I joke that my favorite things to photograph are rust and roads. It became clear to me, that this particular part of the country was my personal jackpot.
There is an absurd amount of abandoned buildings and run down operations along the interstate. At one point, I passed an entire town that looked as if it had been abandoned around the year 1967. The only thing that seemed to be in use was a small church, smack in the middle. It gave me chills.
I'm not too familiar with the economic history of that part of Texas, but it must of at one time been booming, and then collapsed. There were abandoned oil rigs, bars, gas stations, motels. All of these signs that people were traveling there from out of town. But the only thing left were a couple employees of road-side stores and a few houses in the distance.
On top of feeling like I was entering an abandoned, alien planet, I felt such an enveloping nostalgia, like I'd travelled through a time vacuum. It's hard to describe the feeling of what an entire town seems to give off, but it was like a snow globe, but the size of a planet. I swore to Jenny, the sky was bigger, and that if I looked out far enough, I could see the Earth curving down.
I have been in vast landscapes before. Backcountry hiking through Denali National Park will make anyone feel like a bug on a planet. But this was different.
There were no comforting mountains holding you in place, cupping there long arms around you. I could almost imagine that if I jumped too high, I would fall up and out into the abyss, like an astronaut into space.
Jenny drove us to her friend's house so we could take a group trip into town to the grocery store, (true story). It's about a 20-30 minute drive down all dirt, backroads. On the way there, I kept yelling, "Stop! I need to take a picture!" If I had been driving, I would have never made it. I could have taken a picture every five feet for 20 miles.
I was in such a state of visual excitement. At one point, I saw some cows, grazing in a field. I looked at Jenny, pointed out the window and actually yelled, "THE COWS!" I was like a newborn.
The car made a strange noise and drove like a go-kart. They talked about the new girl who just got hired at the corner store, about the guy that sells sodas from his fridge so people don't have to drive to town. They talked about the men in their lives, working out on the ranches and cooking them dinners. I didn't say much.
I was in awe of everything.
The sun was gone by the time we left the store. In the dark, we stopped by the corner store and there was a group of teenagers standing by a truck at the pump.
I remember this girl. She was beautiful. She stared at us in suspicious curiosity as we passed. I pictured what her life might be like and what it could turn into. I felt this strange urge to speak to her, take her away.
I thought about how I used to be that same girl in that small town, watching intruders pass through my private space. I vividly remember a they came and went, and wondering what life could be like out there, and feeling the pull into the vast unknown.
I felt like I was in Footloose.
I didn't want to leave. It all felt like a dream.
I initially gave Jenny a hard time about moving to the middle of nowhere, Texas. But now, I understood completely.
I felt like that 14-year-old girl, like time didn't really matter and the rest of the world - all the strangeness of everything except for this, was so unfathomably far away that perhaps, just maybe,
it didn't exist.