The effort it takes for all of us to survive out here is not lost on me.
I feel for these plants, in their mindless effort to leave some mark on this world, even as I curse them and pull their thorny spikes from my continually scratched and bloody calves and palms.
It feels like work to live here.
It's rained once since I got here, and despite that, the reservoir seems to be ever more loosely contained by its banks and so even though I have walked the same paths for weeks, I'll occasionally find myself suddenly unmoored, looking around for a familiar scrub brush or boulder (spoiler alert: they mostly look the same to me) because the water has overtaken yet another path and forced me to tramp through yet more spiky, desperate plants and when I finally lift my sweaty head it is only to realize, yep, I'm lost again.
My car is on its last legs, a cruel joke I feel the universe is levying against me while I am 2,500 miles from all my worldly possessions and my former home and my school to which I must return in order to graduate and pass an enormously expensive test to be given the papers which legitimize this thing I've worked so hard to become.
I skim an email from FedLoan Services while I speak on the phone with the mechanic. He tells me this next repair will be around $100 (the last was $500), but that my car will probably not last another six months. He recommends I start looking for a new car. I make noncommital noises of agreement while I try not to tally the amount of money I and my parents have poured into this car in the last year.
FedLoan Services encourages me to perform my exit interview for the loans I have received so that I may know my "total loan commitment" and begin preparations for paying back the more than six figures I borrowed.
I sip on a $4 cup of coffee that I bought in order to use the free wi-fi that doesn't extend to the reservation, and I am awash in the irony of the entire situation. It's so funny that I fight back tears and when I shift position, something unbearably sharp digs into my foot and I gasp. I reach down and pull a thorn out of my shoe and leave behind a flaming red spot of blood on my heel.
I think that I've learned to stop expecting things to be a certain way, but then I find myself exhausted by the seemingly endless labor a woman who is having her fifth baby endures. There are no guarantees, I tell myself while she shifts positions one more time, and I tell her, again, that I believe in her and that she can do this, and in my head, I ask God to please, for the love of all your creation, turn this baby face-down. She stands, and cries, and I rub her shoulders. She tries to pee, again, and I hand her ice water for a small sip. She sways, and cries some more, and I press hard into the small of her back, and it's been long enough that I need to call the doctor if we're no closer. She lays down, I check her again, I'm losing faith. She pushes twice more, the baby has turned and comes surging out, yelling on a wave of meconium-stained fluid and reaching, reaching for her mama and I am grateful, all over again, for this crazy place and this crazy job, and for the moments that make me forget the shambles my life feels like it's become.