Saturday, March 31, 2012
It has been a long time since I last relayed one of my coma stories. This one takes place on the West Coast.
As we rounded the bend, the cliffside to our left blocked the view of the outer lane of the road. Slowing for the curve, and looking over the edge of the road, I could see the beginnings of a pull out. Braking hard not for fear of danger but simply for the chance to get out of the van and stretch our legs. It was only as the tires met the gravel that I realized that we would have to leave our van on the side of the road. A huge tractor trailer had blown a tire and was using the ditch adjacent to the pullout as a way to lift the truck enough to change the tire.
Scuffling my dry boots along the sharp gravel, and taking in the salted air... I made my way over to the trucker to offer my help. Instead I found him beside his truck, hat down over his eyes, asleep beside the front of the cab; taking advantage of the late morning shade thrown by the cliff and the truck. I was guessing that he had either tried fixing the flat during the night and had given up, or he was waiting on a wrecker to come.
He heard my footsteps and looked up, waiting for me to ask the obvious questions. He looked like he had been asked the same questions a hundred times. Turned out that he had. He had been stuck in this very spot for weeks. Everyday began the same,... some kind samaritan would wake him, and he would still be sitting there, waiting to fix this broken down truck. Some days it would be a flat tire, other days it would be an engine problem.
Looking past him a little further into the pull out, I saw that there was a small restaurant just beyond the truck. The establishment was toenailed into the terra-firma with not much more than hope and a few beams. As I walked closer I could see that the path to the entrance divided with one small footpath leading right to the edge of the embankment. From the doorway I realized that there was a stairway that led down the cliffside to the ocean below. Looking at the stairs, I noted that it would take a good twenty minutes to make that climb down and probably twice that long coming back up.
The beach below looked like even on a sunny day it would be cold and wet. Littered with fist-sized stones and wet sand, it was certainly not worth the trek down the stairs. The flotsam that made untidy piles near the cliff's bottom were as grey and nondescript as the sand and flat water. Tangles of ropes, logs, bits of colored plastic, and here and there, recognizable bits of detritus.
Seeing that there might be something more suitable to my taste, I entered the doorway of the restaurant and was surprised to find it even smaller on the inside than what I had assumed it would feel like from the parking lot. The ceiling didn't quite brush the top of my head, but nevertheless gave the feeling that one good rainstorm might just collapse the building entire.
There was no waitress at first glance around the room. No one eating either. The silent cash register was kept company by a small stained sign indicating that I should sit anywhere I liked.
It was only after I sat down at the counter that I realized that there was no smell of anything cooking. No sounds of a griddle sizzling. No dishes clanking. No coffee cups being slurped from. As I looked out the small window in the door, I realized that I could almost hear the dust settle.
I inhaled and as I slowly let the air out, I realized that I had no air to breathe out. I pushed and looked at my chest as though somehow it might cough and find air to expel. Nothing came. Like rain on a tin roof, the dust came down. The soft dust drummed weeks and months away.