death requires first, life. by mike mantalos
The new blacktop rode silently as the full moon silhouetted the dead forest. Rising and falling over hill after hill, the black asphalt seared through a desert forest in suspended animation. Like a horizon of sculptures being stored, branch to branch, in an outdoor warehouse of sand.
The kind of place only the wind understands.
The turnoff to dirt broke the meditation with a jolt. The small compact wasn’t adjusting to washboard well after the smooth butter of the empty highway. A friend once taught me to drive like a ski racer and I slid the Neon in and out of turns like edge transfers around gates. Even kicked up some spray, like powder only dust.
The night obstructed the day’s crime of development and I didn’t notice. I had a date with an old friend and my third eye was only concerned with glimpses of whitewash and escaping jack rabbits.
Famous parking spots whizzed by like abandoned carnivals that I no longer had interest in. The debauchery of easy money had inflicted this stretch of memory a long time ago and it no longer felt like loss. More like the gems had never existed.
The small four banger crawled up the last rise and the shock was mine. My date now featured an enormous gate guarding her entrance. The hillside, even in this pinpointed light, was terraced like some Alien airport on a Peruvian mountaintop. Or like Laguna Niguel, which is nearly the same except without any soul.
One light push of the gate and it relented. My name had been left with security. The perfectly graded neighborhood hadn’t learned localism yet… or worse, couldn’t afford to. The Neon eased to a halt next to the only completed home overlooking my date.
What is really more beautiful than a point break at night? I shudder to think. The cool of a desert air flowed like weak A/C toward the granite that was refracting wavelength into a pinwheel. My feet pushed through the crust of the sand and I felt the waters edge as the first set hit.
Three flawless lines. Three dark lovers. Three seductions.
An imperceptible light steam rose after every stroke as I made my way to the front door of her house. My date would keep me waiting just a bit longer, but not without options and I triangulated my position with a familiar headland corrugated by “growth”.
She rose again and walked down her staircase followed by 2 other suitors. Choice was my luxury. Impatience was my muse.
By 1PM, my skin seared red unlike the desert forests shade of grey. I could no longer fully open my eyes. The crust that had formed on the edges of my parched lips was now recognizable as fossilization. Hunger had long ago abandoned its call to that of more water.
The wind sensed my departure and waved goodbye generously. I thanked her for her patience because I had delayed her work long enough.
The Neon started and the air conditioning was enlisted. Water spilled over my lips and onto my torso as I couldn’t pour it fast enough. My temporary lust was in direct contrast to my environment. I looked around and felt guilty. Resolve to stop wasting the precious liquid resulted in my turning up the fake cold air. I had a plan.
The massive wrought iron gate closed with a whimper. I promised to return and that seemed to settle the amazingly light monstrosity back into sentry. Why didn’t I think about gating this entire cape?
I settled into “ski racing” mode back to a flush toilet when my path disrupted my focus. The terraced hell marks the impending death of my day’s location and was played out over a staggering amount of similar projects. The moon had deceived me with its spotlight and the daylight was being brutally candid.
Private property here, private property there and everything was still planted in an inhospitable jungle of dead trees. Wow.
Famous parking lots hosted famous crowds who didn’t seem to notice the concrete invasion. Strange crafts with paddles coagulated every inside cove. The carnival was now open.
Blue crushers carried enormous hunks of plastic while dragging their paddles.
Old men stumbled carrying theirs so as not to tarnish the “wall appeal”.
Tattooed “rad” guys bounced around looking for speed and the savvy vets slid thick hybrids over flat spots.
The carnival had everything and nothing simultaneously. Just like the dead forest. Only difference being, the carnival had water.
A donkey stood with insolence in my immediate path. Indigent to my delay, he screeched his ambivalence to my schedule. A rotten banana proved his weakness and I tossed it over the cliff after letting him get scent of it. I hope he was nimble.
The dirt hit pavement with a smooth toke of the asphalt burning.
And the forest was still waiting patiently for a rain that no day soon could deliver. Much like the developer’s ambitions, silenced victims to a deception of growth.