I left that horrible motel in Kingman at 6am, still dark, after sleeping all night with the TV on for company. I forgot one of my favorite shirts, just left it there on the bed. I realized it a mile away but I couldn’t bear to go back.

(It feels strange and laborious to write this way. There’s one big thing I learned in 2018. But, before I forget:)

How the car skidded so suddenly, no warning, and there I was in the ditch in the snow. The mountaintop. No cell service. Oh, I thought, I could die right now. So very, very easily. The edge of night.

The Historic El Fidel Hotel.

A night of anxiety and fear and nightmares. And yet, in the morning, the hotel lobby, the cats, jazz playing, the fresh pot of coffee. The male manager trying to flirt with me, innocently. The girl desk attendant, crushingly beautiful, sneaking her boyfriend back into the office when she thought no one was watching.

The extreme kindness of the hotel staff, and the man who made me the breakfast burrito, and the tow truck driver, and Jeff, who I hitched a ride with, down off the mountain and into town, shaking. I couldn’t feel it at the time, couldn’t look it straight in the eye: the kindness of strangers when I felt so helpless and nothing and alone.

A breakfast burrito the next morning, slipping across the snow-covered street. So hungry, no food at the hotel due to the storm and my meager bag of road snacks forgotten in the car, long frozen. Coffee in Styrofoam. The burrito I couldn’t eat, still sick with anxiety, fed to my dog instead. The man as he made it, no, as his wife made it, silent, and he wrote up my ticket at the front counter, took my cash, poured my coffee. Talking about laying the freeways in California as a boy alongside his father (why does this still make me weep with a painful sort of tenderness?), telling me about being a pastor, a marriage counselor. Praising his own wife within earshot. My eyes filling with tears, my insides so raw. My own aloneness, my own smallness. “I’ll pray for you, I’ll pray for you,” he kept saying as I left, meaning for my safety, and I’d never been so grateful. $4.65.

Jeff, the scientist in the lab, driving back from Dallas. His girlfriend asleep in the backseat with a migraine.

The hotel cat with the bell on its collar, chasing a Christmas ornament around the lobby like a toy. The plant with its vines hanging several flights down along the staircase.

How desperately I wanted to be home, and with him.