Day 4: Acclimation
I’m writing by the light of a lantern. It’s important to pause amid the dust and hustle to scribe the words of the heart.
You, my dear — yes you. You are written on the walls of my heart. Always you. No amount of waiting makes no matter.
Whether one is waiting for apple cinnamon pancakes flipped by the young boy with large brown eyes, thrice in the air, who dances like a robot for other pancake queuers, or simply waiting for the person you love, time passes no slower.
Talking to the guy with piercing blue eyes and pinprick pupils — like starburst blue galaxies, I almost couldn’t look at them for fear I might go blind — and a wolf challenging me to my truth, inked on his chest, waiting makes no matter.
First there is sunshine, blazing down on your scorched thirsty earth. It always starts with sunshine — every fucking love story. But then the drought finds you. No matter how far your escarpment, no matter how saturated you thought your soil was. It finds you. First, the earth becomes raw, like receptive hungry love. White crickets like moth locusts jump and leap into the desert shrub, high off too-hot earth, flitting and landing.
The next moment you’re huddled beneath a wind rattled tarp, collecting ‘Seven Deadly Gins’ badges from an American woman with jet black hair — she calls herself Empress — as a trickle and hiss from the sky turns into a heart pouring sob — nothing is held back. Blue above sinks into its darkest grey clouds. Infrastructure crumbles. Mud befriends everything in its persistent self-invitation into your domain. The desert is awake. She forms a slick dust layer over all your things, your material things. Then she weeps over all of it. She’ll even distort your father’s wooden coffee grinder — now a buckled base — she doesn’t care, it’s a game to her.
At first you skittle and gather. You bustle and prep and tidy and fret. You’re still holding up, with only one hand, the ends of your tule skirt, the other darts around furiously — mud-pre-emptive. Beating the trepidation of the storm’s true reach only lasts so long before you relinquish your human, fastidious control. You let it go. You let it all find its own resistance to mud.
“Thunder only happens when it’s raining…”
And then the now becomes everything. The call to dance in moments of true fluidity is something you should never turn a proud shoulder to.
You run barefoot out into the dance floor, now a mish-mash of dust and rivulets, you let go of your skirt, and you begin to twirl. Your arms fly out wide like the ends of a chiffon scarf, cutting the sheets of water falling from the deep grey sky. Dust and droplets mix and everything from your bare belly to the feathers in your hair grow an earth brown skin, covering you in her particles, her breath. She clings to your dress in joyful desperation as if to say “Don’t leave me. Stay. Dance with me.’
And you say, “Desert, I’m here, I’m at your beck and call. You rain, I’ll sing. Together we’ll dance.”
Who was holding on and who was letting go? Are we ever ready to let go? Or do we just feel like we’re in control, grasping tightly until our knuckles ache?
I thought I’d let go so long ago. But I didn’t realise letting go isn’t a finite thing. It happens in waves. No amount of muddied kitchen floor sweeping or vodka orange shuffling on fake grass in the lawns of Pompei, another grandiose theme camp, or even conversations with wonderful human beings and their unprompted extrapolations of my heart and all their ensuing, misguided best intentions and desperate, over-interpreted advice could keep the knowledge written on the walls of my heart from being truer than true. I can let go and hold on to the truth simultaneously. They are not mutually exclusive abilities.
But how could they, all my new desert friends, know that I would rather walk the desert untouched and unhurried by any other hand, until one day or maybe never it could be your hand. They just don’t know that. And it’s okay. I’m deeply grateful for their humaness and wanting to heal and read into my soul none the less. But it is not a broken love. Waiting is not a broken commitment.
Only you and I will know you and I like we do.
I told the sun today as she slipped below the end of the earth. While I danced, I whispered our story to her through the sway of blue black tule, right next to 6 girls with mirrors on their nipples, taffeta bursting from ordinary arm cuffs and another girl with so so many tattoos creeping up to her jawline, I couldn’t help but wonder, what she was hiding beneath, what had scarred her so deeply that no amount of ink would ever be enough?
To that slow, sultry sun, that basked over all of us, turning fuchsia as he melted away — to him, I whispered our story. Hundreds of hearts around me all whispered their own heavy stories and ails of life while their faces, like mine, fronted smoke screens and imbibed sweet little lies. We all whispered.
As the sun cracked below the last visible line, he splintered his answer on the underbelly of clouds above. Crescents and ripples of pink so penetrating, it arrested the sway and holding facades. Hips stopped. Smoke faded. Forms froze and on one or two faces just like mine, tears etched down familiar channels.
“How many burns have you been to?” , a nearby glittered dancer asked.
“This is my first” I replied without breaking contact with the sky.
“You look like you belong.”
“In the desert?,” I turned to face him.
“To what ever it is your thinking of..” he smiled and rode off on his fluff covered tricycle.
When I told my barefoot wandering desert friend back at the camp about it, the one who walks in his own time, he simply straightened his black velvet top hat, lit his freshly rolled to perfection joint, and smiled, “You’re acclimated.”
Waiting is always the same, no matter what you’re waiting for. And eventually — whatever it looks like, through letting go, it seems you arrive.