When I went to bed Thursday night, the sun was shining high above my head, and when I woke up Friday morning, I found it had fallen out of orbit, teetering too close-by. The warmth thawed the sleep off my eyes and left me sitting angry in a bundle of purple sheets. So maybe that’s why I ran away. Or maybe because the bus kept coming late and I undersalted every dinner. Or it could’ve been getting robbed. The point is that Friday the sun broke the camel’s back, and I ran away.
My house is a gray box without decorations because my short time there was worth less than a painting for the wall, so I caught a last-minute flight from EZE to a place called Mars. Last aisle, middle seat, and I had to jump off while we were still moving. I had an itinerary for running away, and I was behind schedule. The sun was catching up.
The nights were cold nostalgic fog, like the kind that in childhood I’d imagined would swallow me whole. In running away, I felt closer to home than I had in a long time. But I didn’t want to be reminded of the chasm between close and finally there, so I raced ahead, away. In that haze, a cop stopped my speeding car. Oh high school, oh yay! The Martian cops asked me who I was. I looked up at them, with the moon against their backs, and only then did I realize their faces were carved out of sand. I raised my hands to them and in the moonlight noticed my bedazzled wrists.
Cascading ribbons and trumpets welcomed me and locro filled my eager gut. I spoke to them by dancing and dragging my feet through the dust to draw where I’d come from. I took photos on the relic my grandfather gave me. And one day when I’d get home no one would believe what I could show them. My camera broke the second day.
The morning after Friday was Friday #2, and I fell in love with the mountain next door after someone showed it to me on a map. I set out and immediately got lost. By the side of a river, a woman took shape, in a cloud and swirl, and she was old and cracked and stone. She jumped the river and some of her dribbled off, but not much. I got scared I’d lose her but the river seemed to make way for her jump. When she landed, she danced differently than I’d ever seen. Our directional dance traced, in slow steps, the path out of my own head. My foxtrot revolved around her tango. Our steps never intersected, we never shared the same dance. The steps made shapes and colors, and the map to the peak formed in sandstone walls. She reflected off the water, shaped as the world I had chased and lost and chased and lost.
She told me,
“I’m from behind me but right now I’m going forward to find everything that’s gone. Then I’ll head home.” And she said that all by scraping her feet into the Martian dust. I hoped she would find what she wanted.
I followed her path to the peak and there, stranded, the sun collapsed on me. The weight on my shoulders, that I had run away from Friday morning, made its way down to my feet in the form of concrete. I crumbled and in that stasis the sun caught up. I saw it crash into the valley in front of me. And into the five birds that flew across my pink-red sky. The sound of two kids fighting, not decipherable about what, and the dog barking at their fight are all that reach my ears while the valley burns up. The cord dropped and the desert swallowed me whole.
On my Sunday walk back I watched the color fade from everything in a smoky farewell, and suddenly I didn’t notice I’d made it back to my gray apartment. I don’t know why I rocketed away. Maybe because when I hear your voice—a long-distance call through our shared Robin Williams tunnel on 101 / SR1—I cry and my food is salted right. Maybe I ran away because I couldn’t stand one more sleepless night looking at the sun just dangling there, but the color was always there because of it.
I want to say the sand seeped into me like the wind did, but I think I only caught it in my open-toed shoes and lost it on my return. Maybe I should have more faith—there is sand at home. But in my room I’m far from that. In my room, there’s too little space for both the sun and me, and I thought if I stepped out for a bit the sun would too and I could sneak back in. I wanted the desert to burn off my memory, leave me comfortably warm when the moon finally pushed daylight under crashing waves. But all I came back to was some broken hinges that hadn’t been broken before. I wish I could say I was changed, that anything had changed other than my tongue turning even more to stone. Tonight I’ll lie down, hoping the Sandman does exist. I’ll even dream about the crashing sun, and if I’m lucky I’ll dream about it happening here.
Eye of the Nass, Episode 1. Edited by Teodor Grosu.