over two weeks ago, i crossed the desert with a friend. the start of the day was silly. with 80s and 90s tune. the middle contained some exploding mustard and delish sandwiches and sinful chips and candy. the end was rounding the 40 with a landscape that made my heart ache more than a little. it was another southwestern version of where i grew up.
we rolled up on her brother’s house and awaited the arrival of her abuela and poppa. they were busily winning rounds of bingo at the indian casino as we were frantically calling pizza deliveries for caloric replenishment. the quick days were filled with visiting places where she grew up: churches, schools, rivers, creeks, nooks, and crannies.
fast forward a night full of mo’ drama for your mama and an equally annoying morning- the last day we were there, we decided to take a short hike along the mountainside with the grande finale of dinner with her cousins, brother, father, and grandmother. as we were hiking up further up into the atmosphere, the air thinned. we quickly turned around because we were on a deadline for dinner (and bingo). and quite frankly, the weeks and weeks of not working out made a sow of me. as i was climbing down, i started getting a powerful sense of déjà vu. while everything was interesting on the hike up, the climb down was like the slow creeping of gravity, memories, and feelings. i kept thinking that i’ve seen this before. i’ve seen these colors and this landscape before. that dancing across the rocks were the colors of my desert dreams. that in fact, these were reds, oranges, and golds of my insistent dreams.
the funny thing is, i had no plans of going with her to her hometown. i figured somewhere down the line, i would see it. but i had plans to head to death valley or perhaps to nevada- red rock- to chase after my colors and taste the acridness of the desert.
what i actually realized was that it wasn’t the colors i was after but the feeling of home that made me longing. in fact, what it turned out to be was not big money. big money…big money…big money. i got the whammy bar, punched in the gut by overwhelming emotion. what i needed to see was not the desert but who was in it. i got to see for the first time in a long time, a family. a family that loved each other. they laughed, cried, disfunctioned, criticized, judged, loved, loved, loved on each other with a ferocity and protectiveness that i have not seen in a long time.
i was not looking for the colors or even a place to see those hues, i was longing for family. i was the outsider with a brother, sister, and cousin climbing a desert mountain. and the missing part of me came gushing out in waves of jealousy, longing, and desire for what i was witnessing among them along the mountainside and later on what they were when they were all together. i got what made my friend who she was. it was the place, the people, and the food that filled her up and molded her like clay. on that day, climbing down the mountain- i came to many conclusions. how sad it makes me to witness their togetherness and bondedness. how hungry i am for more of those colors that create the prisms of a desert i keep longing for.