When you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, you might as well not exist. This does not bother me at all. The only purpose life serves, is the one we make up for ourselves. My purpose does not include other people.
Today I made plans with the desert that my town borders. The desert and I have a rather intimate relationship. I take to my bike and begin my journey. After a ten-minute bike ride, I reach the sand dunes. I have arrived.
I park my bike in the safety of a small cave and take to my feet. Almost ritually I bike to the sand dunes daily. The dunes were the ultimate form of decay. Nothing stays and nothing remains in the desert. All turns to dust and stagnates. The perfect form of permanence. I leave behind my shoes and my humanity at that cave. Here, I can be everything and nothing. The only living entity besides the microorganisms to journey the barren land.
I wish that I could just make a slit down my stomach and pluck out each and every rib in my body to make a crown. Be a deity of flesh and bone, even if only for a day. Like a bug’s exoskeleton, I wish my skeleton encased the outside of my body, rather than being trapped inside. Like the first bud of a spring flower, I wish my body would flip inside out and bloom. But, nothing ever happens as we wish it to, and so I shall remain the same.
My travels end when I reach the grave. The one that took me a week to dig. I lay inside and wonder what it’s like to be dead. To die. To be nothing more than bone. To return to the beginning. To become a part of the grains of time. Living is an anomaly. Death is immortality.
I lull myself to sleep. Sometime later I am woken up to sand being thrown on my face. Instinctively I raise my arm to brush it off. Sand rolls off my arm. I sit up. Sand falls off my chest, and I frantically try to wipe myself off. Before I have a chance to stand up, my head is pelted with more. Wiping off my eyes, I look up. A crouched figure is digging next to my grave. I realize that I was being bombarded with the fallout.
The ladder thankfully had not been removed, and I climb out. Despite standing right next to the figure, I cannot make out what or who it is. It appeared to be a large black mass, a void sucking in all that surrounded it. If I touched it, would I be sucked in too? Reaching out with a shaky arm, my fingertips barely brush up to the creature before it whips around almost inhumanely.
It looked at me. I looked at it. A stare-off. I saw the most beautiful face in a split instant.
Was this an angel? Is it my time to die?
Something about this being pulled me in like a magnet.
“Don’t touch me!”
I jumped back. It spoke without actually speaking. Did I imagine it? No. Impossible. This voice was something no one could ever fabricate.
The creature seemed almost threatened by my presence. It backed away slowly. Fear crept into what I believed to be its eyes. Somehow I had fabricated a face for it, even though it was no more than a shadowy black mass.
What confused me more, was that I did not fear it. In fact, the closer I got, the more at peace I was. I did not understand why I could not touch it. It called to me. Yes, I wanted to be engulfed by the darkness. Consumed.
I asked it why it dug a hole. I couldn’t understand it. I chose to dig a hole because I wished to experience everything at once. But what could it gain?
The creature shook its head sheepishly. It started to walk away. I followed it. It walked faster. So did I. We marched in silence for an hour. Farther and farther away from the town. Farther and farther away from humanity. Farther and farther away from the hypocrisy of living. Farther and farther into the abyss.
Every step the creature took, it seemed to suck in the sand around it. Like a magnet. I could feel the tug on myself as well. I was no different than the sand. I was nothing.
The sand dunes were truly larger than I had ever imagined. The vast wasteland I so coveted, romanticized, and prayed to, was far more. I was disrespectful to think that my side of things was all there was to it. I had been far too intertwined with humanity to let mine go and venture to the ends of the dunes.
I thought that every time I ventured the dunes, I left was little human was left in me at the edge between the town and the dunes. I was wrong. I had been keeping a tiny thread of it everywhere I went.
We marched on for what I presumed to be hours. In the desert, there is no time. There are no hours. No minutes. No seconds. There is only light and darkness.
At this point, my feet are covered in blisters and cuts. My lips are cracked and bleeding. My throat is hoarse and dry. I have gained nothing, but pain and humiliation.
The creature looked back, surprised to see me still trudging along behind it. It found my entire being a mystery and foreign. The feeling was not mutual. I felt as if I had known this being my entire life.
“What are you?” It questioned.
I told it I was nothing more than what it saw. My existence was short and filled with blank spaces. I had always spent my time in the desert. Alone with the sand.
I echoed the question back. To balance the knowledge.
It explained to me why it was here. It told me it was a star. A celestial being of great power. The more it spoke, the more I came to the realization that this was everything I fantasized about in one being. Was this love? Did I love this being? Infatuation? I leaned in to grasp the creature in a hug.
“Don’t you see? If you touch me, you will be nothing. You will be absorbed and become part of me and every other thing I’ve absorbed.” The creature warned.
The creature was wrong. I wouldn’t become nothing. I would become everything.
“Well you see, that is what I want,” I said quietly.
“Are you sure?” It responded.
Fatimah Hobaish is a queer Arab-American high school student whose previous poetic work has been published in WITS literary anthology, Casually Bringing Monsoons. Fatimah lives in Portland, Oregon with their eight birds.