Feb 10, 2005

To dust return
Ash Wednesday in the desert


We lay on the ground, under the dried out rubber tires of the truck parked in the back lot of the desert. Grease smudged our arms and faces and we lay in the dirt out past Joshua Tree at the far end of our first road trip after the end of our first year of college.

Wrench, he said, and we pulled it from the tangle of tools in the box and passed it to his hand, waiting stretched out there, grease caught in the lines of his palm. Cars don't last long, driving the desert. The sand blows into the engines swabbing out the oil and wearing out the gears. We were down there to pick up this truck, a sea-colored blue truck with its sides shot with rust and windows scratched up by blowing sand.

I don't remember what we were fixing, now. Something minor that still took us most of the day, my best friend and I sitting in the sun-wasted dirt watching the paint-peeled trailers parked up against little cacti-growing hills and playing gopher to the car-wash mechanic friend of my dad's who'd crawled under to help us.

I was tracing slow lines in the dirt with my finger and I took the sand in my hand, spread my fingers and shook it. It sifted, sliding through, spilling back to the ground in a little pile.

It wasn't sand, really. There was no dust in the dirt there, only little round rocks.

This is supposed to be the desert, I said. Where’s the sand? These are like mini-pebbles, or teny rocks.

The wind, he said, the wind blows it all away.

We rolled our windows down to the evening, on our return, back again north, feeling the dryness of the day, of the desert, on our skin as the red of our burnt arms mellowed in the wind. He hung his left arm our the window as he drove, and I hung my right out mine, looking to the round-blown hills and wondered if the dust was blown out there, resting out there in drifting piles.