Chapter 9: Ruby

[Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Henry Lee” MP3]

Just over the New Mexico border, in a town called Texaco, I stopped for gas. Across the street from the station was a large brick building with a sign that said Ruby’s Antiques & Collectibles. I made a detour and stopped in to speak with Ruby. She’s this old, white-haired lady who was kind of sneaking around the two-story building keeping an eye on her customers. She wasn’t about to let any of us get away with theft. You could see her white hair peaking over the tops of display cases or cutting between aisles as she monitored the rooms housing vintage furniture, clothing, keepsakes and ephemera. She wore way too much blue or purple eye shadow, and her loose, wrinkled skin made her appear a caricature of a grandmother. And she dressed like one, too, in a long skirt and multiple layers of blouses beneath a wool sweater, even though it was close to one-hundred degrees outside.

She saw me eyeing an old Gretsch electric guitar in a beat-up black road case and asked if I was a musician.

“Fledgling,” I replied.

For fuck’s sake, Evan, don’t be so modest.

She offered to sell it to me for less than half what the price tag said, but I made up an excuse for why I couldn’t take it off her hands.

I’m so cheap.

Ruby told me to call for her if I needed any help looking around. Behind me, a wooden shelf unit housed several small kachina dolls. I grabbed two dolls for my mother’s collection and noticed the glass display case below it was filled with minstrel dolls (Golliwogs?). These dolls were the most racist renderings of the human form I’ve ever seen. The gross exaggeration of ears and lips and noses was sickly fascinating.

Before I left her store I stood at the cash register with Ruby, and she asked what brought me to Texaco. I told her about what I am doing, and she smiled and said she admired my creativity and my ability to get out and do it through even though I’m going about this adventure from start-to-finish on my own.

“It’s nothing, really. I admire what you’re doing,” I said, for no apparent reason other than to appear like a wholesome young man.

She responded by stating, “Your parents should be proud of what you’re doing, So many kids these days are drinking and doing dope and shooting drugs and cutting off the air to their brains just to get off.”

“That’s awful,” I empathized.

“It is. I just saw something about it on the news last night. I don’t understand why on earth a child would want to stop their own breathing.”

I shook my head and told her I had no idea, there were a lot of unexplainable things happening in the world these days.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve tried all of those unexplainable things at one point or another.

Ruby, she told me to stop by any time. I smiled and said when the wind blew me back into Texaco she would be the first person to know. Ruby told me she hoped I would return to speak with her again. She handed me my kachina dolls and we parted ways.

[P.G. Six – “Crooked Way” MP3]

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