In the 1990s I had a very good friend who lived in Santa Fe. We had known each other since girlhood but had only become close after her divorce in’ 92 , and long telephone conversations about the meaning of life, spirituality vs materialism, the new age, quantum everything in the energetic universe and other such topics that were floating around at the time.
In any case she had been inviting me to visit for some years, and finally I decided to go in late summer of 96. She wanted me to stay at her house, but owing to my aversion to shared baths I opted for a hotel. I wanted to stay in town, but she convinced me that I would be happier at a ranch down the road from her place. I told her that I hadn’t driven since I had moved to the city years before. She said that she would do all the driving, and we’d spend the entire week tooling around enjoying town and the surrounding countryside.
I consented and prepaid the fee at the ranch. However, I must have had a presentiment of things to come when she invited another group of girlfriends to stay the week prior to my visit. I then fell back on my closest companion, my beloved and eccentric sister, Layla, who jumped at the chance to visit the land of her dreams.
I felt entirely justified when my friend announced the evening before my arrival that she was fed up with house guests and had to take care of herself. She added that she wouldn’t be picking us up at the airport as previously agreed. If I hadn’t already paid up, I would have canceled my trip. As it was, I sighed and said, ‘ Fine.’
I should mention at this point that my sister is a bit of a worry-wort and likes to be prepared for all contingencies. When Ebola broke out in Africa, she arrived at my doorstep, ashen and announced, ‘There’s a new disease out there now, and it’s going to make AIDS look like a picnic.’
When she realized we would be more or less on our own, she said, ‘ Lil, I looked up Santa Fe, and one of the largest federal penitentiaries in the country is right outside of town. If we rent a car, promise me we won’t pick up any hitchhikers.’ That was an easy promise to make.
In any case we arrived, found the bus to Santa Fe, met my girlfriend who was big enough to drive us out to the ranch, which turned out be about thirty miles west of town, contrary to what she had told me before. I had had the impression that we could walk to town. She then left us to go out on a date. Since Layla and I had nothing else to do, we spent our first evening making friends with the animal residents on the ranch: dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, goats and peacocks, while coyotes howled in the background.
The next day we got a driving lesson from the girlfriend’s cousin and a ride into town where we rented a car. From that point on we had a grand time which was only marred by the fact that we thought it would be wise to be home before dark. I suppose we could have stayed out later, but New Mexico has the highest rate of highway casualties in the US due to drunken driving. Since I hadn’t driven for years, and since the roads were not lit the way they are in the city of Chicago, I was afraid to risk it. Mostly I was afraid my mother would blame me if anything happened, which must be the reason that to this day, I still insist on holding my sisters hand when we cross the street.
I tried to maintain cordial relations with my girlfriend who insisted that Layla and I see Taos, an easy drive from where we were staying. And so it was until we had to cross a small mountain. ‘You’re doing really well, Lil,’ my sister encouraged me, while holding on to the dashboard for dear life as I navigated the bends. Anyway when we got there, the pueblo was closed for the corn ceremony, and needless to say after lunch we had to start on the journey home so that the dark wouldn’t catch us.
I don’t remember if it was that evening or another but we both finally had enough and in a foul mood retired to our casita which was located at the very edge of the property abutting the Rio Grande. That evening sentiments spilled over, and we got into a huge fight as only siblings can. As our tempers flared, and the argument escalated, our voices became higher and screechier. We might have gone on for some time, but we were alerted to danger when we heard a loud thumping on our roof. Thump, thump, thump, clearly the sound of a grown man jumping up and down.
‘Lil, its the escaped convicts!’ my very tall sister squealed, rushing to my side.
The thumping went on, accompanied by shrieks. Exchanging perplexed looks, I said, I’ll handle this.You stay here.’
I inched my way to the door, closely followed by my sister who was not going to let me die alone. We cautiously opened the door and peered out into the darkness. A thump and a shriek resounded as a huge peacock jumped on to the roof to join three others.
To this day Layla and I don’t know if they had come to defend their territory, or attracted by our shrill voices, thought they had found their ideal mates.