Crash: We crashed. And it was beautiful

Illustration by
Debora Szpilman

Words by
Alex Tieghi-Walker

We were speeding to catch the sunset at Key’s View. It was my friend and passenger, Tessa, who saw him swerving on our side of the road and shouted “What’s he doooing!” But then we hit and spun and the wheels flew off and the bonnet popped up. It smelled like plastic and rubber and Roxy Music’s “Avalon” was still playing at top volume when the four of us leaped out the car. Alive, and (mostly) fine. 

He’d been looking down to change the song on his phone, drifted over on to our side, and we were going a bit too fast to honk or stop or swerve. I ran up to him and told him to fix this mess. Better said than done: we were 20 miles from the park entrance, even further from phone signal, marooned in a Lynchian flashback in the remoteness of the desert, with two steaming, useless cars.

It was really one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen. The light in this desert changes from white to pink to purple to ultraviolet to black. Rabbits bounced through the shards of broken plastic, the sun hitting bits of red glass and casting flecks of light on nearby boulders like a mirrorball. “I should collect the pieces and make a jewellery collection,” said Tessa. So we all sat on the curb side, him sat an awkward 10 feet away from us, my hand hanging off, sore necks all round but nothing too terrifying, and watched the sun disappear until a car eventually drove by to take us to the ranger station. 

I went back to Key’s View last year— you feel as if you are looking at the earth from an airplane window, but there’s no glass, it’s just a huge expanse of rock and desert and salty lakes stretching out beneath your feet. On the road back down, we passed a little yellow triangle right where we crashed, telling drivers to slow down.