I just started driving. I don't know why. Boredom, I guess.
I left my house around noon. I'd had enough of watching football on t.v. and just felt like getting out. When I hopped into my truck I had no idea where I might go. East, I thought. To the desert, maybe. “See the desert,” I said to myself.
To the desert I went. From the Westside of L.A., I traveled east into the Mojave Desert. Once past the Cajon Pass and up on the high desert plain, the weather turned considerably colder. It had rained the night before, so the visibility was good. You could see for miles.
It would have felt more romantic or adventurous if there was hardly anyone on the road, but this was the second day of a 3-day New Year's weekend. Half of L.A. was either going to or returning from Las Vegas.
It was about 2 o'clock when I passed through Victorville, 2:30 when I hit Barstow, and about 2:45 when I stopped at a Chevron station in Newberry Springs. I needed a map of the area; one that would show me what to expect from points east and help me decide whether to continue in that direction or return to L.A.
I was inside the gas station/store looking for the map section when I heard a voice. At first I thought it was the teenage girl browsing the candy aisle behind me.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Huh?” she replied.
“Did you say something?” I asked.
“No,” she said and hurried off in search of her parents.
The voice spoke again. “Follow me,” it said. I heard it quite clearly this time and I became worried. Apparently all these years living in L.A. had finally gotten to me.
“Don't be frightened,” said the voice.
“I'm not frightened,” I lied.
“Well, good for you,” replied an elderly man who'd wandered to within earshot. “Too many people are frightened these days; with crime the way it is. But I ask you, what good does it do ya to be frightened?”
“What?” I asked blankly.
“I said, what good does it do ya?” he repeated.
“Uh, yeah,” I replied stupidly.
“Damned drug addict!” he shouted at me and walked away.
Confused now, I went in search of my parents. Then I remembered I was 32 years old and had moved away from home years ago.
“Return to your vehicle and continue east,” the voice continued.
“Why should I?” I asked — silently this time, not wanting to engage in any more conversations with old men or teenage girls. Well, teenage girls would be okay … but I digress.
“Follow me. You'll be glad you did,” said the voice.
“Sounds like a commercial,” I said, again silently. You ever tried talking silently? It's not easy. But, again, I digress.
“You watch too much TV,” the voice replied derisively.
“Yeah, so?” was my pathetic attempt at an intelligent response.
“Just do as I say,” said the voice, losing patience.
But I didn't do as it said. I walked out of the store, got back into my pickup and returned to L.A. This voice/entity was getting testy. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a testy disembodied voice telling me what to do.
Maybe next weekend I'll return to the desert. I don't know.