other things before.
Because I listen to my soul more often than I listen to my brain. And I won’t say this gets me into trouble, because my troubles are never really troubles. They are more so cheeky calamities. At least that’s how I view them once I am outside of them.
But at that moment in Belfield, North Dakota, I wasn’t so much in the cheeky calamity realm. I felt troubled. Deeply troubled. And so I told my mom I was not going to leave this cozy, seventies motel room, with cowboy cartoons in the bathroom and mugs with mules on them.
“Nah,” I said. “I am just going to stay here, and I am going to buy some whiskey and lay in the fetal position drinking it amongst the cowboy tapestries, until the motel people drag me out.”
My mom, nonplussed with my mood and my melodramatic declarations suggested I get a nice omelette and get going.
So practical for a woman who birthed ten children who all have these sort of whimsies and theatrical flairs. Well maybe except Nick. Nick probably would never threaten to drink whiskey in Belfield. Nick’s perfect though and isn’t prone to flights of fancy.
I did like the thought of an omelette, however and the simplicity of the advice struck me. All I had to do was one thing and that thing obviously wasn’t figuring my life out. That was too large a task and impossible to do with some sixty-nine dollars left in my checking account while I sat dallying in a cowboy motel in the middle of nowhere.
I could, however get out of bed. Which I did. I still didn’t brush my hair. I took two pictures with thumbs-up of the large curled tufts and sent them to my best friend. Because this is something I like to do. Send her morning pictures of my wild bed hair.
This made me feel small-ish-ly better. Then I made coffee. I took two sips and it was revolting. I set the mule mug down and got dressed, abandoning the caffeine. And I got going. I didn’t get an omelette because I feared it might be a little ‘spensive. So instead I ate up the sunset. And then I played nothing but Ted Talks and sermons on my radio while I cried and nodded along with Joel Osteen’s peppy declarations: like stop having a poor mouth and have a prosperous mouth. I didn’t care if people say he’s a feel good preacher. I wanted to feel good.
I listened to Tony Robbins and Rob Bell. I listened to Lewis Howes (still don’t know who he is, but he mentioned something about being an athlete and talked a lot about greatness in a very manly voice) and David Steindl-Rast—a Benedictine monk—and Mike Rowe. And a whole bunch more.
So by the time my car decided it wasn’t actually fixed, I had the wherewithal not to drive it off a cliff—and also to call the place in Fargo and say, hey you did not fix my car, I want my sister’s money back!—and to simply take Joel Osteen’s sage advice of trusting that God was working behind the curtain of my life and I really had no need to worry. So I told that to myself for the next four hours while my car lurched and bogged and refused to accelerate properly until I got safely to my destination.
And though driving into Wyoming was akin to the happiness I felt with a really proper orgasm or a hot donut dipped in a decadent French roast, I naturally still had all new freakouts a day later upon evaluating that I still needed more money in my account than I had (very little) and that a job was in order and all that other noise. Adulthood can be a real racket, I’ll tell ya that.
I feverishly repeated Mr. Osteen’s advice while applying for jobs and having God on speed dial. I had worked myself into a bit of a lather when my sister Kirst called and said she was having much the same day as I was. It was her first day alone at her new job, and she was filled with nerves and she broke a glass and then wanted to slit her throat with the glass.
And this is what did it. Perked me right the hell up. Knowing that I was one-hundred percent not alone in my melodrama and that life can be just as uncertain and unforgiving for someone whose thighs don’t touch and always has a man falling about her feet, because Kirstie is as striking as a Wyoming sunset.
We went back and forth telling each other the things we wanted to do in order to deal with our hunger for art and our desperation at making it happen despite having to hold down customer service jobs. Kirst said she contemplated cutting off all her hair. I told her I was on a whiskey fixation and wanted to spend my last twenty dollars on a bottle. Kirst said she had a shot of whiskey when she got home and ordered a pizza. I bought a bag of peanut butter cups and ate one after another while debating if I could live out of my car in the mountains.
And then we felt better. And agreed it would be hard. It’s always hard when you want it real bad. But Tony Robbins said, how bad do you want it? Where is your hunger? And so Kirst and I agreed we had to get real hungry for our art because we wanted it real bad. We had to hunker down in the bowels, while not cutting off all our hair or developing a drinking dependency.
We understood each other and we understood the hunger. And that for the moment cured me of my need to understand everything and instead understand that God was behind the curtain and I couldn’t have a better hand orchestrating the rhythm of my wildly fanciful life. And there’s no amount of whiskey that’ll give you that kind of comfort.