Carly Pribyl

A Short Essay on Desert Living

You can’t imagine the kinds of things that live in the desert. Sharp, scaly rocks of things. Wet, globular clouds that shimmy across concrete. These things are like yeast, lying dormant until brick-oven heat whittles their shape. They burrow in the skin beneath your fingernails.

Everything I own is packed. Everything I own has been divided and packed into twelve boxes. The boxes sit in the corner of a living room, inside a tract house. I don’t own the tract house.

I spend a lot of time trying to remember what is in each box. Books in the bottom five. Pictures and bedding in the middle four. Wine glasses and kitchen knives in the top three.

The middle four trip me up. I think I’m failing to account for something. It’s everything I have not to tap out one of the boxes like a Jenga block and rip it open at the flanks to check.

I have never seen hours move this slowly. In the desert, time is dead.

I sleep in the sun. Let it rip my skin at its seams, boil out an Irish girl’s desperate tan. Nevada sun is wicked. Maybe the balance to California’s honey-spitting version. It dances between the deadly and the spiritual; in the desert, you are always poised between death and godly epiphany.

I decide the purpose of my being in the desert is to find a way out.

In the morning there is hope; I scour the internet for jobs in San Diego, Boulder, and Portland. It wanes at noon; I run countless miles, chiseling legs to flee on foot (should it come to that). In the evening I am faithless; I mix vegetable juice with vodka and cross my eyes at the Martha Stewart granite floors.

Months masquerade as decades in the desert. I’m hired out of state four months after I arrive.

I can start next week, I tell them. They ask, don’t I need time to pack my things? No.

Heat is rising off the ground in visible waves the day I leave. Like water running over glass. Nauseating. My boyfriend helps load a (small) U-haul trailer. I carry a garbage bag of broken things to the curb. An empty bottle shard pokes through the plastic. It digs deeply into my right calf. I bleed everywhere.

My boyfriend argues with me about the Las Vegas emergency room. No. We’re losing time. I pull vodka out of a small cooler and drain it over the wound. I create a paper-towel bandage, seal it with electrical tape.

The U-haul bounces-a giant tin can-as we exit the desert. I am only vaguely aware of leg-blood pooling beneath the tape’s adhesive, dripping down the dash.

1 comment:

David Backer said...


I edit, an aggregator site for online fiction. We choose three short stories from online magazines every day to present to a wider audience. We found this piece and we like it. We're going to feature it under our "Short" section tomorrow, 8 June.