The Maze of Mojave (Part 2)

Read Part One Here

It makes one wonder, whether you could really take it, to be able to handle the power, the vitality and force.  What would happen to man, drinking from that sweet nectar, the stream of eternal life? Are we really ready for it?  I sometimes wonder if we can even handle the power we already have. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that “We have guided missiles and misguided men”  We use the force and magic of quantum mechanics to waste our time staring at cell phone screens, the blue light burning our irises, hypnotized by each flicker, the sum totality of this technological marvel used to sell targeted personalized advertisements more effectively .  Think of artificial intelligence; we can teach computers to create algorithms that predict the future based on past recorded data, but can’t end homelessness, world hunger, or forgive each other enough to end the cycle of war and destruction over a patch of geostrategically important sand.

It makes one wonder, what would have happened if the conquistadors didn’t perish in that sweltering sun, drinking their own blood to quench parched and crackling throats,  biting their tongues to release enough moisture to let out a desperate gasp, as their gold and glory blind companions died collapsing in the dust and dirt, vultures circling patiently coyotes prowling cautiously as they waited to flight over the carcasses of the dead?  What if, in that moment when all seemed hopeless and lost, a hallucinating spaniard wandered off? If for luck fate or a twist of kharmatic fortune, he sat to rest one final night in the shade of the red rock canyon walls? And just as the moon set in the starry night but before the first splashes of dawn signalled the start of a final day’s murderous heat, mercury’s light, or perhaps Osiris’s it awakened the dying adventurer and in a quiet moment of inspired desperation, he wandered up the canyon at the mouth of the mojave maze, searching for water and relief?

In a desert hollow, a shaded grove at the entrance of a steep hillside where water once flowed, George lay in his tent surrounded by dusty jugs of plastic water bottles, crushed aluminum cans, and a long glass whiskey bottle empty but for a thin layer of saliva swashed about the bottom.  There was no more alcohol, and not much water left. Along with his wife Suzanne, he would have to descend the mountain slope past thorns and brambles that ripped the flesh, and cross the viaduct and concrete underpass to beg for spare change in the shadows of the freeway onramp, to buy another day’s provisions.  “That’s the life, its way it is,” George thought as he squinted past the bright light of mid morning to take stock of his surroundings. “We may not have much, but at least we’re free. And we have have each other.” A yellow butterfly landed on a tree branch outside the blue tarp’s perimeter, wavered for an instant, then fluttered off.  “I sure do love my girl,” he mumbled. “But where is she?”

Suzanne had been awake several hours already.  She was walking up the steep hillside trail, balancing a five gallon plastic drum of water on her left shoulder.  “Why do I still love that man?” She mused, the whimsical trace of smile’s memory broke through her worn face.

She had met George in Phoenix.  She was a teenager when they first set eyes on each other.  George’s dad was a world war vet, and worked as a mechanic. She saw him, his face black and dusty from oil grease and metal, helping out one day around the shop.  

Suzanne and her mom, a quiet Apache woman with a calm, serene, and slightly melancholy face, had recently moved off the reservation, and were staying with cousins in the dusty outskirts of Phoenix.  The reservation in northern Arizona, a dusty clump of trailers, a windmill and a singular red clay dirt road, lay in the shadows of magnificent bluffs of towering rock, where 1000 year old clay and rock dwellings had been chiseled into the cliff side hundreds of feet up in the parched desert air.  

They moved to Phoenix when she became a teenager.  Her mom told her that it was for her own good, for both of their safety.  Her dad, she shuddered to remember and usually quickly changed the topic shifting her focus to life’s necessities, he would drink from a clear bottle filled with dark brown fluid, and stumble in a rage, screaming and beating her mother.  Suzanne often would run, sometimes for days at a time, and take refuge in those ancient abandoned cities carved into the canyon walls until she worked up the courage to return home.

One day, a red truck emerged in a cloud of dust charging down the dirt and gravel road.  It was her grand uncle, her mom’s father’s brother, and he opened the door in a screech of skidding big black tires and rusty brakes as the cloud of dust hovered around the vehicle, red and grey particulate slowly drifting down to settle in the shrubs and desert earth.  There was shouting, and all of a sudden her mom grabbed her tiny fingers and they leapt into that pickup’s back, hurtling away from the only home she had known.

They rushed down that red clay path, the wind tickling her face and dancing with her long black hair that spun and twirled, fluttering before her eyes, and crossed through the canyon to a wide arid plain, then to a black asphalt road, and greyish tan freeway thundering with the transcontinental truck traffic from some soot filled sked coastal city, across the earth’s surface to other cities towns, warehouses, and shopping centers far, far away.

She and her mom ended up living with their aunt in a neighborhood of low rise homes with chicken wire fences, chickens and roosters pecking seeds in dirt covered yards with clumps of grass.  Brightly colored handmade pottery and plastic buckets held little tomato and other garden plants that her aunt and neighbors watered, nurturing with care.

Suzanne sighed, smiling ever so slightly so that the warm wrinkles of her eyes scrunched up spreading out from the outside corner of each eye like the rays of the sun.  It was a beautiful morning in late summer. The sun was still rising up off the horizon, and it was still a bit cool. George must still be sleeping, he had been staying up lately drinking to kill the pain in his feet.  He never complained, but suzanne worried that if he +didn’t get better soon, he wouldn’t be able to walk.

They had been together through it all these decades, since he took her breathe away with night time rides on his black and silver chrome motorcycle roaring through the sleeping desert city, a muscular grinning boy with a wild fire in his eyes.  He returned from the war a man, a little worn, and a bit jaded, but that fire never left, she reminisced. Oh, to be sixteen all over again. How this beautify life has passed by. If only there was some way to help her sweetheart with the pain, with his health.  Maybe he would stop drinking, and things could go back to they way she once dreamed they would be.

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