Magic Carpet Ride

November 19, 2010
There she stood: Just off of exit 47. Her complexion contrasted the warm black hair spilling down to the small her back. A shivery arm extended from her thin frame, thumb grasping for the clouds above. Now, I normally don’t pick up hitchhikers, but as it was the holiday season, I was in a giving mood. With a couple friendly honks of my horn, I pulled off onto the shoulder. She darted up to my truck and waited as I unlocked the passenger door. Climbing into the cab, the woman flashed me a grin and thanked me for pulling over. I merged back onto the freeway and we were on our way.

Snowflakes cascaded down as the mile markers soared by; 48, 49, 50. I still had a ways to go until Cle Elum.

“Where y’headed?” she inquired.

“I was going to ask you the same thing.”

“Anywhere, really,” she declared in a nonchalant manner. “Just trying to get out of this place.”

“Aren’t we all,” I chuckled. I know I was. “I’m going to Cle Elum.”

“Heading there for Thanksgiving to visit the family, huh?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “I was born and raised there, but work brought me to Seattle. See, I fish in Alaska, and during the off-season I’m employed in a law office.”

“Wow, that’s impressive!” she remarked.

“Eh, I suppose. Not particularly what I wanted to do in life, but hey, it pays the bills.”

“Oh… It seems like everyone goes through their lives that way: working to live instead of living for their work.” Expressed the woman. The conversation ceased. She had a point, but what I really want to be doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve always wanted to be an author. It’s hard to make a living off of unpublished poetry and unnoticed novels. Breaking my daze, I glanceed over and notice she had been looking in my direction as well. Our gazes affix. I quickly looked away but was drawn back. They were inviting, her eyes. Tender, in fact, despite their cold, pewter hue. Faintly, the edges of her mouth curled upward. I turned back to the road, still feeling her regard. Just then, a Steppenwolf song came on the radio. Magic Carpet Ride.

“Well, you don't know what we can find.
Why don't you come with me little girl?
On a magic carpet ride.”

I contemplated what the girl had preached while listening to the song, halted finally by an announcement.

“That’s it,” the woman thought aloud, “I’m going to go on a carpet ride of my own. Travel across the country. The world, even. Find my Aladdin.” The song concluded.

“I wish I could do that. Go anywhere I want on a whim. I don’t remember the last time I left this place.”

“Why can’t you? I mean, what’s really stopping you?” she posed. “The only thing holding you back is yourself. You can go wherever you want, be whoever you wish!”

“It’s not that simple…” I argued.
“I can’t just leave everything. My life is here.”

“Your life is anywhere you want it to be. I mean, it sounds cliché, and it is, but you are your own master. You have the liberty, the power, and the will to take your life in any direction you incline.”

“I just…” I started, “Don’t know. Sure, I could leave, but what then? I have security here. By leaving, there’s just too much uncertainty. Too many variables I can’t control.” She was right, to an extent. But there’s nothing for me outside of Washington.

“Oh,” she murmured. In that moment, my mind wandered to places it hadn’t been in quite some time. Fantasies about living a different life came rushing in. Childhood dreams coated in sugar and spice, unadulterated, filled with zeal and inspiration and optimism. I wanted to be a novelist or poet – a lyrical visionary. What happened in these twenty-some years that made things go askew? It was then I realized I needed a new beginning as well. Then, the woman cut in once more.

“I was going to ask you to go with me.”

“Me?” I questioned, baffled. “Why me?”

“I suppose it was because you were warmhearted enough to stop for me. I had been standing, waiting for an hour or so.” Pausing for a moment, she added, “You’re different than most of the people around here.”

Not knowing quite what else to say, I rejoined with a straightforward, “Thank you.” From there, we drove in solitude for fourteen more exits, accompanied only by rock and roll hits from my parents’ adolescence. While everything else was encompassed in a snow squall, I was enclosed in my thoughts.

Reluctantly, she asked, “is this your exit? I suppose you can just drop me off on the side, here.” I continued driving. I had already made up my mind. “Excuse me?”

“I was thinking,” I began, “Maybe your journey won’t be so extensive after all.” She opened her mouth to speak, but I continued. “Why don’t you join us for Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve been driving for miles, you must be starving.”

“No, no, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“It’s no intrusion. I insist.”

“Well, alright. It wasn’t my initial location of choice, but I’ll embrace it.” She chuckled.
“If I show you a new world, maybe you can help me make one for myself.” The woman nodded in agreement. “I’ve always wanted to write,” I added. Her eyes resonated like fireworks in a rural sky. A spectacular sight.

“I’m Aubrey, by the way,” she chuckled, “How rude of me not to introduce myself.”

“Desmond,” I responded, “I’m Desmond.”

“Desmond,” grinned Aubrey, “ Not quite Aladdin, but it’ll do.”

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