The desert

The desert haunts me. My dreams are parched and dusty and I wake to drink glass after glass of cool water but it doesn’t wash away the dryness. Is this your last game, your final torment? I longed to return to the desert, yet now it seeps into my nightmares so I can never go back. In this damp corner of the world even thoughts of returning bring no relief. Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have their nests, but I have nowhere to lay my head.

A rock, heated to baking by the blinding sun, would make a welcome pillow now. I would embrace a second skin of dust and the shimmering haze distorting time and distance. I would walk to you across the blistering plains with joy in every step, but I cannot cross the street to post this letter to you. The rain is a curtain of glass needles between me and my salvation.

I cannot dream this place. I cannot walk it or live it. Here in this land of damp sponge there is no line in the earth or song in the air to draw me onward. The trails are silent, lost to me beneath the endless water that pools beneath my feet, and I can only sink into the deepening mire.

When you wove your tales of ever-green landscapes, flowing streams and verdant trees I could hardly imagine such a place. But you were the living water to me and I would have followed you anywhere, even across the endless ocean. I did: here I am in the sinkhole of the earth. Like a watering hole in the high heat of summer you evaporated, a wavering mirage vanished into the dust.

I waited so long. In the end it was easier to believe that you were dead than to believe you’d abandoned me; I had to believe that if you still had breath you would have come back to me. You wouldn’t have abandoned me, like a child crying behind a rock, too small to know the predator but full of terror nonetheless.

I was a child of the great, wide world. I knew the joy of the sky and the breath of the night and the deep inner warmth of a body held in the eternal sun. I saw the magic in every rock and thorn bush, and the paths that led between them and the salt pans and I knew survival. Now I am drowning in mud. I cannot hear the songs for its roaring, or see the safe trails for the smears across my eyes. Walls bar my way and I haven’t the strength to open the door, for I know that beyond it are miles and miles of grey and green ribbon, and they will never lead me to brown-orange-yellow warmth. I am lost with nowhere to go.

[Note: Yes, this is fiction.]

[Another note: a friend advised me to rewrite this as a poem.  What do you think?]

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