Let me say now, it was deserted and I was only partway drunk. He was a down-on-his-luck lunatic, standing there on the offramp at midnight. We were just outside a town I’d never understand, my wife somewhere inside it, cleaning out the chicken coop of her head, rearranging the crossed wires of her failing intuition. For once, I was able to look at a man like that and understand the prospect of having nowhere to go but a burning need to get there. I killed the engine. Got a beer? he asked as I opened the car door. No, but I got a car, I said. He appraised the dark heap that had urged me toward every stupid turn I’d spent the years taking. It’s ugly, he said, noting a windshield crack so fierce it made seeing out nearly impossible. Yeah, but it’s yours, I said. He looked at me with the kind of lottery-ticket look you see on TV, when winning feels more wrong than losing. Let me say now, standing there watching my own taillights bob off into the dark was the beautiful, cursed sensation I’d been aiming for all day. Then I was a puzzle piece in the California night, nothing in my hand but a cigarette, nothing to do but wait for somebody to come along and tell me what a fool I’d spent my life being.