By Rob Vilar
After a brief washroom break, I get back to my refueled Dodge and pay the gas attendant for her service.
“Where you going?” she asks.
“I don’t know. Somewhere,” I answer.
“Getting away from something?”
“Maybe something like that,” I reply as I step into my Dodge Challenger and begin to drive off the lot.
“You come back again,” she says.
I return to the highway and re-adjust my rear view mirror. I notice that the procession of cop cars off in the distance has intensified since the last time I checked. I light a cigarette and turn the radio on. My favorite DJ is back on air.
“Well, after a much-needed break to relieve this old vein of mine, let’s get back to the narrative at hand. Vilar, you’ve done well until now but these are desert plains you’re approaching, my friend…and the heat which I’m sure you’ve noticed, has gotten hotter. Well, to make things a bit bearable, I’ll play you something off the recent Julianna Barwick EP, Florine. A small number titled “Cloudbank.” I hope there is a cloud bank on the horizon for you.” The DJ drops it. Upon hearing the song on the radio, my mind starts to drift to another time and place in the past, somewhere in a Motel 6…
She comes out of the shower and into our room while using up the last of our allotted towels. I lay on the bed, working on a crossword.
“Who’s this we’re listening to?” she asks.
“Julianna Barwick, a singer out of Brooklyn. Found her on some pay per download site,” I answer.
“You didn’t find her on Pitchfork, as with most things?” she counters.
“No, but eventually they jumped all over her. Which is cool I guess. It’s what you want if you’re making music these days. By the way, I don’t find most of my stuff on Pitchfork.”
“I like her. Her material reminds me of Popol Vuh off the Aguirre soundtrack,” she says as she searches for something to wear.
“Yeah, it does, but even better if you ask me,” I respond, slipping in a look above my crossword paper.
“Are you still going to work tonight?” she asks.
“Yup, you know how it is,” I answer.
“One of these days you got to tell me what you do. You can’t keep up this mystery forever…”
Back in my car, I notice I’ve successfully shook off the cops while driving myself deep into the desert’s heart…a place for no man. I stop the vehicle, turn the radio up, and take a sit on its hood. The song “Bode” comes on and I take in my surroundings. I stare out onto the desert plateau and watch the sun murder the skies red as it plunges into the dusk. The sweeping sustained mantra of the song eases the pain of this measured astrological kill. The DJ comes back on.
“I got to hand it to you Vilar, you shook them off good. With my little CB radio here at the station, I can tell you them coppers have no idea where you at. I know you’re hiding somewhere though… but the question now is… how long do you stay out there? We’re pulling for you, just keep a warm blanket close by…”
Back at the Motel 6, I watch her spread the blanket back on the bed. “You know there’s people who get paid to do that sort of thing,” I tell her.
“No matter. Just a frequent habit,” she says. “I’m really digging this Julianna Barwick more and more. What’s this song playing now?”
“It’s called ‘Choose.’”
“You know who else she sounds like? She reminds me of Enya.”
“Yeah—like a hipper version of Enya. Some people may find that comparison repulsing, some maybe not. It’s hard to know nowadays.” I finish off the last of the crossword. A short pause lies between us.
“Do you really have to go?” she asks.
“Yeah, I got to go meet someone. I told you,” I answer.
“When are you gonna let me know?”
“I’ll tell you about my job some time.”
“No. That’s not what I mean,” she says, as she slowly draws the curtains down and turns to face me.
Back in the desert, night has struck and coldness starts to take hold. The opening piano refrain of “Anjos” plays on the radio while I lay down and gaze at the stars for a moment. The DJ returns and chimes in over the song.
“Hey, Vilar, haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope you’re keeping those scorpions company. Word has it they don’t offer lifetime subscriptions in the place you at, so you best be getting back into the game now. You can beat the police, you can beat the road, and you can even beat the clock…but you can’t beat the desert.”
“Go to hell,” I respond as I roll off the hood of the Dodge, kick the remaining dirt from my boots, and get back in the driver’s seat. I start the engine and peel it forward to the road. With “Anjos” still playing on the radio, I look for the angel in the sky’s constellations to help find my way back. I start to coast into a vision of last night’s encounter…
I meet my contact Rodrigo by the river’s end.
“Eh, Roberto! Tudo bem?” Rodrigo addresses me.
“Tudo bem. Que pasa?” We exchange our special handshake.
“Well, the boss has got a special job for you,” Rodrigo says as he hands me an unmarked envelope. “Take a look. Looks like someone saw something they shouldn’t have, which can be messy for us. It’s a shit job but you know how it is, right? You got 24 hours.” I stand there, staring into the photograph for a while. Rodrigo says as he snaps me out of it. “Hey man? You OK? You know her?”
“No, it’ s cool.” I slip the photograph into my pocket. “I got it covered. Can I borrow your Dodge?”
The roar of the law enforcement’s helicopter shakes me out of my stupor as I race towards the morning sun. The ranks of the land vehicles have swelled tenfold since my last cigarette pack and I still have a carton to go. The radio is on and my DJ is still with me.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! You go, Big V! You out-race those blue Nazis! You don’t give up and let them catch you! No way, Jose, no way, you go for the prize, man, you go for it! Ha ha ha ha…all right, this is too much fun. I think we got to drop one more for the soul mobile before I go in for a break. So here’s a hymn for you, bro, called ‘Sunlight, Heaven’ by Ms. Barwick. Drive forth and let that camino del sol be your guide. Radio on and godspeed.”
With the song fueling my ride and the police closing in on me, I can see clear as the new day set forth, the path laid ahead. And as sure as I am aware of that incoming road block set up at mile’s end, I am certain now of what words can be said from one to another while under the veil of darkness in a small room near the edge of night. Without hesitation and without doubt. The true speed of will.