White Wedding

My sister was marrying white. This was not a surprise to me. Growing up, we mostly had white dolls. (We didn’t like the black ones presented to us by well meaning friends.) We went to school with white people. Our friends who came over to the house for BBQs and parties were white. Even our church was all white. And to be fair to Asha, it had happened in our family before. My mother had married white as well. And to be even fairer, at the last Census, Wyoming was 93.9% white. We fell into the 1.5% that was Other. Neither here nor there. We were used to white people.

But Asha had met her fiancé Tom not here, but far away from Wyoming in New York City, which is 44.7% white. And my mother met my father in Illinois, where they both had been graduate students. So although Asha and I fell into a grey area of being neither white nor Indian, we certainly had the cards stacked against us when it came to white people.

Asha lived in New York City and only came back to Wyoming at most once a year. While home, she spent time marveling at the ease with which you could move from Point A to Point B, the lack of organic food available, and how big everything seemed—from the prairie to the size of steaks that graced her dinner plate. Secretly I think she liked coming home. She liked the mall and how everyone knew us. It also gave her an excuse to eat at the Red Lobster and Applebee’s, since they were some of the nicest restaurants in town. There was a persistent rumor that an Olive Garden was opening, but we had watched for years, and never saw so much as a foundation being poured.

Asha was getting married in two days, and we were days into what she had dubbed on her wedding invitations, “Western Week!” Tonight was a chuckwagon dinner, and everyone had been driven out to a location, then been moved less than a ¼ of a mile in a covered wagon to a campsite. A catering company whose name I never caught but whose logo was a pair of interlocking B’s that looked like a brand served up thick burgers, hot dogs, grilled corn, and chicken that still was pink on the inside. For dessert they gave us cool slices of watermelon.

The whole wedding party plus all the out of town guests were here for this Western extravaganza. Many of them had bought cowboy boots in town earlier in the day. Some of the men sported Western shirts that I felt were being worn in a way that made me unsure of what they were saying about Western life. There was something about snap button shirts paired with thick black horned-rimmed glasses that made me suspicious. Tom’s father had even purchased a hat. A black wool Stetson that made him look like he was going to rob our wagon train at any moment.

Only my dad and I held back. We both kicked at the campfire and hoped the fire pit was deep and well made. We’d had a wicked summer of wildfires.

When the dinner was done, a man hired to look like a cowboy stepped in front of the fire. He had a handlebar mustache and a red bandana around his neck. He wore boots and a stained hat. I’d seen him out before at the bar that I frequented with my friends Valentine and Amy. I knew he actually worked for the post office. I had seen him do karaoke in his postal uniform. He blew into a pitch pipe and then began to sing:

Some trails are happy ones, Others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts, Here’s a happy one for you.

He then informed us it was time to circle the wagons, and we all piled back in for the short ride home.

 

I lived with my father in a house near the bottom of Casper Mountain. Our house mostly looked onto other houses, but we could see the mountain. In the fall, aspens turned and appeared like a yellow bruise on the mountain’s green-brown face.

My father and I had come to a sort of routine over the past two years. I woke early and just before 5 am, I’d make coffee for him. Then I would get ready to go to the coffee shop. Sometimes I would make him a lunch if he was in town, and leave it on the counter in an insulated bag. I liked driving through town when almost no one else was up. I’d get to the coffee shop and turn on the machines and start brewing large airpots of coffee. By 6 am, everything would be ready, and the stream of regulars would come in. For some people, I’d start making their drinks the minute I saw their car pull up outside. Even with the altitude, I could make the milk in a cappuccino foam into stiff white peaks.

By 9 am, the store would have slowed down, with most people settled into their desks at work, paper cups full of coffee and sickly sweet lattes in their hands. Right after 9, a group of geologists came in. They were all older men, but not quite at retirement. They had been through boom, then bust, now boom again. They had earned it to sit and drink $1 coffees and to talk shop. If the store was quiet, I would make a coffee and sit with them. With what happened with my mother, I’d earned the right to sit at their table. To listen. We all had war stories around that table. We’d all had loss.

When Asha first mentioned getting married in Wyoming, I laughed.

“Get married in New York,” I said. “That’s where all your friends are.”

“I want to get married in Casper. In a tent near the mountain.”

I saw about a million and one reasons why this was a bad idea. The first being that anyone having an outdoor wedding in Wyoming was nuts. If it wasn’t the snow, it was the wind. We had had 4th of July’s with snow. And the thought of a tent with no wind buffer made me snort.

I also thought about how hard it was to get people from outside in. We had one small airport, but it was dinky. I imagined most people would fly to Denver, then drive.

“Get married in Jackson. It’s pretty there. People love the Tetons. They love the antler arches in the town square. There are nice restaurants. There are shops. People like that Western shit. It’s close to Yellowstone. People will see bison and bears.”

“Lucky, I don’t want to get married there. I want to get married in the same church I was baptized in, in the same church I was confirmed, and in the same church that mom’s funeral was in.” Her exasperation with me was always tempered the first day or so that she came home, and then it would come out.

“Right,” I said. There wasn’t much more to say. But Casper was the Oil City of the Plains. Our mountain was small, our town scrappy. It wasn’t the West people were expecting. Most cowboys wore baseball hats. I felt like we were letting them down.

 

In the summer and into the fall, when I finished work I’d drive up the mountain. I had a thinking spot on the back side of the mountain. I’d even fashioned a little stool out of a fallen log. Usually I would sit there getting blown over. In the winter, I’d sometimes snowshoe in. With so much horizon, I felt I could think.

And this is how I spent my days. The coffee shop. Driving. Making dinner if my dad was in town and not on a rig. Watching TV. Making trips to the store. Then sometimes at night going out with Valentine or Amy. We rotated between three bars. The Wonder Bar if we wanted beers, Sidelines if we were hungry, as they had free buffalo wings at Happy Hour, and if we were feeling posh, we went to Vintage, which was sort of a wine bar.

When people asked me at the coffee shop if I missed studying or was I going back to school, I answered honestly.

“No. You know me. I love being here. I don’t think Casper’s so bad.”

And it was true. I was still trying to figure out why almost everyone I knew from high school had left. How I had become the townie. At Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, I smiled when I ran into old classmates.

“Yep. Still here….No, I left school….No plans to go back…She died two years ago…yeah, it was sad…” And the conversation went on.

 

Asha came home two weeks before the wedding. She borrowed my truck, and drove around meeting with photographers, caterers, and the priest who was marrying them. I continued working. I even made lattes for her New York friends when they started arriving.

After Asha had been home a week, she came into my room. I was reading. Even though I had dropped out of my PhD program, I still liked to keep up with what I would have been studying.

“Lucky, I’ve been thinking about you,” she said.

“Good. I’m glad to know you do,” I said.

“Lucky. I worry for you. You live with dad. You don’t date. You work at the coffee shop. What are you doing?”

“Well, all of those things. And I date,” I said, a little defensively.

“Seriously. When were you last on a date?”

I thought a moment and knew it had only been a month ago. A guy I met at The Wonder Bar asked me to go dancing, as I loved to two-step. What he failed to tell me was that the dance was at a Muzzleloading Convention, for the final banquet. We arrived at a chain motel and when we went into their ballroom/convention center, it was filled with Davy Crocketts and a sort of Pioneer woman meets Renaissance wench. My date and I were the only people in non-period costumes. That changed mid-way when my date bid on a mountain man coat at the dinner auction. He wore the leather fringed number for the rest of the night. He had drunk his beer from a pewter horn, which he also had won. I had called my dad from the lobby to pick me up.

“You know what you are?” Asha grabbed my hand to make me listen.

“An American?” I made a lame joke at the question we had been asked so many times: What are you?

“No, Lucky, you’re like a prairie dog”

“I tunnel underground and am cute?” I laughed.

She paused. “No, Lucky, you’re like one of those prairie dogs you see by the side of the road. When you’re driving. The ones that pause there on the edge, and you never know if they’re going to dart across the road, or have sense to turn back around onto the prairie. They’re just there frozen and you never know what choice their going to make.”

“It’s Waiting for Godot on the Prairie. No, wait, Little Dog on the Prairie.” I laughed again.

“No, Lucky, I am serious. It’s like you are so paralyzed to make any choice, you make none. Run across the road if you need to, you may not get hit.”

I could tell she had thought about the metaphor for awhile.

“Well, I like to think of myself more like a snow fence. Seemingly useless, a fence going nowhere.”

Asha’s face softened. “But if there’s a horrible storm, I guess they come in handy.”

 

Later in the day, I played a game. It was called insert Western metaphor into life:

I am a __________.

Tumbleweed

Lone ranger

Hawk

Cow (easily herded)

Cowboy (alone)

Sheepherder (even better)

Mountain range

Meadowlark

Wind turbine

Pumping jack

Refinery flare

Oil derrick

Somehow the game made me feel better, as I realized I was part of the Western way. Alone! Alone!

 

When my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, we went to an “Understanding Cancer” session. It was with a nurse with a round face in pink patterned scrubs with teddy bears on them. She handed us a stack of brochures all about cancer. All about chemo. What to expect when you were hit in the gut. The last book in the packet was full of wigs and hats. My father was not with us, as since we only had major medical insurance with a $35,000 deductible as he was a self-employed geologist, he was forced to work.

My mom and I took turns laughing at all the choices.

“I am going blonde!” She hooted.

“No, no, mom—it’s all about this one.” I pointed to a long redheaded mop.

When we got to the hats section, we noticed the turbans.

There were two pages of them. Soft, t-shirt material turbans. In all the colors of the rainbow. Some of them looked like a bath towel on your head, others like silent film stars of the 20’s.

“I want a turban.”

It was after the black turban came and her hair did indeed all fall out that my mother became Indian in a way I had never known.

When people asked what kind of cancer my mother had, I lied. I said cervical, or ovarian, as it just seemed easier. When I said vaginal, people didn’t know what to say. They don’t want to hear it. Because it was more than having cancer, it was a taking away of something inside. Something more than a breast. But both made you feel like less of a woman.

You want to know about cancer? It was like that damn prairie dog at the side of the road. You didn’t know if it was going to run, to spread into every part of you, or if it was going to stay, retreat into where it came. And the only thing I wanted to do was run over it. To crush it to bits. But of course, I couldn’t do that. I drove her to treatment, and as she stopped eating, I learned to make Indian food, as it was the only thing she would eat: curd rice, rasam and rice, plain idlis, small dosas. For the first time, while she was propped up in a chair at the table, she explained how to use asafetida, how to use curry leaves when tempering spices, and how important it was to brown the onions with any curry.

On the day she tried to teach me how to brown mustard seed, cumin, and urad dal and I kept burning them. The mustard seed would crack and the lentils turned black.

“Slowly, slowly,” my mother moved her hand to show how I should take it from the heat and roll the pan from side to side.

“I’ll never learn all this,” I said.

“Lakshmi, ma, I only need one dish,” was her reply. “Just do one thing well.”

After days of playing cowboys, Asha was ready to play Indian.

I hadn’t known the rehearsal dinner was going to be Indian food till I saw the flier for A Passage to India catering in Denver. We had no Indian restaurants in Casper. The only one in the state was in Laramie, and that was recent.

The dinner was going to be in our house. Asha long gave up the idea of having a tent, and instead the reception was at the local ELKS Hall. My father was a member.

All day, our house was full of Indians. They were a team of 5. And although they drove down with most of the food cooked, I watched as they moved around the kitchen.

One of them, a young man who could not have been much over 20, was setting up the steam trays. He had a head of thick black hair and a thin moustache. His nametag read Sultana.

“What are you making?”

“Ma’m. We are making what Ms. Asha suggested. Rice, naan, chicken vindaloo, saag paneer, dal. And gulab jamans.” He seemed pleased at the menu. They also had brought maroon tablecloths and were turning our house into a mini India. A fat Ganesha was on every table.

“It smells good,” I replied. And I left him to adjusting the Sterno.

 

Right after my mother died, my aunts came to stay for awhile. Not her sisters. My dad’s sisters. As one of my mom’s sisters was dead, and the other lived in Australia. It was too far to come. My Aunt Ivy and Aunt Lorraine both traveled from Iowa to help us out.

The first morning, I came into the kitchen and saw my Aunt Lorraine standing with the kitchen cupboard open. She was looking at the rows of jars and spices lined up. She picked one up, and then put it back.

“Oh, Lucky. I didn’t see you. I was just looking at all this. Do you want me to keep this?” Lorraine had been emptying all the Western clothes out my mom’s closet. All her saris still made a riot of color in the top shelves of her closet.

“No, keep it. I’ve been cooking since she’s been sick. And my dad likes it, so I guess I’ll keep cooking.”

“Nathan always did like spicy food,” she said. “So I’ll leave this.”

Which was true. My dad could eat hotter food than I. And he loved Indian food. When my mom was alive, we ate it most nights. Nathaniel Thompson may have been raised on an Iowa farm, but he liked my mom’s cooking. He loved my mother in a sari. He loved that she had decorated our house with embroidered wall hangings and carpets from Jaipur. My parents were the best couple I knew.

 

Hours before the rehearsal dinner was to start, Asha asked me to help her put on a sari. I was also to dress all her bridesmaids, who were all white. There were seven of them. All from the East, except one girl who was from California. Only one of them had ever been to Wyoming. And she had been to Jackson on a ski trip.

“It’s pretty different here,” she said.

I didn’t say much. A refinery greeted you on one end of town, a Super Wal-Mart on the other. The other refinery had been closed for environmental reasons years ago, and the city had built over it with a golf course. Golfers played under a green of oil spills. Yes, it was different. I think Jackson even had a building code that everything had to be built in a log cabin style. To make people feel like they were in a real Western kind of place. Even their K-mart was a log cabin. Because god forbid you came on your vacation and saw an ugly strip mall. That would be no vacation at all. That would be too much real life. And what we wanted most of the time was a façade, a shell that covered up all the shit that was inside.

I told the girls to line up in sari blouses and skirts, and then one by one, I began to dress them.

 

When my mother was getting really bad, she spent most days in bed. She listened to a CD of ragas. She looked at photos. When she was awake, she told me funny India stories about being on her grandather’s farm. I had never been to India; it was something we always planned but didn’t ever do. We once had gone to Australia to visit her sister. But mostly my mom just slept.

I made her curd rice and tried to feed her at lunchtime. But in the end, I just brought her a protein shake and barked at her to drink it. I was tired. And I wanted her to eat. I helped her to the bathroom, and when she didn’t make it, I cleaned up after her, and washed her.

About a week before she went into the hospital, she asked me about the funeral.

It wasn’t at that point a hard thing to talk about. We had decided on the flowers, the readings, and the music. She even had chosen a photo of herself for the program. It was taken soon after we had moved to Wyoming. She was in sari and a down coat. She was in the backyard after the first snow of the year, and she was laughing. What always made us laugh about the picture was her hair. It was thick and almost down to her ankles. It was a beautiful photo.

“Lucky. I have to ask you something. I want you to promise something,” she said.

“Okay. I promise.” I felt at that point not promising anything to someone who was dying was just cruel.

“Lucky. I can’t be buried in Western clothes. I had a dream last night that I was in my coffin, and you were burying me in a frilly pink nightgown. Promise me I won’t be in Western clothes.”

This was an easy promise. “Of course,” I said.

“No, Lucky, not a salawaar. In a sari. Those people in the funeral home won’t know how.” This was true. One night my mother had been rushed to the hospital with heavy bleeding. I was made to wait outside. But after about 10 minutes a nurse came out and asked me if I could come unwrap my mother. Like she was a mummy. Like she was a gift.

My mother knew as well as I did that I didn’t know how to put one on. In the few times we had Indian functions, she always dressed me. Here we hardly knew any other Indians. There was no occasion to learn.

My mother sat up in bed. “I want you to practice. You have to practice on me.” She instructed me to her closet, where all her saris stacked up on each other like books.

“I want the green and gold one,” she called out. And I pulled out a green silk sari with a gold border and pallu. I chose a choli that matched and a slip.

My mother made sure I had picked the right things, and then I pulled off her nightgown. Her stomach was marked with blue X’s for the radiation. Her skin was ashy, and there were tape marks on her skin where IVs and ports had been.

I put her arms into the blouse and carefully hooked the small clasps. Lying down, I slipped her slip over her legs and tied it tight at her waist. And then I carefully helped her stand up.

She walked me through every step. From the pleating to how to adjust the pallu. She made me put it on her twice, and then she asked me to dress myself. I stripped down and put on her same slip and blouse. But I chose another sari from the closet. It was also green, but the dark green. It was a tie dye, and there were white circles all over it. I put it on and turned to my mother.

“Okay?”

“You should wear saris more often. They’re beautiful. You look so different. So beautiful…”

I looked at myself and thought I would like to wear them more often. But where? To the Wonder Bar? To work? Church was about the only place it might fly.

I took off the sari and my mother showed me the art of folding a sari. I put them back into the closet. And the whole time, I thought liar! Liar! Because I knew that if my mother died, I couldn’t put her in a sari. Not because I didn’t now know how. But it was different to dress someone lying down. Different to dress a stiff corpse. Different to dress your mother. Different to know that I was dressing someone for cremation. And I knew I couldn’t do it. And in the end, she was cremated in a salwaar, but the green sari was wrapped around her like a shawl.

 

And now a bridesmaid from California wore the sari that I had worn that day with my mother. When I was done, the whole lot of them looked beautiful. They didn’t wear them particularly well, but after a week of bandanas and jeans, they did look like a flock of parrots sitting in the upstairs bedroom.

When they made their grand entrance downstairs, I could see my father’s eyes look at the saris, and then at me. I was the only member of the bridal party not wearing one. Instead I wore a kurta top and jeans.

As the speeches began, I went out the back door. The house was hot and smelled like curry. Outside the wind bellowed. I stood on the lawn and listened to the air move through the cottonwoods. I picked up a cottonwood branch and broke it at a joint. Inside was a perfect star. Few people knew this.

“Were you liking the food?” A voice called out.

I turned and saw the same boy from before, Sultana. He was smoking a cigarette which he dropped to the ground.

“Yes,” I lied. I hadn’t eaten anything, but instead had drunk glass after glass of champagne.

He pulled a maroon napkin from his pocket. He held a corner and let the wind blow it.

“The wind. I hear it all the time. Moving. I just want it to stop.” He sighed.

“It’s never still here.” Then added, “You must miss home.”

Sultana looked out into the party, and then back out onto the darkened lawn. “I’m from Goa. Have you been? The most beautiful beaches….”

“I’ve never been to India.”

He didn’t register any surprise. “You should go. Beautiful beaches.”

I held out the cottonwood branch and moved it so it caught the light. “You see this? There is a perfect star inside.” I handed him the branch, and he looked at it.

“It’s magic,” I said. When I was little, I thought they were fairy wands.

“Magic,” he repeated.

“I’m sure this wasn’t what you were expecting,” I said. And I wasn’t sure if I meant the party, Wyoming, Colorado, America for that matter, or even me.

“Why would anyone choose to live here?” He snapped the branch into smaller pieces.

And all I could say back was another question, “Why would anyone choose to leave their home, what they know?”

I expected him to say the immigrant cliché—for something better, a new life, for more money, the experience. But instead he put the small branch into his pocket and held my gaze.

“Alan Ladd. Shane. It was a good movie, no? Magic.” He pointed his fingers at me like mock guns, and with that, was called back into the house.

 

The day she died, she had been awake and irritable all day, and found me full of questions. I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I brought her a cup of tea, which she said no to. I tried to rub lotion on her hands, and she barked at me. I asked her if she wanted another pillow, for me to read to her.

“Stop asking me questions!” She looked at me so intently. So I stopped. I sat by her bed, and wandered around the hospital halls in circular laps. I didn’t know she would die later that day, but I knew the end was coming. I wanted her in those last moments to tell me something profound, something that would change my life. I wanted her to be my compass—to tell me where to go.

And what I wanted the most was for her to tell me to get the hell out of Wyoming. To go to India. To live a different life.

But instead, before she slipped off into a coma and her breathing became slow and almost non-existent, she told me one thing.

“Take care of your father,” she said this slowly, her eyes opening and closing.

And when you came right down to it, it was the most Indian thing she could say. Staying was the most Indian thing I could do.

 

When the party ended, I helped clean up. Sultana slipped in and out of the house filling the van from the restaurant. I wondered if he liked Asha’s father-in-law-to-be’s Stetson, which he had scarcely taken off in a few days. We didn’t talk again. I was tired from the week of dress-up. Of playing cowboy one day, Indian the next. It was like Halloween. People are always so insanely happy to try something on. Especially when it is exotic. And since her guests were all from New York, and used to seeing Indians, I hadn’t counted on Wyoming being the more exotic of the two. Now all we needed was to find a Shaman to perform the wedding, and the trifecta would be complete.

 

Right after my mother died, while my dad and I sat by her beside, still not completely sure she was gone, her nurse came in to check.

“She’s gone,” she said. And then she cracked open the window. It was cold and windy as hell that day, but her nurse was Native American, Arapahoe I thought. She looked at us and said, “It’s to let the spirit out.” But sitting there in the hospital room, I only felt the cold. And the wind felt the same as ever, screaming and shrill. I felt the chill not of death, but the fact that India was gone as well. I loved my father fiercely, but he didn’t know what it was like to be brown.

Someone told me that grief is only being able to see what’s been taken away from you. That I should look at all that I was given. But for me grief hung like those snow fences, exposed and present, even when it wasn’t snowing. All I could see was what I would never understand, all that I would never know.

 

I hadn’t really known that many Native Americans, but since I was bi-racial, I had been asked from time to time what tribe I was from. There were mostly Arapahoe and Shoshone, but as you moved Northeast in Wyoming, there were Crow. And South Dakota near the Black Hills was full of Sioux. For the most part, I didn’t mind being mistaken.

But once, when I was in college, my parents came to drive me home at the end of the year. I went to school in Minnesota, and we spent a day driving across South Dakota, stopping in a small town late at night. My father went in to get a motel room while my mom and I waited in the car.

He came out smiling and told us the room number.

“Room 202. Go through the lobby and up the stairs. I’ll bring the bags up.”

So empty handed, my mom and I headed to the room. We weren’t five feet from the stairs when we heard a scolding voice.

“Stop! Stop! You girls can’t go up there!” the hotel worker, who was an older white lady, yelled to us.

I froze, but my mother smiled sweetly. “My husband just checked in, he’s bringing in the bags, and we’re going up to the room,” she said.

I could tell that old hag was trying to compute. Trying to match us to my father. And as if a light clicked on, she smiled, “Oh, sorry girls! I thought you were heading to the 3rd floor. It’s full of hunters. I thought you were visiting from the reservation.” She looked at us. “But you ain’t that kind of Indian, are you?”

“No,” was my mother’s reply.

When we got upstairs, I refused to unpack. “She thought we were whores!” And I began to cry. My mother held me close and we said nothing to my father. But we never stayed at that chain again. My mother made sure of it.

 

When people asked me about being bi-racial, I had a pat answer.

“It’s the best of two worlds! I get to be American, and Indian. I have two cultures to choose from!” But everyone knows you tend to be more like one world. And mine was Wyoming. I was just brown, so that made it harder. I hated the half worlds inside me, because that’s what made me paralyzed, and that’s why I sat alone, not joining around the fire pit in the yard, while in saris, they all made s’mores and drank beer. All the halves did not make my whole.

The morning of the wedding, I woke late. I didn’t put on coffee. Instead, I took the urn full of my mother’s ashes and went to my truck. We drove around a bit, and I told her all about the wedding so far. I felt like a lunatic. And then I began to drive up the mountain. The wedding was in a little more than an hour. I knew I was missing the bridesmaid photos, but I navigated up the mountain road. I drove up East End Road to Crimson Dawn, to my special spot. Right after my mother died, I had brought a handful of her ashes and spread it off the back side of the mountain. From Crimson Dawn, you could see Ferris Mountains and the Big Horns. I sat focusing out at Muddy Mountain. But there was nothing transformative there. There was the just the wind and the smell of Ponderosas. I wanted some sort of secret to be told to me. I thought that it wasn’t that Asha was marrying white. It wasn’t even that she had called me a prairie dog. And maybe this wasn’t about my mother at all. It was that I hated how the West, this place, had been reduced to a movie set or a backdrop for a story that had nothing to do with here. It was a kind of screensaver. And India was the same way. It was the saris, a little dancing, some food the caterers had cooked. It wasn’t real. I didn’t know how you really knew a place at all. We were always dressing up into different personas; everything was always being presented in a choreographed way, from vacations to eating out. Even poor Sultana had been made to wear a tuxedo with a turban. Maybe I needed to watch more movies for the answers. I didn’t know what was real.

I knew that if I sat much longer, I would be late. And although they didn’t need me to dress them, I needed to get down and put the pink silk bridesmaid dress on. I needed to play the part of the doting sister.

I drove down the dirt road back towards the main mountain road. Little clouds of earth whirled at the wheels. A fine dirt coated my windshield. It was then that I saw the prairie dog, poised like a mirage emerging from the smoke. I didn’t even have time to make a knowing eye contact with the creature, because that’s how things really happen, so fast that you thrive on instinct.

Would it change anything to tell you I missed? That the animal ran to the edge of the road and disappeared into the tall grass? Or would it change it all to tell you that I went to the wedding, still hearing the bones crack beneath the weight of the wheels, still feeling the speed of my own escape.

 

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