You'll understand now why you came this way.
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small.
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a comin' day..."
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Southern Cross
By Patrick Alcatraz
CENTRAL CITY, Colorado - Janie packed her suitcase and said something about having sort of enjoyed the long weekend and all, but wouldn't I just go ahead and drive her over to the bus station before the snow buried the roads. "That's done," I said in a nice, morning voice. "Been snowing all night..." She pushed one more piece of clothing into the suitcase and then folded it shut, running its zipper all the way to closing. Then she stood tall alongside the bed and made a face, which seemed a cross between disappointment and promise. The highway running back to Denver was closed. "So, what do we have left?" she asked next.
"The Nuclear Club at sundown," I threw over. "Happy Hour...free chili and corn chips...Johnny Walker Red for me and that Vodka for you." Janie nodded one of those really-saying-nothing nods. I proposed a quick breakfast and she said, yes, bacon and wheat toast for sure. "Marmalade?" I asked and she said orange or lemon. "Fire's on," I said, scooting off and heading for the small kitchen. There, the sound of the water coming out of the kitchen sink faucet seemed to bring sound to the snow falling outside the room's only window. Deep in silverware washing, I was startled after a bit by Janie's hands landing on my shoulders.
"I really thought I was ready to go today," she said in a soft voice, her lower body inching closer to mine. I wanted to turn full-around and grab her face and plant a super-sized kiss on her New Jersey face. There was a certain feel about her. I'd have said it had much to do with her recent divorce and a clear desire to try something new. We'd met on a bus ride north, from Santa Fe. Janie had been on her way to Cheyenne, where she hoped to hang out with an old college classmate who'd been moved west by her husband. Tiny Central City, tucked in the Rocky Mountains some 30 or so miles west of Denver, still retained much of its earlier history, a personality Janie had said somewhat pleased her. A pair of nights at the rowdy Nuclear Club, the last hangout for locals, had handed her that new scenery she'd needed.
"There's nothing like this in New Jersey," she'd said the first night, when a small group of out-of-towners had scrambled out of the nearby casinos in search of local flavor and stumbled in to buy a ridiculous string of rounds for the regular patrons. Rain had burst out of the darkened, late-November clouds in the mid-afternoon, quickly followed by snow when the temperatures dropped. We were laughing our asses off when Janie left the barstool and walked over to a passing waitress to say she wanted to buy her cowboy hat. I watched as she handed the chubby woman three twenty-dollar bills.
The walk home came in frames depicting two half-drunk fools boot-skating down the sidewalk and then up a small hill to the cabin where I lived. Three stairs up to the porch, Janie tugged her hat off her head and flung it in the direction of a line of antlers nailed to the face of the structure. "I'm never leaving this place!" she'd roared, beginning a windstorm of laughter that took her all the way to the small bedroom.
"What is that?" she asked when I dropped my blue jeans. "Haven't seen one of those in months..."
"Just a little linear treat," I offered, thinking ahead.
"You walk with it like that, all shot straight out?"
"My walking's done for the day..."
"Far out," was the last thing Janie said that particular night...
- 30 -