From the truck window, she had noticed the warning signs about how you now had so and so many miles to go before there would be another gas station. Or anything else.
When they finally reached a lonely gas station, the first she had seen for hours, the desert around it looked like bleached bone.
There was a single motel behind the gas station. It was so small it looked like a rundown house somebody once had lived in, had it not been for a rusty sign in front.
“You sure you want to stop here, miss?” the truck driver asked in his gruff bass.
“Yes,” she said.
“It’s only an hour more to – ” he started.
“I like it here.”
He dropped her off and there she was.
The woman took in her surroundings. Yes, this looked very much like the end of the earth, with the shelter-like excuses for houses, the white desert, and its endless pockmarks of sun-shriveled bushes.
A man appeared at the porch of the ‘motel’ – just under the rusty sign. He was there so suddenly that she began to doubt if he had been staring at her all along, and she had missed until she blinked the dust out of her eyes.
The man made no move, so she began to walk over the gravel parking lot space, directly towards him.
He was of an indeterminable age, with whiskers of hair on a bald head, unshaven, and a rugged hawk-like visage. His clothes were grubby – jeans and a t-shirt. She wondered what impression she might make on him.
As she approached him she wondered what he was studying the most – her lithe form, which could still draw the attention she wanted when she wanted it (and sometimes when she did not want it). Her long and dusty blonde hair. Her little rucksack that was way too small for any expedition into this part of the world.
Or was he studying the dark hollows under her eyes; or the red in them. She could feel his gaze, steely and intense, even if he himself looked like he could be swept away in the rising wind at any moment.
Something had blown up from the south, but it was not the merciful vanguard of a storm. It was hot desert air rearranging itself and making her feel like she was walking through the exhaust from so many open ovens.
When she reached him she noticed just how small and shriveled the man looked, not unlike the pockmark bushes around the motel. She was taller than him and even though she stood on the ground and he on the porch, he had to raise his gaze slightly to look her directly in the eyes.
It was the first movement he made that she was aware of.
She felt a brief sting of doubt, but then she reminded herself why she was here. She had nowhere to go back to. So it did not matter if he was hostile. She would just go … out there.
She thought of the desert.
Her distracted reverie was broken by the hard, raspy voice of the old man:
“Welcome to Rex’s motel, miss.”