The desert is a mother. This morning, the sandstorm of her labor lasts six hours. It's a girl.
She won't last the day, and she knows it.
We won't either. But we don't.
It's different being here. I'm trained. A pro. But this is real. And they walk up on you. Just like that. Right there. And then I'm not sure.
They walk up on you all sorts of ways. Quiet. Afraid. Happy. Arms waving. In cars, trucks. Walking. Alone or in groups. Families clapping. Soldiers. You can't tell the difference. You want to be able to. You want to trust your instincts. You want to trust what you see, what you read in their eyes, how they move. But yourself is the last person you trust. And that's when I think I might lose it. That it might be better, safer for everyone, to lose it.
This girl, she walks up on us. She walks up on us, and I can't tell. Is she one of them? Out of the desert, this girl. How can you tell? I mean, know for sure?
The desert's all around us. Not just in front. It's a dome surrounding us. No beginning, no end. A planet. The desert is an endless planet all to itself. Mars. No object, no structure on any horizon, and you feel like you'll float up, the convoy, the line of vehicles, transports, weightless, airlifted into the sky. But it doesn't happen. It stays a paranoid feeling, a wish. The desert smothers you instead. Surrounds you and smothers you. And bears children. Children you'll never understand. Children who speak another language. Who say, "Fuck you." Who say, "I don't need you."
This girl walks up on us, keeps on. She'd walk between our legs if she could. T-Dog's shouting and gesturing. Stop. Get down. Stop. Get down. Are we saving her? I'm in my shell, my hardware, indestructible, I could save the world. But can she believe it?
She's got the sheets on her head, brown eyes, a young girl, the robes. I think about her body, substitute one I like for the one that's probably hers. Bare feet. I can see her toes stick out as she walks. I think of the hot days here, the cold days. Walking bare feet on the sand. I imagine it. I got my boots, these monsters, and I imagine bare feet. I can't help it. My boots aren't enough. I need something else. Hi-tech. New and improved boots. Boots that speak the fucking language, for one.
This girl, she detonates herself, blows me and T-Dog to hell's shithole right as T-Dog sprays a warning at her feet and I'm thinking what I could really use on this desert planet is new hi-tech boots that speak the language, that say, "It's gonna be all right, Sweetheart. Let us help you."
About the author:
David Barringer's new book, We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things, will be published this summer by Word Riot Press. www.davidbarringer.com