The Man Who Was in Love with a Desert

Originally published September 3, 2013

Once there was a man who was in love with a desert. Most other men feared the desert and stayed away from her. The man recognized that she had grown ever more petulant over the years, even going so far as to murder any hapless men who lost themselves on her rugged gown.

During the day, she burned with fury for her many centuries of loneliness. At night, she adopted a chilly demeanor, snubbing and howling at all who came to see her. Sometimes she cried large, silent tears from the sky, at which she wailed all the lonelier.

But our man was in love with her nonetheless. He found her raging demeanor charming. He would bring her baskets of fruit and animal skins, which she would delightfully suck dry of all their moisture. The man would then eat the dried fruit and pitch tents with the tanned skins, thanking the desert for her gift. She would thank him back with a cool breeze, sighing with a tenderness of which he had never known her to be capable.

Where others dared not to venture, the man would go. He often traveled across her façade and admired her lovely dunes, plodding upon her voluptuous frame.

Although the man felt the desert was tickled by his persistent nature, she nonetheless became irate with him at times and would send gusts of sandy storms across his route. The man would only smile and cover his flesh with cloth, chuckling at her fierce and beautiful temperament.

She liked to pick up her long gown in a flirtatious manner, smoothing it out in some places and ruffling it in others, until the terrain was all but unrecognizable. The man would only laugh at her for trying to confuse him and look into the sky for the celestial bodies to find his way, admiring her sense of humor.

Sometimes the man would visit his love in the freeze of the night where she sulked, pale and blue. She blew icy winds down the man’s back when he came and chilled his fragile body until he began to shake from the cold. The man would only close his eyes and sing laudatory dirges to her porcelain complexion and her kind embrace, feeling suddenly warm. He attributed this to her vanity.

One day, the man met another group of men in the desert who had taken to marauding the wilderness.

They beat the man and took his shirt and his animal skins. They spilled his dried fruit on the ground and urinated on the once-sweet remains. They fed sand to him and made him drink it down with the last of his water.

They left him bleeding in the sand, calling to him that he would not survive and ought to give up hope, for that night he would surely die from the cruel desert’s wrath.

The man coughed sand and blood from his throat as the marauders disappeared on the horizon. The sun was setting and the desert’s cold night winds were beginning to blow across his face.

He thought he heard a kind whisper in his ear. Perhaps it was a word of encouragement. He managed to pick up his broken frame and drag his wounds across several dunes. When he felt he had reached a familiar spot, he searched the sky, only to find thick clouds blocking the heavens.

And the man did die in his desert that night, for it is impossible for a desert to love a man; a desert is, after all, nothing but a desert. And whether the feelings that emerged in his heart when he spent time with her were the makings of his own dreams or some echo of God’s grace, this has yet to be determined, and is rarely questioned.