The Man In the Desert

Edit: I wrote this in my early 20s and barely edited it. Looking back, it was the only way I knew how to express what I was feeling. Though I am not identified as depressed, at times there is depression. This story is what it feels like. I don’t need well wishes; I post this in order to normalize it. And if you’re in the desert? Keep going, my friend.

Had a dream last night. I was running, running from everyone, seems like. There wasn’t any place I could go that was safe. First thing I think is, “Is it me? Am I the reason I need to run?” Don’t really know, but…I ‘spose it happens. 

****

The sun sets, and it’s dry. Too dry. Tongue gets all swollen, slack. Skin crusts right over. The man steps through the dust, and a handful puffs away as each boot scuffs along. 

The house waits stolidly for the man. Paint flakes away so slow, like an evolution. The sun shines, but the house absorbs its light. The wood is old and parched; it drinks the helpless sun rays. 

The man’s boot meets the first step. The hollow thud breaks the silence. Repeatedly it’s broken until the man lowers onto a stiff chair. After creaking once, the chair accepts him as friend. 

It’s quiet; too early for night creatures and day creatures are too thirsty. The man looks out. There is nothing. The earth stretches all the way to the sun. His hands lump in his lap. He stares at them. 

****

No sense in staying here. Got to have a purpose to stay. Need a purpose to live. May as well start looking again. 

****

The man set off when the moon was high. It hung like a pearl; lonesome and bright. The temperature dropped, so he rolled his sleeves down, pulled his collar up, and tugged his hat down. 

His steps were crisp and audible over the faint cricket background. The sound of the insects hung in the air as if they were miles away. The thirsty brush pulled at the man’s passing legs as he pressed on into the night. 

The sky opened up and revealed its jewels to that sorry stretched earth. The dust could only sit, watch, and hope for a breeze to take it closer to Orion or Sirius. The man ignored these gems but would glance now and again at the emblazoned moon. That pearl commanded his attention for it stifled his mind. It hung luminously terrible – it was alone in a sea of gems. 

The moon understood why he must go.

****

There must be something out there for me. At least that’s what I like to think. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m not gonna sit around and wait for nothin’. 

****

The man slept on the ground that night. He didn’t care to light a fire, didn’t care to eat. He just lay against his pack, crossed his arms, and shut his eyes. 

He closed himself off from the world. That world out there had love, loss, happiness, and violence. It wasn’t hard to let it be and shut those eyes. 

****

In the dream there was a crow, a black figure against the skyline. The wings flapped and soared above the famished earth. He longed to swoop down into a beautiful clearing with a glittering pond. He would tussle his feathers, wiping away that mournful dust. 

The crow kept flying and flying, searching for such a clearing. The journey was a relentlessly spinning globe under his black wings. The crow longed for the pond’s purified water. He would fly all night and never find that pond.  

****

The man walked slowly yet steadily into town. Barfield had a population of 47 patterned folk. His presence would be welcome as long as he got on his way as quickly as he arrived. 

Several buildings stood on each side of the river of dust. They were old, yet sturdy. The planked wood never saw paint and aridly provided shelter from the steady sun. 

The man felt the town’s eyes as he crisped each boot forward. He moved through the valley of parched wood with the sun at his back. His shadow cast before him portraying him as a gunslinger looking for justice. He was only a man trying to find his way. 

His way ended up in Barfield’s bar, which was almost as bare as the gritty earth outside. A lonely table sat off-centered in the room. Three stools lined the bar, and the only wall ornament was a mirror behind the barkeep that allowed crude introspection for the drunk and weary. 

“A beer, if you please,” the man croaked. A bottle was presented from the shadows under the bar. The bottle didn’t sweat; it was only slightly cooler than room temperature. As he drank, his thick tongue sizzled. He could smell the dust within that liquid, and it bit at the back of his throat. 

The barkeep was a woman with curly blonde hair. He asked her for another beer. She was kind, yet didn’t smile. The man emptied his pockets for pan fried beef. He stuck the beef with his fork and bit at the edges. 

****

Might see something you like, something that’d make you stop. But after a moment that thing ain’t what you thought, and there you go again. How are you supposed to know how to stop if you keep puttin’ one foot in front of the other? 

****

Several beers later, the man pushed out of town under the lonely moon. The air was cooler, and the man hugged himself as tears fell down his face. He stumbled to the ground, dropping his pack. The man curled into a ball and slept. 

He dreamt he was a poet. He sat at a desk in the middle of the world. The earth ran away in every direction. There was a quill and a single parchment. On that parchment read his own handwriting:

Do you think the moon would laugh

If I began to cry?

I think he’d turn his back

If I decided to die. 

The man wept for himself. 

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