Between Two Midnights

I rang in the New Year 2016 on an overnight train through the desert.


Half awake / half asleep, I said: Hello to one midnight in Mountain time and: Goodbye/Hello to another in Pacific.  And there were resolutions, but little time to break them: This year/this space between years/this same year/I swear I will…


Just before Thanksgiving, I came down sick with the flu, then pneumonia. Most days I felt too sick to leave the couch, let alone the apartment. The cat became a soft molten paperweight perfectly made to hold a human in place. For almost a month I stayed there, and the cat stayed on top of me.


Outside it rained, and then, it didn’t rain.


Just before Christmas, my boyfriend dumped me. He gave me some reasons, but they were just sentences made out of words that evacuated his mouth in dry sounds that didn’t fit together right. He might as well have said: smoke or blank paper or motor oil. 


I cried, and then, I didn’t cry.


When people asked me, Why? What happened?  I said, I don’t know. I think he is just confused.


I figure: men get free passes to spend long celebrated stretches of their lives just confused. They get to indulge confusion and live in service to it while they learn to find their ways in this world and sort out all the great cosmic mysteries. Eventually, some of them will come to accept that they are kind of average; not all men are destined to become great heroes who will save the world to a chorus of applause. The cosmos’ mysteries do not require tiny human shaped men to sort them out.


But that is not what happened here. It is just speculation about what happens in men’s heads in general. I don’t know what happened in this man’s head. I don’t know why this particular man became confused. He just did.


I don’t have the luxury to be confused about my purpose in this world, especially not right here and not right now. I have to be well, and I have to be in it, and I have to stay with it.


Alone or with or not sure don’t even matter – as long as I am, and the world and everything in it, is still in motion.


Just before the New Year, I went to Tucson to hang out with close friends who didn’t mind if I didn’t sleep, or if I cried, or if I went a day or two without a shower. They toted me from one end of Speedway to the other to look at funky saguaros on the East and West sides of the national park. They offered me tacos and rum. The sun warmed up the cold places inside of me, and the dry desert air was good for my lungs.


Night fell on the last day of 2015, and I boarded a train in Tucson. I tried to get some rest on the hard bed of the sleeping car, the soft, comforting click and squeak of the tracks were muted by earplugs. Out the window, bright little towns slid from horizon to horizon in the deep desert dark. In their absence, the winter constellations passed from one place in the sky slowly to another.


The Sonoran desert gave way to the Mojave desert. It was midnight, then the year peeled back and gave way to one more hour. It was midnight again. In between the appearance and reappearance of years, out in a scrubby back field, some revelers lit Roman candles.


They burst open above my passing train, crackling, into quick, red flowers of light.

Sarah R. Rodlund

Sarah is a writer and traveler.