Yesterday, we drove along the 5 hours of road from Oklahoma City to Amarillo. The terrain kept changing itself, first flat and endless, then undulating and pockmarked with small canyons and gorges. And then, in what seemed a quick breath, the land leveled out once again, dotted with cattle and tattered ranch houses.
“I think I could like owning a ranch,” Shawn said beside me, double-fisting the wheel of the bus while gazing at the sprawling fields.
“Yeah,” I replied, kind of breathy, my eyes still scanning the green and brown prairie outside my window. The land mesmerized me.
I don’t know these people who populate these dusty, abandoned towns along route 40 heading west to Amarillo. From the billboards, I know they don’t have a McDonalds within 70 miles of their front door. I know that the indigo sky at 8:45 in the evening makes you feel like there is nothing on earth between you and heaven. I know that men in cowboy hats really do drive rusty pick-ups down dirt roads at 80 mph, stirring up dustclouds that look perfectly Hollywood.
And I know that landscape broke my heart and mended it at the same time. I wanted it so badly, to roll it up like a scroll, slide it into an empty wine bottle, and cork it just to savor it again 20 years from now. But it went on for miles, far too big to shake out like a sheet and fold it away.
And that’s what I loved about it: I breathe easier with all that space around me.
Tonight, Sammy has made it abundantly clear that sleep will not come quickly. He fusses and squirms, reaching into his tiny little gut and forging these tortured cries for “drink” and “Mama”.
So I sit beside him and he dangles his pudgy fingers close to my knee. He wants me close enough that he can smell the garlic from dinner in my clothes and the sweatiness of spending hours in the Amarillo cool breeze and hot sun. And he wants to touch: he wants me to pet the palm of his hand and rub his satiny soft forearms.
“Scratch my back,” he whispers, reaching his short stubby arm behind him, trying to give me a quick lesson in proper technique. So I lightly skim my sandpaper fingers across his tiny back and he giggles. Then I lay my palm down flat, moving rhythmically across his baby round ribs undulating beneath his peachy skin. The crying, the rustling, the whimpering all subside; his eyelids bob towards sleep.
And he breathes easier with no space at all.