As we passed through Blythe, my son began excitedly asking me what the border between California and Arizona looks like on route 10. Although I have passed this way before, I have no idea. Apparently the detail never mattered.
This time it really matters.
The magical moment of crossing from a state who has held so much power over our lives into another is one to be marked by all the senses. And there all three of us sat, eyes wide open, on the edge of our seats, catapulting ourselves at 70 miles per hour toward our finish line.
Which was to become our starting point.
I imagined a wall. Like in Berlin. Or a long fence as far as the eye could see. Like the entrance to Mexico. I knew there would have to be a checkpoint somewhere. I shivered to think that just a couple months earlier I would have been arrested there. I would have been arrested anywhere outside of Los Angeles.
My phone buzzed in my lap and I glanced around for police before tapping to see who the text was from.
“How are you liking your new freedom?” the text begged. I replied quickly that I was five minutes from finding out.
My son opened the oversized atlas on his lap and began loudly announcing the miles. We had driven over 200 miles. My daughter sat silently in the back seat where she had been silently reading through most of the trip across the state we had all been born in. Happy to be in her introverted bubble, surrounded by the possessions that crowded around her. We had far less now than we had ever owned together. My key chain held ONE key and it was in the ignition.
Freedom came at the price of homeless unemployment. I was getting us out by the skin of my teeth.
We were passed by many other moving trucks and cars packed with possessions. One car even had a mattress tied to the top. It seemed like so many people escaping or maybe I was just projecting.
And then there it was… the checkpoint on the California side. I looked for one on the Arizona side but saw none. It was wide open and oddly… greener. In front of me was a river with a bridge running over it. In the middle of the bridge was a small, unassuming sign: “Arizona State Line.”
As we passed over it there was a noise that escaped me that scared me and embarrassed my children. It was an odd kind of scream/cry. Like a desperate bird taking flight. There are tears that are so deep they cannot be seen. Those tears rise up like oil in your throat and betray the façade of normalcy so desperately displayed.
“Sayonara, citrus s*%t!” my son hollered.
My daughter resumed her reading after a simple sigh.
As the sun set, the full moon rose above the eastern Arizona desert mountains. The saguaro stood like ancient sentinels to remind me of all the free people who have passed them by for so many centuries. A brooding ballad played over the radio. The singer crooned about freedom. And just as she did a shimmering, blue star shot through the inky black sky and fell to earth.
I made a heartfelt wish that a home, warmth, liberty and love awaited us on the other side of this long road we had just begun.