May 13, 2014

Journals from Yellowstone. ~ Jill Pendergrast

Jill Pendergrast badlands

“Someday I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

~ Jack Kerouac


September 26:

Him and I slept at the World’s Largest Truck Stop in Iowa, from 5 am to 9 am, in the back of his packed red Suburban, on our way to Yellowstone National Park. Ate two thirds of a peanut butter sandwich and a few cranberry Snus from Sweden.

Listening to everything and anything on the crackling speaker. Zeppelin right now, Going to California. I feel good—dirty, a little smelly, slowly unraveling—missing things.

Friday night, left Virginia for Stamford, Connecticut at 3 am.

Wanted to stay on that safe floor cocoon in a newfound sanity.

But here I go, rolling wherever this fat Iowa road desires.

I want to breathe easy, honestly, pure. I’d settle for cleaner right now.

Indiana stars, last night, fell down in bright cold clusters in this stark nakedness of fall. Yes, I miss you. My skin is getting dryer the farther west I travel. Maybe it’s healthy to pucker up a time or two. Driving through Minnesota with no intention to stop and say hello to my pregnant sister.

If it were up to me—the plan, the map, the goals—nothing would be accomplished.

Except a good-long tear-talk on Tara’s couch involving Mom’s ground coffee and tater-tot hot dish. I love you. I wish I had lines in this journal. I used to think that it was artistic, or brave to live in organized chaos.

But, some things must remain intact. Like my jumbled thoughts. I’d like them to flow like neat tiny soldiers, filing one by one, down a straight and rigid notebook page.

Badlands, South Dakota. 9:38 pm. 

Walking on the moon with the coyotes and indian ghosts.

SpaghettiOs, summer sausage, and peanut butter.

Whiskey and Sierra Mist. I love you.

Jill Pendergrast braid


September 28:

This moment could not be planned. Crossed over Wyoming/Montana boundaries and now, I’m in Big Sky country. He let me drive through the steep winding Wyoming mountains.

Good people in tiny gas stations. Old wrangler men lean on wheezing Fords gripping their suspenders, discussing important events like the wind.

I feel good.

Flannel shirt (he laughs and calls me a cowgirl), jeans and my leather shoes.

Eddie Veddar is singing us Into The Wild.

I like it when he is next to me. It’s being alone, only shared. Exotic bugs spot our windshield and refuse to scrape off. BBQ sunflower seeds fill my teeth. Let it Be.

Happy people are everywhere. Weathered faces, dusty and great.

He is writing a letter to his dad right now.

He died of a tumor in his brain this past January. I loved him best out of the whole family. He was the most genuine—and scary. Like Jack Nicholson.

Maybe because he wasn’t afraid of anything.

Called me the “salt of the earth,” when I drank my coffee black at his house and ate my pizza without a plate.

I am in love with a life that hangs on hope and what happens next. What’s big and beautiful and soft and humming acoustic soul, out of a warm voice or soft chill night with a good sky and a good tan and no roof.

I miss you and love him. I love me but I miss her. Thank you for it all, though.

I’m remembering climbing a hill on Twin Trails. I remember a stomach ache and the last hike-day. He was in his element, his thoughts and his mission: a ziploc bag with a letter and faded Dartmouth cap to bury for his dad; climbing faster, searching for the spot, and me trailing taking pictures.

God, I am sore in my throat from holding tears. I’m sorry.


Him and I have not talked in five months. I saw pictures of him camping in Connecticut. New camper, in shape, smiling. Hurts my stomach so much.

He showed his hate and frustration by sleeping with a string of girls in Manhattan.

Now he’s moved back to Mackenzie.

Anger fills my head and body.

If, in this one life, quantum physics is irrelevant, and I must move forever forward, never in reverse or in nostalgia, then I am going to make a pretty love with someone new, as long as my heart leads.

A sip of my black coffee jolts me back to Yellowstone last year, and a slushy drive throught the Teton Mountains while Bob Dylan’s, She Belongs to Me album plays in the Suburban.

Today I felt anger, while blow drying my hair, before work. Thinking about my guilt, and that I am mad at his anger, piled on top of me.

Somehow there has to be a balance of blame, or guilt, or just the heavy burden of emotion for what happened. And, what was that?

I fell in love with someone so hard—with my manipulative girl powers, I morphed into his ideals, discarding all that was me. What was left, he adored.

He loved me, to his core.

I loved this so much that I believed we could be soulmates, even though my soul was in hiding. What went wrong? Maybe nothing. Maybe it was my hesitation to let any real love move past the first impression of his dreamgirl. I was so terrified of his dissapointment.

We grew up.


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Apprentice Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Author’s own


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