Had it not been for someone needing to pee real bad, we probably wouldn’t have left the car at all. We were crossing Death Valley in order to get to Vegas. I was tired, fed up about being around other people all the time and in desperate need of a quiet place to think.
I was passing through a landscape without really seeing it. I desperately needed to write to get my eyesight back. When the first slide-door opened, the heat poured in and took over the entire car. George had done a great job at keeping our heads cool so far, taking us across state borders, deeper and deeper into the heart of North America.
We parked the car down the road. It took us a little while to get to a deserted block of rest rooms. The warmth was incredible. It wrapped around me, jerked me forward, dried my throat. We kept our heads down while the sand filled the air around us. Everything was a certain brown grey here, the sand, the mountains, the shack. We were on our own; not a soul on the road, no buildings except for the little shack that was our destination. My companions went in first while I walked around the back to take a look at the mountain in front of me.
I listened to the chatter of my companions inside while I licked my dry lips. They were talking about the landscape, the heat, the fuel still left in George’s tank. I waited for them to return to the car, I waited for my chance to walk out there on my own, catching maybe two minutes of quiet time before getting back in the car again. I’ve always had a hard time being around a group of people, I find it hard to synchronise my pace with others. I had trouble getting up in the morning while my companions were already bouncing around the hotel room, impatiently waiting for me to get on the road again. It seemed all they wanted to do was to tick off some new places on their list, making the trip about the destination instead of the journey. When they went to bed, I stayed up, wandering down the corridor of our hotels, taking a night swim in the pool if there was one and smoking menthol cigarettes on the balcony.
When I walked back my ex lover came strolling my way. He was picking up pebbles and throwing them away while he gazed in the distance. His shirt was blue in a sea of grey. We watched some tumbleweed rolling across the plain. “Well how about that,” he smiled, as he finally looked up. His eyes were as blue as they ever were, but there was a sense of accomplishment in them I had never noticed before. All of a sudden he was one of those people who were exactly where they were supposed to be. And I was still lost.
No Man’s Land is part of a small series of travel stories Rebecca Rijsdijk wrote and photographed on a roadtrip accross the United States of America and published in a little zine called ‘A Man Went up the Mountain.’