I didn't think to plan. I started driving. There was no definite destination, just any place out of the city. But I didn't take anyone with me, or I didn't think I had at first.
It's very unusual for me to just drive by myself. I even want to go grocery shopping as a family. So to take a road trip alone, even just a simple day trip, was huge.
I don't think I got out of the car, though, so it probably doesn't comply with the standards of adventure. Anyway, it was on the way home to the family, when late afternoon was setting in, that things got interesting.
I woke up. Yes, woke up at the steering wheel knowing I had been driving for a while in my sleep. Thank heaven, the divided highway leading to heaven knows where was absolutely empty of other traffic beside my minivan, but I wondered just how much my vehicle had meandered among the lanes while I was out. There were some buildings up ahead. What I could discern as I squinted through the windshield led me to believe they were ruins of some sort. (Why was I always headed toward ruins?) As I got closer, however, I realized they were modern buildings designed adobe-style to fit in with the desert environs, to blend in with the tans and earthy hues of the landscape. Beyond them a mesa rose high above the desert.
That's when I got pulled over, stopped. I didn't hear any sirens. I didn't feel the tightness in my belly from nerves knowing I was in trouble with the law. I simply remember turning to see a black policeman behind me leaning back against the hood of his patrol car as if he'd been there all day observing me. He wore a puffy blue jacket unlike any I've ever seen another officer wear. It crinkled and crunched as he adjusted his arms across it.
He was laughing as he queried amicably, "Where do you think you're going?"
How on earth did he know I was off-track? How long had he followed my van while I slept?
"Back to the city. I don't know where I am," I stated. I didn't say I'd fallen asleep at the wheel for a spell; he knew that, but I wasn't going to admit it voluntarily
Again he laughed. He was so darn likable. He was playing guardian angel.
"You're more than an hour away now," he said. "You can drive on a little ways to Highway 44 (sounded unfamiliar), and take that home. Or you can turn around the way you came and take the turnoff you missed. But, like I said, more than an hour."
That's when I felt the tightness in my belly. More than an hour. Matthew would wonder where I was; the kids would miss me. And this desert was lonely. The buildings looked as if they were about to be swallowed by it, no matter how well they attempted to blend in. I didn't see a single human being among them. And Danny Sammy would be hungry, needing a nurse. Shoot. I couldn't even see the junction with this Highway 44 ahead.
Suddenly I was back inside the van, giving a sippy cup of water to Danny Sam in his carseat. He was, after all, here with me (one of those little adjustments my mind made to decelerate my worry). Should I nurse him? Here, along the edge of the highway at nowhere? I'd rather not. Besides, he wasn't asking for one. If I could just get him home before he got really hungry. I hopped back in the front seat and started to pull away from the gravel back onto the pavement, anxious to be away from this lonely stretch of highway near a modern ghost town.