When we didn’t carry phones, when we printed directions from the internet, kept fold-out maps in the glovebox, and slept in the rest stop lot, shivering under our coats, waking with the featureless dawn.
When my brother wore pinhole glasses to drive or just squinted into the night, hunched over the wheel, the gear shift thrumming between us, how it took us a thousand miles before we were honest with each other, and how we were relieved because we were not as holy as we’d thought each other to be.
When we drove past the crowded stockyards, the cattle steaming under the sodium lights, awake and nervous in the middle of the night, the ventilation holes in the walls of the livestock trailers streaked with dried shit.
When we were alone with the dust and cottonwood trees and washed-out creek beds, when we wrestled with the land that wasn’t ours, and pulled garlic bulbs from the ground and harvested tomatoes from the vine, then dried them in the open air, the flies banging against the mesh, ever hopeful.
When we stayed in the abandoned RV, when we wore socks on our hands and listened to cassettes, when we meditated in the morning, when we ran the hills and scared the horses, and looked across the valley, and did not sweat, the hum of silence, the endless breeze and cattle guards and arroyo washes.
When companionship was a twenty-mile drive, when the air was thin, when taking flight was easier, birds, smoke, lies.
When my head was light, and our eyes were heavy, the liquor we never drank, the cold night, the crackling of the fire in the neighbor’s woodstove, the unlit road back home.
When I stood in the field and took off my shirt to feel the low winter sun, trying to entice it into my body, to have it take root in my soul, the spear-like shadows cast by the wild plum trees, young and limbless.
When we walked to the village, the school and its collapsed roof, crumbling foundation, grass floors, windowless frames, empty of students dragging chalk across their writing slates, paging through their readers, impatient for recess, the dirt court, the bright sun.
When we waved at Jenado, sitting on his fold-out chair, among his rusting utility trailers, his pneumatic wood splitter, and when he waved back.
When my brother told me the winter rains were coming and I should get a move on if I wanted to go anywhere.
When I spoke on the phone to the person I loved, then, when I twisted the phone cord in my hand.
When I said I’d be on my way back soon, in a few days, in a week.
When the ache we held for each other held, then didn’t.