Day 38

On the convenience of beauty.

During my last breakdown (the van, not my psyche) I had the epiphany that 20 years ago, were I stuck in traffic in the middle of the road, there would be no question about receiving help from passing motorists. I would merely have had to exit my vehicle. Picture it; long hair flowing, makeup on fleek, the figure of a typical young goddess and likely with a bit of leg/cleavage showing.  I would have been immediately aided by every straight male within eyesight.

Now short-haired, makeup abandoned due to no A/C, my skin having deciding the best reaction to heat and stress is to rash out on me, (mostly on my once prized legs,) my figure is a bit rotund and any cleavage showing is usually by mistake.

Things have definitely changed.

I honestly like myself better now than I did back then. My self-esteem and confidence have risen to the point where I am very comfortable going out and being myself during the day to day. But I must say, I miss the convenience of beauty. The ability to take for granted the fact that people would be helpful when I needed it. The lack of fear of running into problems because of the nearly subconscious expectation of the knight/damsel response.

This came strongly into focus when I broke down in an intersection and hopped out to push my van after throwing her in neutral. Now granted, I didn’t emerge from my vehicle looking like a flowery helpless waif. There was no waffling, no tears, and certainly no size six making me look about 17 years old. Nope. There was 160lb woman wearing a trucker’s cap, busting out screaming “Goddamit!” while kicking the van and cussing more for good measure.

Now that I think about it, maybe the many men sitting around in pickup trucks were too scared to get out and help.

Or maybe the “help the lady out” relex only occurs when the heat index is below 90 degrees (it was over 100, after all.)

Once I finally was able to maneuver my ¾ ton vehicle over to the gas station, it occurred to me to take stock. Maybe a little lipstick? Perhaps jeans to cover the rash? Maybe a wig? A part of me sat back and judged these thoughts with scorn, “What kind of a feminist ARE you??” Another part was realistic, “We’ve read about this countless times, from all kinds of women across cultures and timelines. This is nothing new.” A third part of me was pretty much thinking, “Would you two just shut up? I’m dealing with a mechanical crisis right now and don’t have time for this.”

I’m not sure when I hit the other side. I saw it coming, and am not sure when I arrived. At some point I think it will flip back, perhaps when my hair goes white.  Then I will again hear the, “…need a little help there, Ma’am?” The Ma’am of course replacing the Miss that would have been there before.

Until then, I’m gonna have to work this out.

It was convenient, dammit. It was useful, and finding it suddenly gone is like reaching into your toolkit for something you know you had and discovering not only do you not have one anymore, they’ve stopped making them.

At our last KOA I saw a woman frantically applying makeup in the bathroom. She was a mother travelling with three young children by herself. I smiled at her broadly, admiring her determination to get her full face on when I had just decided to skip the routine again.

Glancing back at her, it struck me that she would still get the response I hadn’t. Her long blond hair, legs up to there, and perfect figure would likely aid her far more than AAA ever could.

I expected this thought to arrive with some jealousy but was met with merely amusement, like knowing a secret that you really can’t share yet.

So here’s to the women on both sides of this reality. I love you all and celebrate all of our beauty.

 

(While missing the damn convenient kind.)

 

Day 36

Evening

I am leaning up against my van, looking up at big white fluffy cotton-ball clouds.

There is a very confused rooster crowing, while the wind moves between being a stiff breeze to the run-after-your-hat-cursing kind.

There is green everywhere. Trees, fields, grass. It’s an astounding amount of color after what feels likes weeks of desert.

I am having an amazingly peaceful moment after what felt like a biblical trial of a day.

My windshield wiper blades have been repaired and replaced. Hector, the proprietor of the RV park we have landed at, is a former Texas law officer. I am decided that this might be why the local shop had my parts after hours AND personally delivered them.

Hector also does minor repairs on many of the RV’s that come through. We didn’t tackle the main engine issue, (though thanks to many of our Facebook readers, we have a pretty good idea of what the problem is,) however he was able to figure out the loose fuse that’s been leading to our lighting issues. Took him about two hours, only charged me for an hours worth of work.

My face is covered in the leftover grime of salt, sweat, tears and rain.

I smell.

I’m fairly certain a microbiologist would be interested in all the gunk under my nails.

Just a few hours ago, Ducky and I were sitting in hundred degree heat with a lazy bee flying in and out of the van. We were again dead in the water and wondering just what the hell we were doing out here.

A short while after that, we were driving through first a dust storm with zero visibility and then an actual tempest. Thunder, lighting, blinding rain. There was a strike 30 feet up that hit a telephone pole sending up sparks, and screams from yours truly.

The drivers side wiper was in tatters. The wind was so fierce I got muscle cramps in my arms and we were both fairly certain we were going to be blown off the road.

Due to the fact that we have also been having engine problems, every time we slowed down, we held our breath and begged our girl not to quit.

This anxiety about the van suddenly dying combined with the brand new fear of the storm created a singularity of terror.

Really glad to be through all that.

Grace, Hector’s wife, just sent Ducky off to bed with two pieces of chocolate cake. “One for now, one for breakfast.”

Princess has eaten, and in spite of bizarre weather has done her business outside.

The calm of this moment is making me drowsy.

Sleep beckons.

I heed the call while accompanied by the sounds of distant thunder. As Hector said before wishing us goodnight, “This storm ain’t done with us yet.”

Bring it.

Day 35

I awoke this morning realizing that I have to drive to beat the heat and nearly started to cry. I am so achy and sore it hurts to go to the john.

We’ve lost some canned food to the heat. Went to pull out our dinner last night and found dents I don’t recall being there and I’m not sure if we can eat ‘em.

I managed to back up and knock off one of the dumping pipes to the van. It’s currently sitting in the toilet wrapped up in plastic bags and I’m trying not to think about it.  We also appear to have no dashboard lights when the headlights are on, which is absolutely terrifying when driving at night. We are about to drive through TX where it’s going to be about 12 hours before we know a living, breathing soul.

The dog had a foxtail deeply burrowed into her paw and I am not sure I got it all out. She was completely clingy all evening from being left in the kennel and my guilt was nearly insurmountable. (Ducky bravely announced he would skip promised swim time in the pool to stay with her. I still can’t believe that happened.)

Today is one of those days I Have Doubts.

I have been so excited. Brightly talking about our adventures, knowing we sound insane; going back east, through the south, coming back to California and then hopefully getting the job in SC and heading back again. (It is necessary to come back to CA to modify my custody order, even though Ducky’s daddy hasn’t said boo to him since he was two.)

I still believe, It’s just that today my hopes are dimmed.

This trip has been a strange reminder of just what it means to be a single parent. The word “we” has taken on a weird double meaning I’m starting to resent.  Every other “we” I’ve met has meant a traditional family and I’m dying of envy. Not the “husband and wife part,” (Or husband/husband, grandparents + brood, etc.,) no. I’m jealous of one simple factor: Two (or more!) Goddamned Licensed Drivers.

Oh the joy of being tired and having the ability to swap with somebody! I can hardly imagine it. Oh wait. Yes I can. In fact I’ve been practicing. I’m actually very good at imagining that, if I do say so myself…

Then again, when I realistically try to picture doing this trip with another adult it stretches my excellent imagination to the breaking point. I’ve never had to share parenting duties with another person. I am not certain I how to have healthy conversations about things or even how to productively fight. This last makes me fear for Ducky because without an example set, how will he learn? I don’t want him to grow up, fall in love and not know what the hell to do when there is a disagreement.

 

Yup. Like I said. Doubts.

 

I need to remember that I am aching all over from the fantastic explorations that we took part in yesterday.

That the canned food can be replaced and it was just a small portion of our stores. (Though I would trade my soul for a freakin’ Trader Joe’s ya’ll. Seriously.)

There are RV repair stops/shops and I’m sure to find one if need be. Not to mention that the dumping pipe we lost for for the toilet which we have never used. We also don’t tend to drive at night. Like ever.

The dog will be okay.

The kid will be okay.

I will be okay.

I am feeling the fear and doing stuff anyway. Off to another time zone today. Damn, Texas looks huge.