Then you proceeded on foot

Then you proceeded on foot and the scenes passed slower, painfully immersive after the rush past of the whole basin in an airless wind through the cracked car window. From far out in the sterile dunes John’s car glittered, the only defect along the shoulder, and you watched him from atop the crest of a dune as he walked from the edge of where the sand gave way back to the alluvial gravel of the valley floor toward his car along the rumble strip of the road. You measured the shadows of scrub and other dunes against the landmarks of debris or idiosyncratic wind prints to mark the time as the sun set. It dangled across the axis of the valley, still high enough to burn white, and reflected off of the dunes’ sand floor and washed back into the air as radiation that tightened your exposed skin noticeably.

John slowly ambled forcing each step into the bleached asphalt. The dunes creaked. This, years ago, was further to the northeast, and was still tumbling over itself toward the road where it would break and the individual grains would blow like thin steam across the road. Jacky’s bones and breath churned in that slow tumble swimming immobile in what you saw as a brown darkness. Images of pain and erasure struck you with their visual compositions and possibilities returning you to your catalogue language, an elaborate stage set with wooden players, and you tried to produce monologues or confluence of emotion to humanize the approach of death in its flood of tableaux. To now all the valley had put into you was the paralyzed figure in the salt.

Your features began to feel like applied dry cakes that cracked as you twitched. Fissures ran deep into your sinuses and into your mouth and throat and your breath sizzled as it leaked in and out of your hot sieve of a head.

You could have construed so many songs and omens from the dunes, so many metaphors to live in, but there was nothing in their movement beyond the pull of the wind. If this was the dark stretch of road where you lost Jacky then, it wasn’t now, and if the sand were to unfurl the peaceful grimace of his white teeth broken through the sunburnt scab of his face, it was becoming familiar, it would only prove your sensitivity to the return orbit of the arc you had inscribed in space by leaving him out here.

The low sun’s rays slowed in the air and battered your skin and features with a more throbbing deep heat that softened what had become dried and crusted of your appearance. You wish you were somewhere unfamiliar, for it to be possible to find somewhere unfamiliar, but from every point the same context closes in. The landscape features vary or decrease in their proportions, they edge closer to you as the sun draws down and the valley flattens and your relationships contract and anywhere you could escape to would be just a short distance from the crest of the dune. You see John moving closer to you in calculations of distance and emotion that follow the mathematics of panic and anxiety. He stood next to the car calmly running his fingers through his hair into the night.

As dusk soaked the valley and the light was inhaled back into all of the landscape’s crevasses, your face, digits, hair, and pronouncements of bone slide away like wet dust on glass and you walk slowly through the sand listening for sidewinders. John had lit the dome light of the car and it showed hugely in the complete darkness like a city as you crested each dune rolling towards the road.

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