little bits from the desert, once a week.

Last night I had a dream that you said, “Tell me everything” and I knew where to begin. I can’t remember where that was now.

Here, now, is the desert. Early morning where the windows can still be open and I watch which birds fly overhead to see if I know any of them by wing tips or calls, though I’ve given little energy to any research on birds of the desert. I tell a friend who asks me for the name of the brush bushes out here that I’m afraid once I know anything too specific about something I will love it less.

It is the same reason I won’t read Tender Buttons. If I try to understand it and don’t, it will be ruined. Or so I tell myself.

My friend does not understand, but she listens.

I don’t know when I became so worried about things being ruined, but I have unwritten rules about how I interact with the world. About how easily I can ruin things.

Just past the fence of my yard is a deserted house with its roof missing. The floors of it are layered several inches deep and thick with books and clothing. The screen door creaks and has a wiry Christmas wreath hanging on it. The old white fridge is open and on the bottom shelf is an open box of baking soda. The oven is green and vintage and I know someone who moved here from LA would go crazy for the shape and color of it. I rip an old Polaroid camera up out of pages and fabric and dust it off. It’s broken but I try to pry it open and see if there is film inside. It won’t budge and I can’t put it back in where I found it.

An empty bottle of pills in the corner says 2003 on it.

There are piles of trash all around the house — broken plates, tool boxes, light bulbs, computers, televisions, pots and pans. I think about showing someone. I worry that will ruin it.

Once a day, I walked out to the piles and see what I can find. I don’t wear a bra out here and sweat drips between my breasts and collects in my belly button as I bend and unbury things from the ground.

The second time I visit I wear the mint green gloves I use to wash dishes so I can peel things up from the dirt. I keep expecting to find snakes, but when I lift things it is just dirt underneath them. There is a ceramic coffee mug with a goose on it that has been warped sideways by the heat and sun and I say huh out loud. A bird yells at me.

Goat mountain, if its watching, can see all of this.

I don’t let myself look at her much. She faces his home and my home and I don’t like to think about others. I look at an entire mountain and think of him. I don’t know that he is thinking of me. His gentleness, his kindness, is universally appealing. I am suddenly warm and open. Patient and some version of loving. I usually know what other people need. I haven’t let myself need in so long.

I moved here to be on land that bites back and, somehow, it is only a man chewing at me. He doesn’t want to, but it happens. It bites me in the ass like something that scuttles across the land here.

He reminds me of a day moon. He reminds me of pointing out a day moon. That beautiful.

My sweet old cat spends her days moving from sunspot to sunspot, taking long baths and reminding me when it feels like dinner. She eats better than I do. I’ve lost three, four, five pounds in the first week of being here. The heat makes me not hungry. Other things feel more important than eating. The abandoned house, the owl who hunts at dusk, the juniper trees outside my windows, the way handfuls of my thighs are pinches now.

People do this — make themselves disappear. I’m not trying.

A friend visits and I drive us back from the park down one of my favorite open roads. I am making a mental note that I never remember the name of roads I like and she asks me if I find the drive soothing or cleansing. Before I can register that what I am about to say has a layer of meanness to it, I respond that it only does when I’m alone.

She is silent and a poet. She understands.

The first three days here, I cried repeatedly. Someone back home died, someone back home fell apart. I don’t want to talk about it. Or I do. I don’t know. I am so tired of grieving. I feel alive and together and that is what makes me cry.

Now I am back to not crying.

Mary Ruefle kept a crying diary when she started menopause and five years ago I became obsessed with the idea of doing something similar. I cry so rarely that the idea doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

For all of my fear of understanding things I love, I moved to the desert.

Image for post
Image for post

writer & former librarian • A LIGHT forthcoming from Chicago Review Press 2022 • amandaoliver.comtinyletter.com/decorouslines

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store