prickly in bloom
I counted telephone poles and the seconds between them. The highway split the desert and offered little else. She insisted on driving focused on the road, her excuse to pretend I wasn’t there. I don’t know when she changed and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’d changed, too. I went back to the poles.
She once asked me to keep her young and I said there wasn’t much I could do about aging. So she rephrased and asked me to keep her youthful. This I could try. And so began the days when everyone we saw became someone else. We spent hours inventing stories about people, what their lives were like. I got the idea from a Simon & Garfunkel song. In a grocery store, she said, “That woman over there, she's having an affair with her tango teacher. Her husband knows it, too. But he's sleeping with his secretary.” She looked at me and waited for what I would say.
“Do you think they’re aware?” I asked.
“Aware of what?”
“That her tango teacher is married to his secretary?”
And she kissed me right there in the grocery store. For a long time.
I lost interest in telephone poles and thought about turning on the radio, but figured no stations were in reach. I also figured she’d turn it off if I found one. I wanted to talk or break something. I dozed off instead.
I don't remember pulling over. I woke to an empty car, but it was still running. I jumped out and found her standing in the sand some ways away. I walked to where she was, but let her speak first. She stood before a cactus, prickly in bloom.
“They're spies,” she said.
I wanted to say something, but it wasn’t my turn. So I waited.
“They're spies from another planet sent to watch us. See those flowers?” She pointed.
“They’re not really flowers.”
I was up. “No, they're not. They're communication devices used to send information back home. Information they gather throughout the year.”
“Yes,” she said. “That's exactly what they are. Communication devices.”
I wanted to ask where she’d gone, but instead I kissed her right there in the desert. For a long time.
6 March, 2021