a version of this story was originally published at x-r-a-y. http://x-r-a-y.com/galveston-texas-by-alex-weidman/fiction/
This Texas night is similar to a Mexico night. Both are deeply oppressive, deeply black and unyielding, lunar in no real sense, unless one is thinking about the dark side of the moon and, really, only the appearance of the dark side of the moon. Outside the car’s windows it is absolutely unchanging.
It is not like an El Salvador night Javier thinks. El Salvador nights are fertile and alive, and similar to Guatemalan nights and similar, up to a point, to very southern Mexico nights. They are deeply alive, which Javier knows to mean they are deeply human, which really means that the will of life seems to radiate up from the ground itself and hang in the air like humidity.
Nothing promising seems to radiate up from the blackness outside.
Javier had been warned not to hitchhike after he crossed. Hitchhiking they said was a sure way to get yourself killed. But Javier had been lead so far astray that it would have been fatal trying to get back east any other way. He’d known something was very wrong when the land around them had turned into the desert, so it was either hitchhike and die or don’t hitchhike and die. So Javier hitchhiked and got unbelievably lucky.
For hundreds of miles through the Texas night it would be just Javier, this stranger who picked him up, the small, repressed section of highway visible in the headlights, and the border, sometimes no more than fifty yards away. All through the night they’d pass white trucks driving back and forth along a patrol road that paralleled the highway, driven by men who seemed to have no identities, or by men in black masks and black sunglasses despite it being the middle of the night. Javier would begin to form an understanding of the relationship between this land and extraterrestrial sightings. The mind can only do what it can with the strangeness of this place and it must put together a coherent picture.
Driving through the deep night Javier would not know that when he arrives in Galveston he’d go directly to the beach. He’d go directly to the beach like some sort of pilgrim drawn naturally to an edge. On the beach Javier would take refuge under the pier, where above he could hear laughing children and the sounds of carnival games. He would almost swear he could hear the exhaustion of the parents who were shepherding the kids around. Javier would not understand why someone would come to the beach in January, in this weather. To him it’d seem miserable.
Sitting next to this silent stranger Javier would also not know that when he arrives in Galveston his cousin would no longer answer his phone. Anyone remotely paying attention would know that things had been getting very dangerous, and Javier’s cousin would end up backing out, leaving Javier stranded without so much as an address.
Javier would end up wandering Galveston, a beach town that seems to absorb nothing of the vitality of the tourists and vacationers who go there, though if one paid any attention they’d realize that these tourists aren’t the picture of vitality either but more like wanderers as well, people mostly lost who only by chance happened to have stumbled upon something similar to what they think they’d been looking for. Instead as Javier wanders the town will grow increasingly tired, like the maids and waitresses and cooks who are ubiquitous in service economies. Javier would end up wandering endlessly through this town that seems to grow emptier and more desolate, as if the people were turning into cardboard cutouts, as if it is a border town in the truest sense: a town that is set up only as a façade of a town, for official use.
Driving through the Texas night Javier does not know about his wandering. Instead he thinks about Luisa del Rosa, who he’d already decided he’d never see again. He thinks about Luisa and about the future and her absence, and the inability to reconcile completely the disappearance of a person from one’s life, which is also a way of being unable to reconcile the disappearance of one’s self from any reference point. Eventually in Galveston Javier will fall asleep on the beach, under the pier, where he’ll dream of Luisa. He’ll dream Luisa is with him, that they are together under that pier, and he’ll dream that despite his cousin not answering his phone and despite having nowhere to go and having no money and despite being technically pursued, everything is okay. Everything is okay because Luisa is there, and Luisa being there suggests something about being a teenager still and something peaceful, something similar in the sound of the waves that will rock Javier to sleep again and again for days that’ll end up being innumerable.