Like her slowing breaths, a cool breeze begins to approach, tickling the back of your neck, making you suddenly aware of your cold extremities. Tall peaks all around turn from a rusty brown to a golden red, their colors never more true than in those final moments of daylight. Small birds sing and chirp to each other as they fly to their nests, finding shelter for the impending cold and darkness. In the distance, dogs bark their final goodbyes to far off neighbors, their broad chests sending a hollow echo through the canyons.
It is here where the desert and the woman spill their secrets, fatigue making the rough, hot appearance suddenly vulnerable, penetrable. The haze disappears, and if you’re not looking directly at the sun, directly into those bright eyes, there is a sudden clarity to her, the desert. Trails and cacti are illuminated. Hawks wheel around in tall circles in hunt of their final snack. A star glistens. She makes a confession while staring at the ceiling.
In those final moments of daylight, desert greens and blues and pinks and reds and browns and yellows all meet. The woman’s laugh is introduced to her tears, her moments of utter solitude and privacy are shown a partner, body and mind stripped naked. As her breaths come at longer intervals, so too is the desert’s song of life broken apart by elongated silences. Dry brush rustling in the wind reminds me of her closed eyes, her lips parting as her jaw relaxes, her face still like the top of a plateau, the valley of a canyon, the peak of a mountain.
Desert insects begin their steady chirp, and she purrs herself to sleep. Fading yellow light on the horizon seeps through the last of the day's clouds, coming out red, as she slips into a dream, half the sky now orange or pink, tucked in behind mountains, the other half a blue quickly running towards black.
It always seems that in an instant she goes from half awake to dead asleep, gone in a dream, walking the paths of a world you can’t access. The desert night too goes quickly from a navy blue to black, from the first glimmers of stars peeking out to a sky like you’ve never seen. Suddenly there are 5, 10, 50, 100 stars shining above your head, flickering like candles, daring you to believe that you’re somehow special. Like the freckles on her face, the longer you look the more there are, the more to count, the more impossible it seems to understand the depth of the woman, the sky, the desert.
Those stars and her dreams are the real grand finale. Uncountable now, the galaxies millions of light years away demand your awe, laughing at the feeling that you're somehow the center of it all. With a moment of thought, they are totally incomprehensible. She may murmur a word inaudibly in her sleep while the desert night sky whispers its wonder. Her, the sky, the desert, making you feel incomplete and whole and curious and desperate to know all at once. I peer at the sky like I look at her when she isn’t looking at me, wanting to know what’s behind the stars, the freckles, what the darkness really holds or how long those stars on her face will shine the bright lights of their fire onto me.
Slowly, as with the woman, I’ll fall asleep to the desert. Counting the sky’s stars and her freckles again, because the exercise is so impossible to resist, impossible to complete. I trace her nose, the milky way of her face, stare off at venus, the brightest planet in the night sky. My eyes are heavy and I’ll drift off into my own wonder, walk the paths of my own dream, and slowly she, the desert, will wrap herself around me, a cool comfort until the bright morning comes again, until the closest star of them all pokes its head up to say hello.