Horned LizardThe sun shone boldly, its unblinking stare wilting leaves while honing the cacti’s moisture-conserving spines. Perhaps those few clouds to the West would couple, and, by late afternoon, multiply. In the meantime, a parboiling blue persisted overhead. As Simon walked, the pavement exhaled sultry humors, reminding him how thin his moccasins had worn. To distract himself from impending blisters, he focused on the recent encounter… how pleasant it had been to watch a face hold still… not since the models back in art school had he been able to stare at an-Other without self-consciousness—though shy even then, as full-grown women removed their clothes, taxing him to convert raw ardor into charcoal-pencil lines… skinny lines, fat lines, rendering breasts and bellies, catching a graceful bend in a wrist, a supple flex of a knee… drawing them for hours… trying to reproduce each form by working his own vitality into the sketchpad's woof and weave… seldom managing to depict those flesh-and-blood immediacies… whose beauty seldom rivaled that of this morning’s sleeping 'damsel'… her sensuality clinging like dewdrops to a spider web… perfectly intact… reason enough to leave her undisturbed.

Simon’s sole regret was his failure to have penetrated the slumberer’s dream (for she had been dreaming) and dreams, with his growing disengagement from worldly concerns, intrigued him no end. It had something to do with their defiance of Reality’s arbitrary precepts, as if Reality, by itself, had fallen far too short of Simon's expectations; existence held much more, he was convinced, and the last two years had brought him ever closer to substantiating this contention.

There were obstacles, however.

Language was one of them. Words seemed ill-equipped to define the levels he sometimes glimpsed. His vow of silence had been made (in part) to avoid the pitfalls of rhetoric, the constant substitution of symbols for things.

Yet, as sensitive as he had become to nonverbal stimuli, silence, likewise, had served to deepen Simon’s sense of alienation. Already an outsider, the role he was falling into failed to qualify as a role at all; instead it led him further into a realm of incommunicative seclusion. And this, in turn (as his recent encounter brought home poignantly) walled him in with himself, stone by stone by isolating stone.

The heat was growing inhospitable. He checked the westerly clouds; they were still mulling it over. He opened his shirt then shifted his backpack to admit some circulating air. The desert's extremes in temperature, night to day, were jolting… and this afternoon’s dose of sunburn, no doubt, would amplify late-evening chills. He shook his canteen. Its doleful slosh of four or five gulps was hardly reassuring. Food provisions, too, were rather sparse: one crushed box of raisins and a thin-skinned tangerine. But survival was somehow not at issue; tramping along the empty road, less pragmatic thoughts monopolized Simon’s mind.

*

*

Air inside the car...

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