Houses here are gated and low to the ground. The gate draws together your portion of sand so it’s finite. A dot, a pearl of property held in the palm of the mountains that loom beyond the dirt city.
I’m outside my friend’s gate with a quiche staring at two layers of wrought iron. Through the grate I see sandstone walls and my tired friend leaving the house in T-shirt to meet me for coffee despite the fact that I’m early. She lets me in and I follow her to the kitchen, where we chat and she pours two mugs of coffee. We set the quiche in the oven and she shows me the mechanics of her house – the doors that stick when you close them, the locations of light switches. She explains that her cats will run out in the yard even though they aren’t supposed to.
I’m cat-sitting. It’s a position of privilege. For a whole week I will extend my domain to the couch in my friend’s living room, to the lounge chairs on her back porch.
When the quiche is ready we move to a table in the front yard and talk. We look at each other despite the sun and we share the most recent events, from dull changes in routine to insecurities. She is peaceful, I am not. She wonders why she overcommits herself, I tell her I’m scared of my next steps and I don’t know if I’ll be a good lawyer.
Before I leave I tell her what I’ll get her for a Christmas present and she gives me a book she told me about reading a month ago “in like three hours – it’s so good.”
In my car I start my car and as I drive home I think about how I have just let someone in. I have just let someone expect a Christmas present. Somehow she smiled about it.
When the feeling began, I was young. I sensed that I would die. I saw the rot in the world and I felt myself in it. Reconsidering my attachments, I grew internal. My thoughts became longer chains. And under the chains, the assumption remained: I am contagious, I am designed to die. As potential relationships emerged before me I dismissed them with the thought of their brevity, not even moments in my minute of life.
Illness – I think it was illness that prevented me from seeing the joy that could erupt in a joke told to the right person. While depressed, I didn’t see reactions. My emotion was consuming fog: effective isolation.
The novelty of death wears off. Growing older, it becomes commonplace, even in the drugged and developed world. I see a dead bird on the highway. I see dust grind fences down.