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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

The Sandwich

Buzz, my cell phones alarm goes off at six in the morning. Apparently, I had forgotten to take it off silent mode the night before. Surprised that I cared enough to wake up to its monotonous buzzing on the stack of textbooks valued at $600 that lay scattered in the back seat. Funny, I have a cell phone holder worth more than my car; the same car that I have been living in for over a year now. Prayer flags hung in the rear window, an old military duffle bag full of my dirty clothes and a haul bag full of climbing gear. I grab a shirt hanging from the little hook; you know the one, next to the handle above your head in the back seat. Sniff, this shirt isn’t that ripe, yet. Rolling out of my down sleeping bag, it too could use a wash, I shake the fuel canister attached to the camp stove and feel there is just enough to brew one last cup of coffee.

Relief runs deep as my stomach rumbles.

The sun is just cracking its head over the horizon, the still calm and the chill of fall morning is ever present. I slip my rancid shirt over my head and find a pair of tattered pants from the duffle bag.

 I really need to go to the coin laundry today, I think to myself.

I prepare coffee grounds and fill the second-hand percolator I received from a fellow climbing partner and colleague. I flip the top of the old Zippo lighter and watch the stove ignite with a burst of blue flame. The sound of the stove reminds me of the jets that would fly overhead when I was overseas. The only things that remain are the memories of those times and that old green duffel bag full of pieces of clothing smelling like a gym locker room.

The percolator spits coffee out of its center spout, leaving a pot full of black gold. Just as it finishes the gas stove dies off on its own.

 I need to head into town to buy more white gas and check my P.O. box.

 Since leaving the Marine Corps and coming back home, I have chosen a simple dirtbag existence. I work enough to have a simple, quiet, place down the street from my favorite coffee shop, but I have chosen a different path. Living life out of the back of my car and calling the deserted Southern Utah home has really opened my eyes to what it means to live. These thoughts pass through my mind as I watch a water truck pass on the old dirt road I normally like to stay.

 They must be starting a new fracking site close by.

 That is a damn shame; I did not think they made it to this area, yet. Of course, it is inevitable that all of this precious land would be stripped of its beauty.

Another truck driver passes by speeding dangerously, as if in a hurry. I have seen this driver before in the small town of Moab, Utah. The same town my P.O. Box resides. He was at the diner, with his family, starring off while his seven kids and nagging wife ask him if they could drive to the big city after breakfast.

 “The city up North”, they called it.

 Salt Lake City.

 Oh boy, what a city.

 Big mountains mixed with happy cheery people and enough opioids to make any junkie and housewife feel at home. 

 Yep, that is the same diver.

 I wonder if he is taking on double shifts?

 What is the shame in one more hole?

One more oil derrick, one more hole for millions of gallons of water and hydraulic fluid being pumped down the metal vein into the skin of the earth.

 The precious white gas extracted from the ground, the same gas that boils the water of my morning coffee. Society has a way of leaching into your everyday life no matter how deep in the desert you think you are.

An old mug sits in the pile of climbing gear, I try to recall as to how it ended up there. The smell of coffee is enough to bring a tear of joy to any waking human if you allow yourself the pleasure. There are no means of refrigeration for fancy creamers when living out of the back of a car, so black coffee becomes the normal way of doing things. Closing my eyes, I put the dirty mug to my lips and feel the warmth radiating off of the titanium. Liquid fills me and I take in the moment. This is the singular couple of seconds where the caffeine hits my stomach and energizes my soul. These moments, the ones I wish would never end, always seem to come slamming me back to reality, I open my eyes.

 My stomach turns upside down on itself and seems to yell at me.

 I am hungry.

 I insert the old key into the sticker-covered gearbox that sites atop my trusty steed. There is loose gear strewn about the ten cubic feet I have dubbed “The Attic.” A pair of old climbing shoes, I have been meaning to donate them, an old rusty shovel, a four-season tent, as well as a dry bag, stare me in the face.

In the back corner, just out of reach, is a plastic bag. The white bag has a giant corporate oil company logo on the side, staring me in the face. I untie the shoddy knot holding the two sides together and peer into the bag.

The bag’s contents bring me back to when I purchased them.

 Only three days ago I found myself driving down a deserted lonely highway in the middle of the barren desert. I stopped after an eight-day shift working my wilderness therapy job; walking into the gas station that smelt of old hot dogs and stale beer.

 You know the type of places, where your shoes stick to the ground when you walk by the glass doors full of sugary diabetes inducing liquids.

 Wandering the aisles and thinking about my hunger, I buy a stick of beef jerky, a bag of chips, and a sandwich that looks more like a science project.

The half-eaten contents are now staring me down, as I peer into the bag, wondering if it is worth consuming.

 My stomach screams at me again, its desire for nutrition has taken over my mind.

I set the bag down in the dirt. The light breeze blows at the tattered hole like handles. I sit down and take out the contents. The beef jerky has turned into a hard brick of peppered mystery meat. My chips have gone from a salty delicious treat and morphed into a stale mass. The sandwich is half eaten with brown lettuce and old mustard covering the once clear plastic warp.

 The only option of food for miles; I sink my teeth into its contents, chowing down.

 Silence fills the air while my insides digest.

 Buzz, I hear my phone rattling against the textbooks inside my house on wheels. I must have forgotten to turn off the alarm after I pressed the snooze button.

Turning off the alarm and sipping my coffee another truck charges down the road. The familiar corporate oil company logo covered in red dirt on the giant tank filled with fluid. Looks like another truck driver making a living. I guess we all have to survive and make a living these days. 

I wonder if the driver ever slows down to take in the sunrise and eat a sandwich in the desert? 

 Keywords: public lands, oil drilling
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