I’m dripping with sweat. My skin feels like the surface of a freshly baked cookie; warm to the touch, with the promise of crisping.
I peel off my damp black tank top, then slowly out of everything else. The handle is difficult to twist, but then:
Cool, clear water.
The outdoor shower is large; probably as big as my bedroom at home. It’s made from PVC piping – which makes me (naively) believe it would be easy to recreate. However, as soon as the first chilly drops hit my skin, I forget all about DIY projects or anything else.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes – one from retired NBA player Larry Sanders. Talking about his decision to quit professional basketball, he compared it to unclogging a waterhole.
“What’s going to come out first? Gunk, worms, crap…
…and then you get flowing water. You get fresh water.”
I had spent the past two hours hiking Squaw Peak, an endeavor that required a huge, oversized bottle of lukewarm water. Later, when I’m gushing to my Airbnb host about the adventure, she (Julia) politely informs me that the mountain has been renamed Piestewa Peak. The naming was inspired by a woman named Lori Piestewa, Julia told me, as we sat in her eclectic, vintage inspired office.
Lori was a solider, a Hopi-Hispanic, and a mother who passed away in the Iraq war.
I had never even heard the word Hopi before. I felt incredibly ignorant, and asked Julia to send me some book recommendations on Native American communities out west. She agreed.
To be honest, I’ve never really liked cold showers. I prefer the steaming hot, scalding showers that my mother has told me my grandfather loved to take after he returned from WWII. In Iceland, I was in heaven – the geothermal heated water meant long, uninterrupted streams of fiery hot lava.
But here, in a city that feels more like another planet – the heat is like a blanket you can never take off.
When I first arrived, it was 90 degrees. And 9 PM at night. I had just spent a quick hour flying from L.A. to Phoenix, via Spirit Airlines. After sitting in LAX for nearly two hours, I crashed into my window seat, aside from a tall young man I recognized from the terminal.
“If I could go my entire life without hearing that man’s voice again,” I say in his general direction, referring to a repetitive airline associate. “That’d be great.”
He laughs nervously, his square glasses sliding down his nose.
“I know, right?”
I shake my head, cramming my backpack under the seat in front of me.
“Terminal 3 is definitely my purgatory.”
We had a short lived romance for about 15 minutes until the flight attendant, who we already deemed as villainous, told us we couldn’t sit together.
“We need someone in each emergency exit row,” he explained in a nasaly, high-pitched voice that only flight attendants seem to have. “But this is great, because you each get your own row.”
We give him dirty looks, and the guy – who is actually a really cute nerdy type, and as it turns out, a filmmaker, moves into the other row. We spend the rest of our flight looking longingly at the other one, over our mutual Bloody Mary drink orders.
Until I awkwardly spill my mix all over the floor.
“I am so sorry,” I gasp to the attendant, who I’ve dubbed evil Michael Keaton.
He cheerfully brings me another mix.
I pocket the full can, as well as the extra airplane bottle of vodka he swindled me into buying.
The plane lands, and cute nerdy film guy (actually named Kirk) nervously walks with me to the exit. He asks for my name. I tell him and he tells me he’ll see me later.
How? I think, as he walks away.
I’m grateful. Coffee is for closers. I imagine him with his future wife, likely an ironic gamer and equally awkward nerd named Eloise, who wears fun printed dresses ala Zooey Deschanel.
I’m happy for them.
The heat melts the memory of Kirk away. As unattractively as a human can, I struggle to take off my sweatshirt. The next 24 hours are wondering how it’s possible for it to be so fucking hot out.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved Phoenix. Loved it. As soon as I reached my Airbnb, which was actually just a Shasta trailer parked in the back of an art gallery/coffee shop/vintage shop, I feel that something is special and unique about this place. Julia, who is a flawlessly beautiful free spirit type, offers to drop me off at a local restaurant to get some work done.
It’s called Welcome Diner. It immediately reminds me of Ruby’s Diner from one of my favorite books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
I sit outside, after asking the waitress to pick out her favorite meal for me to eat. I explain (quietly) that I’m not from around here, then retreat to the sauna that is everyday Phoenix to people watch.
I jot notes down in my notebook as the Phoenecians gather. Everyone is dressed like they’re in Clueless – dresses paired with sneakers, guys donned in actual aged tees and tight pants. One guy actually has a bleached blonde bowl cut – with the last inch dyed jet black.
A guy who was sitting in the diner before walks out, and asks me how my fried green tomato sandwich was. I answer, and then he says loudly, “HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT TIME IN PHOENIX!”
Dick. My cover is blown, and everyone is staring at me. I cash out and peace.
Although I was only in Phoenix for one day, I explored the arts district, befriended the gallery’s friendly barista, and had the most amazing tacos of my life. As I shoved the culinary form of heaven into my cakehole, I felt the joy that can apparently come in the form of deep fried tilapia.
Despite the trendy bookstore, the incredible food, or the friendly people, I found the most pleasure in the time I spent alone in the Shasta trailer.
I still fondly recall the coziness. The sound of the Bloody Mary can cracking open, the taste of the lukewarm mix. I sipped from a paper cup carefully, occasionally laughing at Bob’s Burgers that I watched from my phone.
How strange it was to have something so incredibly simple, be so incredibly perfect.
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