I left that horrible motel in Kingman at 6am, still dark, after sleeping all night with the TV on for company. I forgot one of my favorite shirts, just left it there on the bed. I realized it not even a mile away but I couldn’t go back.

It feels strange and laborious to write this way. There’s one big thing I learned in 2018--but before I forget:

How the car skidded so suddenly, no warning, and there I was in the ditch in the snow. The mountaintop. No cell service. Oh, I thought. I could die right now. So very, very easily. The edge of night.

The Historic El Fidel Hotel.

A night of anxiety and fear and nightmares. And yet in the morning, the lobby, the cats, the jazz playing, the coffee they made. The manager trying to flirt with me, innocently. The young female desk attendant, crushingly beautiful, sneaking her boyfriend back into the office.

The extreme kindness of the hotel staff, of the man who made me the breakfast burrito, the tow truck man who rescued my car the next day, Jeff who I hitched my ride from, off the mountain and into town, shaking. I couldn’t feel it at the time, couldn’t look it straight in the eye. The kindness of strangers when I felt so helpless and nothing and alone.

A breakfast burrito the next morning, slipping across the snow-banked street. So hungry, no food at the hotel due to the storm, my meager bag of road snacks forgotten in the car, long frozen. Coffee in Styrofoam. The burrito I couldn’t eat, still sick with anxiety, fed mostly to my dog. The man as he made it--no, as his wife made it, silent, and he wrote up my ticket, took my cash, poured my coffee. Talking about laying the freeways in California as a boy alongside his father (why does this still make me weep with some strange sort of tenderness?), talking about being a pastor, a marriage counselor. Praising his own wife within her earshot. My eyes swelling with tears. My insides so raw. My own aloneness, my smallness. “I’ll pray for you, I’ll pray for you,” he kept saying as I left, meaning for my safety, and I’d never been so grateful. $4.65

Jeff, the scientist in the lab. Driving back from Dallas. His girlfriend asleep in the backseat with a migraine.

The cat with the bell on its collar chasing a Christmas ornament around the lobby like a toy. The plant with its vines hanging several stories down along the staircase.

How desperately I wanted to be home, and with L.