I kind of thought Cassandra would stay with me until Phoenix, just to see me through the vast Texan desert, but she wanted to make sure she got to New York a day early for her modeling gig so she would be well rested. Cassandra, it seemed, imagined modeling to be much more active than it is.
West Texas looks a lot like Saudi Arabia. On I-10, cell phone service is sporadic and there are lots of warnings about dust storms. If you want to feel really alone, drive through west Texas by yourself after your wife leaves you to become a model. I kept picturing my Escape blown over in a dust storm and vultures picking over the burrito bits on my jeans while Cassandra danced on a table at Marquee high on coke with a breast falling out of her dress, Tara Reidstyle. This was mostly to keep myself awake until El Paso.
There is nothing good about El Paso.
I forced myself on to Las Cruces, New Mexico, which has a historical, ghost-towny center that is now primarily about Billy the Kid and chile. I stayed at Lundeen Inn of the Arts, a bed-and-breakfast that's also a gallery for American art. It seemed as though Jerry Lundeen, an architect who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale, Arizona, had designed everything in town, including the headboard of my bed.
In the eight hours since Cassandra had left me, I'd become creepy. I hadn't shaved in two weeks and hadn't talked to anyone all day. When I did need to talk to people, like the Lundeens, I mentioned my wife a lot in unconvincing ways. I felt like a murderer who'd figured out that compared with cheap motels, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and art galleries are the last places cops will look.
Throughout the trip, I'd tried to eat only local food, and though Cassandra needed occasional breaks from barbecue, I could now subsist on a diet solely of burritos nutritionally supplemented by a bag of baby carrots I'd bought at a Wal-Mart in Mississippi.
It was here in the desert, abandoned and burrito-stained, that I had to make the most important decision of the trip. I could head north to Vegas, where some friends were at an electronics convention and where I could score an invite to the porn awards as some kind of revenge against my wife that, unfortunately, she might not even mind, or I could go to a spa in Scottsdale and relax and think about Cassandra. I kept plugging both destinations into my GPS, switching back and forth. They were equidistant. Porn stars or spa treatments. Beautiful vistas or giant fake breasts. This was where my life had wound up.
Scottsdale was the best decision I have made in a long time. My oversized suite at Sanctuary had a fireplace, an outdoor bath, a lit Thai lemongrass candle, and a glorious view of Camelback Mountain. I was big pimping, and after walking around in my Frette robe and eating a great meal at Sanctuary's restaurant, Elements, I realized that pimping felt meaningless without Cassandra. And that perhaps it was the fact that I often phrase my love with such metaphors that was causing our relationship trouble.
The next day, I ate a Sanctuary-packed picnic in the Escape and got across the country by sundown. Three days later, I picked Cassandra up at the airport and drove her to our new house. She seemed happy to see me. We haven't talked about the trip much. I think we're best staying home for a while.