“Are you thirsty?” she asked, sitting cross legged in front of me, her skin a tapestry of flowers in uncountable colors. It looked like somebody designed an extremely intricate tattoo covering every exposed piece of skin, down to the soles of her feet and up to the tips of her nipples, and then suffused each molecule with a different blaze of colors. I strained to watch the white of her eyes and I had the impression I saw the pattern even there. She was as naked as a desert snake. And as lithe, once she rolled sideways making a full tour around me, ending in the same position she started at. Was she as beautiful? No, her beauty was indescribable.
“Are you human?” I asked her, hearing my dry throat make just a few croaking sounds before it gave up any further communication efforts.
“I am a desert flower.” She picked a handful of sand and poured it into her mouth gulping it down avidly. She sighed with satisfaction, going through a second round of the same and before returning her attention to me.
“I am dying,” I managed to say, or thought to have managed.
“I know.” She was able to understand me somehow, thus I could keep concentrating on dying faster than nature was inclined to bless me with, rather than getting meaningless sounds out of my mouth. The stains rolling across my eyes did not seem induced by dehydration but rather by somebody’s hunger.
“Are these real buzzards up there?”
“These are real buzzards up there. They are staying up there as long as I stay down here. Then I go.”
“Then they come.”
“Then you die.”
“Until I finished learning.” She cocked her head to one side, studying my facial features, then running her eyes and her hand over the tattered leftovers of my body. I did not feel much of her touch, it was like a shadow passing over me leaving behind just a tingling sensation of coolness, a chilly breeze, a cold beer down my throat. “You are the first one, you know?”
“The first one what?”
“The first human to see me. Maybe also the last one. I don’t know, depends...” Her head cocked the other way around, streaks of blinding light plaited with long strands of red-hot hair falling upon her left breast. I wondered if the hair carried as well that colorful intricate design as the rest of her body. “You are handsome,” she added some time later, waking me pitilessly from the blissful lethargy that started descending on me.
“You probably tell it to all the other guys dying around here,” I heard myself trying to joke with the few ounces of energy which, somehow, seemed to still pounce inside my arteries. “I am certainly not the first handsome traveler who lost his way in this desert and whom you visited. Even if they did not see you.”
“No, you are the first one I tell it to.”
“Why, if I may ask?”
“You may, and you don’t have to be so polite here. There is nobody to hear you talk for many dunes around.”
“You mean miles around... or maybe you talk in kilometers?”
“What is a mile... or kilometer? I count distance in leaps.”
She got to her feet, joined her ankles together and leapt a few times. If I was hesitating until now and blaming my bad eyesight, it was confirmed - she was completely naked, a jointless piece of water, if water could be called a piece, alive in the death of the desert inside a world of beauty undefined yet. Maybe even indefinable. My artist’s heart made a weak attempt to regain some consciousness and try several definitions.
“You leap like a frog,” I said.
“What is a frog,” she asked, jumping backwards and falling next to me like a wide sheet of silk settling down in a dying wind. “Is a frog beautiful?”
“Yes, a frog is the most beautiful of creatures if it is you.” I knew it was a sentence making no sense, yet I had to use it. Something was stirring in my belly, or was it my heart or mind, this leaping creature was bringing back into my dwindling leftovers of reason a certain pleasure which I could not even begin to identify. “You are as beautiful as a child,” I added, mindlessly. “You are a child.”
She finished settling down and fixed her eyes on the canyon size cracks cutting through my lips.
“I am a woman. I am as beautiful as a woman.”
“Do you know what as beautiful as a woman means?”
“I can read it in your mind.” She wiggled closer to me, and I started sensing her, a fragrance I did not notice before, a mix of roses, and jasmine, and lilac, and white lily... “You did not repeat the question you asked earlier on,” she whispered close to my face, and a new fragrance, a strange one of... femininity emanating from her mouth, added itself to the others.
“You can read it in my mind, anyway.”
“Please ask it, anyway.”
I doubted if or how it was possible, but I started moving from my lying position first to my side, then succeeded to work my body all the way up to being on all fours, and finally I found myself sitting half sunk in fine sand just in front of her. Legs crossed, arms on thighs, I think I was still breathing.
“Okay, I will. Why am I the first one ever you decided to let see you, talk to you, sense you? So many men, so many great poets, have died under this white sun, why this specific choice?”
She obviously liked the sense you since she made a move as if to touch me. But then she pulled her hand back, swiftly. The flowers on her face got a slight scarlet tinge overlaying them.
“They were all thirsty...”
“... and so am I...”
Her eyes, till then fixed on my lips, moved up to my eyes. Yes, definitely flowers imprinted upon the snow whiteness surrounding the flower fields of her irises.
“You never once asked for water.”
“So what?” I asked, tense for no reason, or maybe for good reason.
“You were thirsty for something called... I hope to pronounce it correctly... love?”
“You mean you never heard of love?”
“Of course I did. But not the way you pronounce it.”
“And how do I pronounce it? I am sure the others pronounced it the same way.”
She made again as if to touch my lips with her fingers, then pulled her hand back.
“You pronounce it the way others invoke... God.”
“Do you know God?”
“Of course, God created me.”
The sun was nearing the horizon, thankfully hiding behind her back giving me a slight reprieve from the infernal torment. Peeling skin hung down from my forehead partially disturbing my sight. I reached up and pulled it impatiently off. There was no fluidity left in my blood to release even a few drops. Probably my last day ever. I felt rather than saw the buzzards still rotating patiently high above, knowing I was going nowhere. In the desert one must have patience. Or die.
“You cannot,” I said.
“I am falling in love with you,” she said.
“You cannot,” I repeated myself trying to sound imperial yet sounding like old disintegrating flesh. “You cannot, not in such short time.”
“I must, you don’t have much time left.”
“This is what I was saying. And it could have been a compliment if it was not for the word must. It matters not, anyway. My tomorrow does not lie beyond this setting sun.”
“I must, I don’t have much time left.” She picked up a piece of glazed sand and touched it to her wrist. Thin silky sand started streaming out slowly, hesitatingly.
Then she touched my lip.
The fire of a sun’s flare poured for an indefinitely short moment into my flesh, my nostrils filling with the forgotten pungent smells of civilization’s soot, and ozone, and sulphur... and then it happened. Civilization disappeared back into its blessed void and the flowers on her skin, eyes, lips, breasts started pushing out daring petals, first a few uncurling plies, then an unending motion of waking up, yawning, stretching myriads of colorful leaves fighting for the right to be seen, felt, smelt... oh, the colors, oh, the softness, oh, the perfumes... the red drops from her wrist slowly dripping and sizzling upon the incandescent sand.
“What did you do? Why did you do it?” I managed to make my voice heard, my ears deafened by the depth of the bellow escaping whatever was left of my lips.
“Did you read The Little Prince?”
“Of course I read The Little Prince.”
“I never read it, there are no books in the desert. I just read it in your mind. There are no books in the desert, just heart, but no books.”
“Books are beauty...” I tried to answer logically, though all logic escaped my mind by now.
“Someone wrote a book about The Little Prince. No one will ever write a book about me. No one will ever read the book that will never be written about me. Books are beauty, I want to be beautiful.”
Insanity... oh, insanity...
“You are wrong, oh, so wrong... I will. I started already...” ...golden fish suddenly jumping out of the green lakes of her eyes, butterflies... where in the desert can butterflies come from?... suddenly roaming the flower fields of her skin... smile, oh, the skylit beauty of that smile on her drying lips... “...your lips, your lips are drying...”
“A book? About me?...” ...dew forming upon the petals covering her cheeks...
“Yes, of poems.”
“What is a poem?”
“You know what a poem is.”
“I know what a poem is. What is a poem?”
I started telling her, afraid the sun would set before I finished telling but somehow it refused to join the horizon, waiting, same as the buzzards rolling above, having descended lower yet still waiting. Even death seemed to have decided for once to wait.
I told her about words, thirst for words, for the music of rhyme, I told her about heart fragments falling in between stanzas and shredding to thin pieces before reaching the bottom depth of the last line, told her about bottomless poems, those where hearts kept falling forever aching for that last line, told her about the colors of corn fields ripe for reaping, the trill of forests waking to summer, the mountains aiming for stars unreachable... told her about the flowers covering her body, each and every one of them and its story, its color, its fragrance, its life of beauty before the unavoidable desert of death takes over, always taking over...
“My desert is beautiful...” she said.
“Because of you...” I said.
“Did you write all this? About me?”
“I did. I still do. I cannot finish. Tomorrow I die and I have no pen, no paper here to finish what I started.”
Cracks started showing on her lips, the variegated richness of the flower fields wrapping her body becoming deeper, softer, irresistible, her smile the size of the horizon hiding behind her back.
“But you have the biggest canvas in the whole world...” she said, covering in one slow motion the desert expanse sky end to sky end, “... and the best pen...” she continued taking my right hand’s index finger in her small fist, “...and the only ink your love...” and I’ve never heard it pronounced so beautifully before... “...should write with.” She led my fingertip to her wrist’s wound and let one drop of red touch it.
I forced my creaking various appendices to change position until I was standing on my fours again, pain shooting from every splitting skin spot straight into my brains, my heart serene, cheerful, calm. Finally, calm. She stood up and peeled the last tatters off my body. Then poured herself on my back clinging to every piece of exposed skin, of raw flesh, of breaking nail, like sticky fly paper holding onto the wings of careless butterflies...
And then I started moving, backwards, careful not to erase any traces as my red inked finger started pouring its fluttering dreams of ecstasy into the smooth desert’s endless canvas, the words dancing, the sentences flowing, love... pouring...
The sun set, darkness reluctantly repeating its ages old ceremony - dragging a dome of glittering pearls into place. Two floating, circling shapes finally saw their patience rewarded as they silently descended upon a motionless mound, covered with layers upon layers of brittle, drying flowers. And the desert kept its breath for one single sunrise, afraid to disturb the absolute ephemeral beauty of a love story written with so much pain into its eternally crumbling skin.