the desert

Posted May 8, 2022 by geograph in creative writing / 0 Comments

You swim from the afternoon to the evening. It’s not a city known for its beaches, but there is a harbor, and you can get out the beach towels, the sun hats, the big dark glasses. You can sit on the dock and you can watch the water.

You’re better at swimming this time around, and the water is in your ears, and your hair, and you taste salt and seawater. Vildas is here, and you can understand him, abyssal words filtered through to understanding in your pointy ears. You talk about beginnings; when you were growing up in the desert, in the temple. There are no insects in the desert; here in the city, gnats and flies are everywhere, clustering where people are, to leach from them, a closed ecosystem. In the city, it’s short grasses and flies and people, all sorts of people, and an occasional horse. There are rocks, but they’re all hewn and made into something; there are no ancient things here.

At home, there are cave systems — you explain the differences between stalactites and stalagmites, and it’s a little hard navigating between Common and Abyssal here, especially while you’re trying to concentrate on swimming. Rocks all have a story to tell, and you only have to pick one up to learn it. 

Anyone who isn’t looking might think the desert is barren and empty, but you know all of the desert’s rumors. Shifting sands reveal different plants; be careful where you step because you might be smashing a burrow, full of a fennec fox or scorpions. Fifty-fifty, really.  

When the fog passes over the mountains, the nets above the temple take the moisture in, and condense into water that you used to grow your crops, to drink from, to take showers with. A luxury! Cities form around water, around rivers, but in the desert there is only the moon, and the fog over the mountains, and the sand. Cacti are more hydrated than the soil they grow in, and that’s how you learned to live.

Vildas listens to your beginnings, your environment, and tells you, a little haltingly, of his: my city has no name. My beginnings have no name and it takes you a little to realize that it means that — they don’t exist anymore, that they have — died? Disappeared? You don’t know, and it’s not something you want to ask. He talks about an underwater city, of how he got the scar on his face, raised and — You wouldn’t call it ugly. Just — It is a painful memory. But it is not even that anymore — sometimes you take trauma, and you try to sort it out in your mind, turning it over and over again in your head that the edges become worn, until it is less painful. Not that it hurt any less, but that it doesn’t hurt any more. My father has no name: I have my family still. My beginnings have no name: I look toward the future. 

The moon is the same in all the skies. Lights up the desert and the ocean the same. In your temple, there is a — sacred sentence for this, a proverb. “The future is bright, and it is shining, and it is for everyone.” A year ago, you could hardly believe that there were things beyond the desert. Today, you have gotten used to the green, and you yearn for the yellow of the desert. Not everyone is the same, not everything is the same. But there is a kernel of likeness in all of us: all things strive to go forward.

In the desert, storms can be dry; no rain, just lightning and thunder. You see the lightning first; sparks up the sky. And then you wait, measuring your breath, nice and easy. To see how far away the storm is; you can always feel the electricity on your skin, goosebumps sparking to life. In the ocean, the lightning strikes more powerfully: more amperes per strike, more dangerous if you’re on the surface. In the desert, it starts wildfires. But it lights up the sky the same. The moon is the same in every sky. 


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