I'm just a girl attempting to conquer a Bucket List and debilitating anxiety simultaneously. It's going alright.
I remember a time when I felt stuck, collecting dust, just like my old, handwritten list of dreams and aspirations. I remember believing that things would never get better.
But then they did.
I'm on day eight of my solo cross-country road trip.
All my windows are down, and my speakers are all the way up.
I scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs:
"I don't ever wanna feeeeeel, like I did that day... take me to the place I loooove, take me all the way"
I fly through the rolling hills.
I still don't have cell service, so my GPS won't load. Gila is so deserted compared to D.C. Any sign of civilization is few and far between. And it's getting a little too late to pitch my tent.
Anxiety starts creeping in.
Luckily, I spot a small painted sign, perched upon a cliff side, just as the sun sets. I slow down to make out the word "hostel" next to an arrow, pointing up a steep dirt road.
A little bell chimes as I walk through the unlocked front door of the big blue house. There's a note hanging behind the front desk: "Hello, I live upstairs and have retired for the night. Please sign in now and pay $15/night at check out. -Your Host"
I write my name and number on the dated piece paper taped to the counter. The other lines are blank.
I wander down the hall to find a large room with six empty bunk beds. There are folded linens in an open closet. I pick a sheet, pillow case, and blanket to dress the mattress furthest from the door. I dump the contents of my backpack – a big tee shirt, a towel, basic toiletries, and a package of instant ramen.
By the time I shower and eat, the windows are all but frames of pitch darkness.
I've been sleeping peacefully for days, with nothing but thin mesh between myself and the galaxy.
At the beach, the waves cooed me to sleep. In the forest, I could see the tiny glowing orbs of neighboring campfires through the trees. Past the canyons, I shared a ranch with cattle.
But my mind is restless in this space. The unknown is scary.
Who is upstairs? Are there other rooms here? Other guests? There were a few cars outside… So where is everyone? Who is everyone? What if this is actually just an elaborate set up for a cult to lure in human sacrifices? Oh my god, my loved ones will never find my body. Does this place even exist? Am I dead RIGHT NOW?!
As I struggle to convince myself to shut the fuck up and count sheep, I can't help but imagine a sinister, grimacing face appear, pressed against the glass across the room.
The man is wielding a crowbar. No, it's a demon. And he's holding an axe. Wait, no, a scythe. Oh my god, yeah. A scythe. Surprise! It's death. Holy shit.
I remember a time when I actually wanted to meet him. I remember believing I'd never feel differently.
But then I did.
Suddenly, a little bell chimes.
I hear a door slam shut.
And HOLY FUCK… THIS IS REAL!
The creaking floorboards become increasingly louder.
I slowly turn my head toward the black abyss.
A shadow appears. And
YOU scream, I scream, we ALL scream…
He flips the light switch. The room is engulfed in warmth. And I melt into a puddle of ice cream on the pier on a sunny August Saturday.
He has the voice of a angel, if heaven is Dog Town. "Oh my god, shit, sorry, you scared me!"
He drops a stuffed camping bag on the mattress closest to the door, and leans an acoustic guitar against the frame.
I remember a time when I felt like humanity was doomed. I remember believing I'd always feel anxious, lost, and alone.
But then I didn't.
© 2017 JULIET FESSEL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED