Third prize winner of the 10th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
It’s like you never really wake up here. Funny how being in a heightened state is like sleepwalking in a way. Vigilance is exhausting. You’re firing on all cylinders, energy seeping out of every pore, propelled by instinct like a somnambulist with no real time for rest.
And the graveyards, they’re here, but no running green lawns, no flowers, no headstones or markers to point out the day’s tragedies. Not like you’re used to. You don’t have to take a special trip with your mother and your sisters in the family station wagon on a Sunday in early summer with Neil Diamond playing on the car radio as you traverse the circular paths to see Aunt Hattie, or Grandma, who used to bake you cookies for no reason.
Because they’re everywhere. They’re all around you. They’re on the sides of the road in the morning as your Humvee travels through the sand on patrol and sometimes you can still see a few of them moving, quietly amidst the dust of the others. But you’re not allowed to stop because it could be a trap. He told us we might as well jump out and lie down beside them on the road, if we had any inclination to do that. Or better yet, he’d drive us somewhere right now and throw us out himself, rather than one of us jeopardizing his safety and everyone else’s.
Yes, there are graveyards, the sand blowing like pounded flour into every crevice of your body. I’ve been spitting it from my teeth all day. Each tiny grain of it moves along the line across my asshole. I can’t tell anybody this because it will sound vulgar and crazy, like I’m missing the point somehow, given what we’ve all been through. But honestly, it’s the only thing I can think about. In this place, you find crevices and orifices, routes you didn’t know your body took inward. Ones you never knew you had.
The sand is everywhere. It inhabits your dreams. It leaches into your food. You pack it into your letters home like tiny emissaries that stick to the pages. Emissaries that your loved ones transfer to their own spaces, under their fingernails, into the bed where you’re not sleeping, on the coat of your dog who you think about every day, even though you never write him a letter. And finally it metamorphoses into the landscape of your life, a part of your soul and the soul of this place that is being lost day by day, blowing away like grains of sand. Sand that is pieces of us, pieces of them.
Yes, there are graveyards. They ride around on the wind here. I hope they’ve cleaned it all up when I get home, if I get home. I wonder how many showers I’ll need to take before I’m sure it’s all gone and I’m not afraid of sand anymore.