“Well, this feels wrong,” I say.
I pause the podcast my boyfriend and I are listening to. He stops the car, air conditioning blasting in the 102-degree south Texas heat, and we squint into the sun. The “road” we’re on has suddenly become incredibly narrow, with short rocky cliffs rising on either side of us. They’re so close now that if I were to open my window, I could graze the rough, limestone walls with my hand. But there’s no way I’m opening the window in this heat. Below us, what was gravel has become silt. Clayey sand that gives slightly under the weight of our small car.
“I think this is a river bed,” my boyfriend says, hands still holding the steering wheel. “Did we….did we take a turn onto an old river bed?”
We pause, considering the possibility.
“Seems like it,” I say. This could be a moment where we laugh. Later, we will. But right now, we’re in a pretty grim place. Our GPS stopped working miles ago, long before the river bed situation. Not that we weren’t warned about this.
“If your GPS fails you (which it will),” the website for the hot springs we’re trying to find (located near the border between Texas and Mexico) warned us, “you can…” You can what? I wonder, not remembering the instructions and unable to pull them up on my phone.
My thoughts begin to spiral. When was the last time we saw a car? An hour ago? Two? It was definitely back when we were on a road that was paved and, you know, an actual road. Even then, the car we spotted was a border control vehicle and the first we’d seen for miles. I look down at our measly supply of water, then futilely raise my phone to see if it will get service, shaking it a little as if I might Etch-a-Sketch my way to getting a signal.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” my boyfriend says — remaining clear-headed while I imagine our bodies splayed out for vultures. “We’re going to just back out.”
He throws the car in reverse. The wheels spin. We don’t move.
“Oh, that’s it,” I say. “It’s over.”
A touch dramatic perhaps, but I’m already envisioning myself trying to walk in the sun without enough water, zero sense of direction, and no earthly idea how many miles it will take us to find a seemingly abandoned homestead where someone will promptly make masks from our skin.
“We’re definitely going to die out here.”