Desert – Short Story

It all looks the same. This dune, that dune, I can’t even tell convex sand from concave sand. It’s all the exact same sand. I could pick up mountains and mountains of sand and throw them into the sea and it would still be the exact same desert. The desert is completely immune to change. There is no time in the desert. All directions are the same, all grains of sand identical, every second the same as the last. Only I throw off its perfect symmetry. A beast full of water, and water has no place in the desert. There are things that survive here, I just need to think like them. Oh to be born a cactus. How do cacti get enough water? Deep roots, I just need to dig down to the…aquifer? I haven’t seen a single cactus since I’ve been out here, are they just in movies? They don’t live in true deserts, nothing does. There’s nothing out here, not even bones. Do we choose hope even in the desert? Is this all just part of my spiritual journey, can I survive this? If I don’t make it, I want these scribbled last notes to rest in the sands alongside me. Someone will find them someday. My name is Wagilen Sanders. I won’t bore you with the details, but I lived the kind of life that puts a man in pain. Or maybe I’m just the kind of man who’ll be in pain no matter what kind of life he lives. Either way, I lived in pain…..sorry I’m having trouble concentrating. “Have you Ever Seen the Rain” by Credence Clearwater is stuck in my head. Point is, every morning when I opened my eyes, there was that minute and a half when I didn’t remember who I was. I just looked out and saw drifting clouds and heard the sparrows. Then it came to me, I’m Wagilen Sanders. My memories came back, this is my life. Then I was in pain again. I dunno what was going on while I was sleeping, maybe I was happy in some of the dreams I don’t remember. Anyhow, the good news is, one day I got over that pain. Again, I won’t bore you with the details as to how. I wasn’t afraid anymore, I wasn’t depressed anymore. One day I just woke up and saw the clouds, rubbed my eyes, and listened to the grackles and sparrows. I looked at my floor, scratched my head and legs and pushed myself out of bed. That little minute and a half feeling like I didn’t know who I was or why I was here but was just soaking in the world was still all I knew. That feeling lasts until I become aware of the fact that I am feeling that feeling. When I start thinking and say to myself “hey, I’m not even thinking about who I am, I’m looking at the world fresh. This is that minute and a half feeling!” that’s when reality crashed back and I remember that I’m Wagilen Sanders and Wagilen’s pain floods back to me. Anyhow, this morning, I was thinking about the minute and a half fresh eyes feeling and it lasted a lot longer. It was probably twenty minutes until I felt like Wagilen again. “That’s a good sign!” I thought to myself. Optimism wasn’t like me at all, but I felt it. “Optimism isn’t like me at all, but I feel it.” I thought to myself. This brought on more optimism. I’d been meditating, going to therapy, reading, thinking, everything I could think of to get that minute and a half feeling back. Today was the day I could do it, I knew. I got it back for a few minutes during breakfast, then I felt listless again. I felt like getting back in bed, but I pushed through it just standing there staring out the window. I felt free of Wagilen for about 10 minutes I want to say and it was enough to give me the hope to keep trying. I had it on and off all throughout the day, but it was world’s more success than I’d ever had in anything before. Eventually I came to know that feeling and it became more and more rooted in my meditations. I relaxed and the feeling came to me, I paid attention to it and it slipped away. It was capricious, but I kept getting better at feeling it. I’m probably going too much into details here and I don’t have too much paper so I’ll just say I got good enough at feeling that way to live life like I’d just woken up. Thing is, that feeling was really just a vacuum. I loved it so much because it was a lack of pain. Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t something substantive that could define a human being. The pain was torture, but it was sophisticated, living, breathing, enough to carve out a human being with human needs and wants and dreams. The waking up feeling was just…nothingness. It was pleasant to be free of the pain, but it was just…boring. Being content was boring. I thought I just had to get used to it after being in pain for so long, but I fell into depressions out of boredom. I just couldn’t figure out what to do with myself if there wasn’t pain to guide me. One of the days I wasn’t too sad to meditate it came to me. I was mistaking tranquility for boredom. Everyone was mistaking tranquility for boredom, it was the human condition, why we were all in pain. Everytime we weren’t stressed or scared we just got bored. Boredom is a vacuum in which we can start to build ourselves. When you are really truly bored, that’s when you can really answer the question: “who am I?” You can build yourself up from scratch and become what you want to be. So that was my mission then, to learn how to turn boredom into tranquility. That’s why I came to the desert. The desert was the closest thing I could find to emptiness, it is the perfect place to be bored. I didn’t live too far from the Big Morongo, so I figured I’d just head out there and see how I felt. I’ve never hiked in the desert before but I lived near Nipton my whole life and was used to the drier California climates. I just grabbed a bunch of water, headwrap, sunglasses, a map, a compass, a flint, and a space blanket for night. I was bored stiff for the first thirty minutes, I checked my compass and map every minute or so. I didn’t know what else to do. Then I figured I was just moving around too much and I had to just relax and think. I sat down in the sand and got sort of used to being bored. I felt the relaxation and tranquility from time to time. I think I’m making real progress. Hopefully I can make it out of this god damn desert before the water runs out.


3 thoughts on “Desert – Short Story

  1. Interesting Story, do not quite get the point you are trying to make. Does he go into the desert to escape the feeling of being Wagilin Sanders or did he go there to realise who he was in the buddhist sense?
    I could relate to the part where wakes up not remembering who he was and looks at the world with ‘fresh eyes’.
    Thank you for a good read.


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