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86 H. L. HIX WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG? In Peru, defining the descent toward el pueblo Paracas and the Pacific, a small oasis they call Huacachina asserts itself to spite the surrounding sand. Since the sea wants to be mountains, and mountains to be sea, the coast, imprisoned between one vain desire and its equal opposite, drones desert dunes that mimic wave and peak alike. The pueblo was pale, monotone, sand-colored. Even the tiny lake—this was a desert— and the sunbeaten boardwalk that bounded it looked bleached-out. Noon, no shade to slake the thin hue all things thirsted to. Across the lake, though, eight squat adobe changing booths sheltered shadows. Looters, wind, and sun had stolen their curtains. Perfectly even, that row, holes in a flute. I followed the lake back to where a cluster of dusty, thirsty trees clung to a tiny adobe house. I was just walking, taking everything in, trying to earn the trust of such reticent starkness. I stopped, stood, stared hard at the freckled patch of shade cooling a pale adobe house that had been overgrown by— now stood submerged beneath—a bougainvillea. It buried me beneath some uncanny weight, that can’t-catch-my-breath I’m-being-watched feeling. For one long moment it was speaking to me, a bougainvillea, a magenta color mere suggestion of which to this day evokes that flower’s voice, murmurs a mode of knowing that has roots, gives me for one moment a way of reasoning with unreasonable light. 87 H. L. HIX WHEN DID YOU FIRST LEARN ABOUT YOUR FATHER? Snow, plenty deep already, coming down fast. I couldn’t talk with that old man, the tv news was on, he kept complaining niggers this and niggers that. The hotel owner wouldn’t take my check, but the old man would. I’m retired— breath in gasps—I need the money. Had to wheel this oxygen tank behind him when he walked. The blizzard wouldn’t let up. We watched the news. He laid out a pair of his own pyjamas for me, that old man did. Most of the hotel had been converted to dark, cramped apartments. He fixed me a tv dinner, the old kind, foil-covered. Made me sleep in his bed, new sheets, he took the couch. Griped at all the tv news. While the blizzard labored, burying my truck, I slept under that bastard’s oxygen tent. Sure, he’d get me going, the mechanic said, but what was I doing driving in this snow? Gotta get back to Chicago, work. Hotel in town ain’t much, but stop now. The old man who saw me in the hotel lot, snow to my knees, next morning called the Amish hardware store, this was early but they came, warned me not to drive in this stuff, filled my truck anyway with bricks. 88 H. L. HIX WHAT HAVE YOU KEPT SECRET FOR YEARS? He alone in darkness when all else was light. Without believing in pearls, he’d ridden stones down to a depth he knew his lungs might not match. Twice that long month of leave-taking I saw him, and seeing him I saw, too, the murk, saw him swim through thick darkness while we others breathed light. The turbidity that submerged him, I saw as real. I saw it. As real as this table. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2325-730X
Print ISSN
1046-3348
Pages
pp. 86-88
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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