It’s hard in real life to tell when a character foreshadows an event. It doesn’t happen when you’re expecting it nor is it scripted. Maybe hindsight is lending itself to confirmation bias, or maybe it’s wisdom is speaking to the folly.
The old man in Slab City told me in no uncertain words: “You guys seem like you’re in such a hurry! It’s when you slow down, move without expectations, that you find what you’re looking for.”
The old man in Yuma told me: “I went to war in Korea, I got cold and never got warm again. I’m here now, I’ve been here 3 years. I like the heat. It’s never the same, every time a wind storm rolls by, it changes the place.”
Here I am, 5 hours later, sitting in the back of a 20 year old van, wiping the soft, light, yellow sand of the sand dunes out of my eye. Late in the night on an open field, 5 miles past a No Trespassing sign, 10 feet from a smoldering fire pit. Sweat, dirt, and sand caking my body, as I write into my computer. Why am I here? what am I looking for? Why am I smiling?
The old man in Yuma turned out to be right. After we got down the dunes and finished flying a kite, the damned wind picked up and kicked up tornadoes of fluffy, light, champagne sand. Every crevice of my body, my van, my beer, and my bike was covered. We decided to leave and look for another campground. This perfect camping spot turned out to not be so perfect.
Damn. The van is full of flies. On our way to the dunes, we had transported about 60 flies with us from the Salton Sea to Yuma. Unwelcome, annoying little fuckers. They knew what would happen if they left the van, they could tell a wind storm was around. They were happy just hanging out in the van. We had no choice. We couldn’t stay in the van because of the flies, we couldn’t leave the van because of the storm.
On the road we went. Looking back, our footsteps had disappeared from the sand, washed out by time and nature moving in fast forward, like a foreshadowing in and of itself. The old man was right.
I drove out here to embrace the happenstance of life and through it learn something about myself and those around me, to round out the story of my life, to have something to tell my grandkids. Today I got a whiff of it, the whiff of a hungry poor boy in a dark alley behind a restaurant. I can smell it, I just let it get to me. The old man in the Slabs was right. It’s when you don’t have expectations that you find what you’re looking for.