Almost six years ago I met a woman online who had lost her husband a month and a day before Jeff died. For all these years, we’ve helped each other try to make sense of the senseless. When we first came in contact, she was living in Vermont and I was living in Colorado. And now life, that champion and at times demented chess player, has brought us together in Arizona, in a most peculiar town called Quartzsite. Quartzsite is a quintessential mobile community. Midwestern snow birds and other RV nomads winter here, increasing the population from 3,000 permanent residents to well over a million folks. BLM land sprouts RV camps like weeds, and even the permanent dwellings have a temporary air, as if at any moment the owners will pack up the building and move.
RVing is an interesting lifestyle, and apparently millions love it, but I have no interest in joining the RV community. It seems . . . No. I won’t go there. Even though the lifestyle seems a bit inane to me, people who live it love it, so I should keep my opinions to myself. (But did you notice how I slipped my opinion in there anyway?)
Besides being an RV community, having the best inland fish and chips, and hosting perhaps the world’s largest gem and mineral show, Quartzsite has one other claim to fame: Hi Jolly. Haiji Ali, a Greek born in Syria, was hired by the US Army as a camel herder for it’s Camel Corps. When the Camel Corps was abandoned, Hi Jolly moved to Quartzsite and engaged in a variety of enterprises.
Anyway, this movable and memorable town is where Holly and I finally met. Although friends back in California worry about my meeting people I’ve only known online, I wasn’t worried. You can’t share the most painful emotions of your lives without coming to some sort of truthful understanding of each other, and so it was with the two of us. We simply segued from typing our words to each other to speaking them aloud.
A wonderful woman. A wonderful visit. And she graciously agreed to let me take a photo of her with my VW.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)