Somewhere in the mountains and forests of northern Arizona, a red hatchback flies around turns much faster than should be taken. The sound of the road singing under the tires is drowned out by the loud and fittingly fast music within. Miles pass alongside endless pastures near, and a reddening sky afar. There’s a stop for lunch here, another stop for fuel there.
The fork in the road comes and you’re the only one turning left. There hasn’t been another car neither coming nor going and only one car has passed by in the last 45 minutes. Soon the twinkling lights from the town you’re staying in begin to march out from behind the mountain.
The girl working the desk has done this a million times, working with the efficacy of a well oiled machine. Deftly taking forms from collators without looking with one hand and dexterously grabbing my credit card and ID with the other. “Initial here, here, and here. Signature here. This is the wifi password, breakfast is from this time to this time in this room. Your room number is 220. Have a nice stay.” I’ve been through this a million times myself so I appreciate the tacitness.
The dull drone of the air conditioning and faint voices that fade into whispers from the lobby below die out in the walls. You’ve arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and your floor looks like something from The Shining (movie). You expect two creepy twins to stare at you. Coincidentally, you’ve finished reading the book on Monday. You see your room is across from room 217 which is humorously unnerving. Another hotel room that looks like the last and the one before that. You’ve always thought a hotel room is like your own little world. A structure full of little worlds you can buy for a few days. You let some time pass.
It’s dinner time and you’re hungry. You find one of the few family owned places in town. It’s a place claiming to be serving authentic Italian cuisine. You keep thinking that the word “authentic” gets thrown around far too loosely these days. You open the door and everyone inside looks at you like a tourist. You have a suntan, they don’t. You have dark hair, they don’t. You still have your youth, they don’t. You look optimistic, they don’t.
You’re sat and smile knowing not to expect much Italian authenticity in a small, rural town in northeastern Arizona. You order the cannelloni and pronounce it with perfection which elicits a slight reaction from the table next to you. “Are you Italian?” the humble small town waitress asks. “I learned how to say it properly in Rome a few months ago,” you tell her. “You’ve been to Rome!?” she says with disbelief. “I’ve been all over the world, my dear.” People begin to give glances awkwardly slipping on one side of confusion and the other curiosity. “When you get your food, can you let us know how authentic you think it is?” she says next to her interested manager and less interested cook. “Sure.” Your food comes, you eat it and tell her that they get a passing grade. It’s just vague enough to be interpreted either way. Regardless, it did hit the spot. Bananas foster is not Italian but you get it for dessert anyway.
You leave the restaurant and make the short drive back to the hotel. You don’t see another car, nor another person and feel life has stopped upon re-entering your own little world. Life only exists in here.
Your headphones are on and listening to music, laying in a bed that’s far too big, staring out a window through diaphanous curtains and occasionally see the hazy and scrambling star-bursting lights of a crawling car. Everything else is a distorted and dark emptiness. The song and site work to sift out dormant memories. You’ve felt this in other cities around the world but you’re reminded of Istanbul. You’re on a ship in space, in your private quarters, watching other space crafts drift by and stars shine.
There isn’t much to this small town but if you know where and how to look, interest and beauty exist in the void.