Gone to Ground
A backdraft smacks him in the face when they open the door of the plane. Concentrated heat melts into him, causing his skin to crackle. He can hear it burn as he trudges along the jetway. By the time he makes it to his rented car, he is sweating, but before he can wipe his brow with the back of his hand, the welcome sensation of dewey wetness evaporates into the parched air.
He didn’t want to be here. In Arizona. The desert. At least, he’s come to say goodbye, if one can ever say goodbye to a person whose death won’t kill him. Parents, they live on within the landscape of our selves, even when they aren’t welcome there.
He surveys the terrain zipping past his windows. It matches his disrupted mood. The ground bakes under the relentless sun. Driving through the country is like visiting another planet. Strangled brush makes an otherworldy carpet on the dusty ground. Giant spines of cacti – would they become trees if it rained enough? Forests of them dot the rolling hillsides as far as he can see.
Water. He stops to buy a bottle. The hard ground scatters bowls of dust in the wake of his footsteps, the remnants of the runoff of the river of time. When he pours some water on it, the soil contracts like constricting pores, refusing to take the wetness in.
He stares, knows he’s stalling, delaying the inevitable, the possible rekindling of something within the core of his combusted soul. When he sees his father, he feels like the rocky, starved soil surrounding him. It’s mesmerizing. It goes on for miles.
Yet, there’s nothing there.
Connections can wither without a healthy dose of water, the proper amount of light and shade. Even predictable storms erode layers of feeling if they do nothing to relieve the harm of the aftermath they cause.
His father is dying in the desert. This wasted land will be a fitting place to say farewell to the man who withheld his care in a lifetime without rain.
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