The Calm Before

You’ll want to know what it’s like. Kind of empty, really. Difficult to understand. People ask you to describe. They ask about her. They make generalizations. They talk about the old times. This is what’s happening now, or what’s assumed to happen tomorrow at noon. Kind of frantic, like a cat might be in the measured fractions before the pounce.

Will, how you feeling? What’s goin’ on in there? Are you nervous?

Anticipation has many forms. There’s the giddy format, the jittering suspense of standing in today’s grass when tomorrow’s oversaturated lawn seems to catch the sunlight. Then there’s fear, the gnawing wasp that circles the silent classroom during testing. Some may describe the grinning anticipation of prediction, the mousetrap in motion. Others remember the structure of desperation, when your hands move faster than those on your wrist. Finally, there’s plain-old expectation. That’s when your aunt’s wedding date rides in the saddle of your brain until maybe you remember the location and it slaps the reigns hard enough to bring it out of a trot and into a canter. None of these answer the question.

Photo by Will Wolff

Photo by Will Wolff

Let’s start over. My name is William Wolff Herbert, and I’m going to be accompanying Xina throughout New America. She’s been a co-conspirator of mine for awhile now, but this is the biggest, most ambitious scheme we’ve ever pulled. You might even say we’re not prepared. Well, you might say I’m not really prepared. With a background in game design and a passion for music, it’s hard to tell why a talented artist like Xina would want me as a partner on a cross-country artmaking road trip. The BFA in digital art probably helps, as do my award-winning narrative-driven games and my minor in English. Hopefully it’s starting to come together.

As for the trip itself, the clock has struck midnight, and my secondhand Toyota Prius has transfigured itself into a transcontinental, road-ready pumpkin. Unbelievably, our journey starts tomorrow at noon. So when people ask what it feels like to anticipate six nomadic weeks as a traveling, two-man circus, I’m expected to produce an answer. The thing is, my mind goes blank. The anticipation is purely physical. I don’t sleep, I won’t eat, and I can’t fathom an emotion save dry, unadulterated boredom. I feel mechanical.

Photo by Will Wolff

Photo by Will Wolff

Really, though, The Quest West began weeks ago. It was thrust upon me when the campaign ended, during the time I spent negotiating routes with Xina, and as the last of belongings crossed over the Massachusetts border into the Eastern beyond (Connecticut). That’s when I started snapping photos, and that’s when I started stewing the themes in my mind that will eventually translate into my poetry and fiction.

This past week has been similar. Trips to Costco, REI, Target, CVS, Best Buy, and Dick’s have fashioned our hours and minutes. I’ve driven across the river to Newtown, and Xina’s driven back to Skillman. We tinted our windows. I spent time crafting a system for writing digitally in the passenger’s seat. Xina drove the red-eye down to Washington for her visa. A professional wilderness instructor consulted our plans and preparations. I was offered suggestions on the best freeze-dried meals. More often than not, trunks were packed and re-packed.

You might think it unusual to go into a trip without a clear plan of what’s ahead, or where you’ll be sleeping, but for Xina and I, it’s all part of the journey. Just as our mistakes teach us more about ourselves and the world around us, flying blind will show us more about America than any civil war re-enactor ever could. So, with the car packed and a change of clothes in the back, we’re ready to get our hands dirty. We’ve reached for the heavens, and we’ve prepared for the storm. From here on out, we’re bound to the idea that an understanding of rain requires you to get a little wet. So stay with us, watch the forecast, and who knows? You might even catch a little moisture on the way.

Until next time,